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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Social media when working in TV – friend or foe?

I love Twitter… and Facebook… so much so that I have short cuts to the desktop of my ‘smartphone’, and wiggle with excitement when I have a spare 15 minutes in the day to have a good old nose [saddo].

I have a rule – Twitter is for all and Facebook is for my ‘friends’ only. If I have accepted you as a ‘Facebook friend’ then it means I trust you enough to let you look through all my photos (predominantly drunken antics), not feel uncomfortable if you ‘poke me’ and am happy to swear/share sad times/share naughty moments/share drunken cringe statements etc with you.
If I live by this rule, am I therefore saying that I don’t do these things on Twitter? Well, not entirely. I do however use Twitter as a tool – a tool to find staff, to find peers, to find suppliers. I also use it as a tool to promote my events, my job vacancies and my friends’ projects. I occasionally tweet something of a social nature – i.e. a thought, a funny photo or an exasperated comment. Occasionally. I RT useful things – jobs, tips and links.
I used to use Twitter much more freely. Now, not as freely as I use Facebook – after all, my Tweeps aren’t ‘friends’ – but I had an assumption that I could use it quite freely nevertheless.
Don’t misinterpret what I am saying – I didn’t post photos of myself with my skirt hitched around my bum cheeks on drunken nights out (largely as I don’t own any of those types of photos…), nor write abusive messages to people I think are absolute fools (I won’t name names but as an example (and naming a name) Joey Barton); but, I did speak more fluidly in terms of the language I used and I RT’d things that made me giggle.
I didn’t stop for one second to consider that the things that made me giggle, or the language I didn’t find offensive, would upset/distress/annoy/or provoke strong reaction in anyone else. Who would/should it? After all, this was MY personal twitter account – if someone didn’t like it they could simply block me, right?
I was working, at the time, on what some might consider the ‘dream job’. You know, the elusive job that every new/junior entrant craves and every senior person seems to have worked on? It was going well – I had a good rep, was respected, commended for my personable nature and more importantly was turned to when people were in need of help or advice – so well in fact that many of the people I met whilst working on it tried to add me as a ‘friend’ on Facebook. Well, ‘obvs’ I wasn’t accepting them all – FB after all was where I was ‘naughty’. I didn’t object for a second though when they followed me on Twitter!
One day I said a naughty word: a word that I thought was funny and not particularly offensive to describe a type of person. It didn’t spark anything untoward; it was after all a mere word.. Some time afterwards a very well known Twitter account that I follow (in the sector) made reference to the statement I had made with the ‘naughty word’ and I giggled… and RTd it.
Nothing too dangerous here right? WRONG!
Somebody took offence. That somebody had worked on the same show I was on and therefore knew where I worked. That somebody knew all the key people in the company… and complained to them. About me. About my offensive and company representative tweet.
Now – I won’t go into the details too much here – they are not relevant. What I will say is that when my time on that job ended, I wasn’t invited to stay on. The good, the hours, the support, the praise… it meant very little. I had enabled someone to make a complaint and that killed that.
I reacted badly – I deleted my Twitter account. I resented having ever supported anyone I had worked with, resented having given up my free time to help others. I was very cross. Then hurt. Then amused.
A long time has passed since this occurred (and a lot happened thereafter) – and I am now able to view the incident with much more balance than I did at the time. I certainly did not need to put myself through quite as much torture as I did. I did need to learn though.
So – what did I need to realise and what can I hopefully share with you that will prevent the dangers of social networking (in relation to your career) causing you to shed a tear? This:
  • Do not have a social networking site account without including the simple statement that ‘THIS IS A PERSONAL ACCOUNT. My views do not represent those of my employer or anyone else’.
  • Don’t blur the use of your social network site – is it for fun? Fine – don’t approach employers on it. Is it for networking? Great – network away, don’t hassle people (there is a fine line between making efforts and stalking). Is it for professional purposes? DO NOT therefore RT non professional items, tweet when pi**ed or comment on controversial matters – unless clearly stressing once again that THESE ARE YOUR PERSONAL THOUGHTS.
  • Be very cautious about the language you use on a public account – regardless of the nature. Far too often people appear in my timeline writing inappropriate things – I have followed them because they want to be a ‘TV contact’ – I unfollow them and generally ignore them.
  • Do not abuse contacts – don’t assume that someone is ‘ignoring you’ and then hassle them – they may well be busy and by the time they get around to reading your tweets about how you are ignoring them, instead of a reply, you get a block!
  • Don’t say a bad word that rhymes with rat – some people don’t like it!!!

 ©June 2012 – Lou Gallagher

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