Paris Brown & Social Media: Stop Being A Twat On Twitter

As employers are increasingly using Facebook and Twitter to check up on people, it’s time to start thinking a little more about which parts of your stupid brain you fire off into the internet.
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As employers are increasingly using Facebook and Twitter to check up on people, it’s time to start thinking a little more about which parts of your stupid brain you fire off into the internet.

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Social networking and media often seems to be as much of a blessing as a curse. While it lets you keep in touch with long-lost friends and people that you would otherwise never have heard from again, it also forces you to interact with rightfully long-lost acquaintances and get regular updates from people you never wanted to hear from again. Live-tweeting on-point satirical sound-bites about unfolding world events can make you seem pithy and worthy of a spot on QI, but the drunken keyboard mashes you’re faced with on the morning after a big night out dispel that image as quickly as it appeared.

This is a lesson that could have been learned a little earlier by Paris Brown, the short-lived youth police commissioner for Maidstone, Kent. Brown had the dubious honour of acting as the first person to ever act in the position, which has in itself drawn criticism for being unnecessary and gimmicky. However, before she could even do so much as offer to do a tea run, allegedly violent, racist and homophobic tweets she had made between the ages of 14 and 16 led to minor public outcry and her decision to stand down. Brown claims she is neither racist nor homophobic, and many people have questioned whether things said years ago on the internet should have been held against her now that she is older. The entire incident brings a question to the table worth considering; how much weight should the things we have said online have in the real world?

The answer is generally split depending on the age of those you ask. Old people who require help sending emails with attachments may feel that social networking is an exclusively online activity, and nobody could care less about the stream of narcissism being tweeted and Tumblrd out of your smart phone and into the world. To a degree, they’re correct. Selfies and 140-character moans about nothing being on television have even less worth preserved immortally on a blogging platform than they would in real life. But to people of a more tech-savvy generation, what you display of yourself on the internet can be more of a giveaway to your true personality than any lie on a CV. As Paris Brown has found, the words you let slip out thoughtlessly are far more telling about your ideas and beliefs than any over-rehearsed line about your dedication to the community. Social media is to prospective bosses what an embarrassing and highly visible tattoo once was: indicative of poor judgement, undeniably a terrible idea, and generally much more permanent than you’d like.

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Of course, there is an obvious solution here, and one that seems to have eluded many of Miss Brown’s defenders – that to avoid being seen as a homophobic racist tosspot, it’s wise to refrain from having or at the very least expressing homophobic racist tosspot views. Unfortunately, that line of reasoning just doesn’t seem to come naturally to people, and Paris Brown is just the latest in a long list of internet idiots to fall victim to this phenomenon. Rileyy_69, a twitter user who criticised Tom Daley’s attempts in the 2012 Olympics was arrested following his threat to ‘drown [Tom] in the pool’ and given a warning for harassment. Last year Nick Griffin was forced to temporarily suspend his Twitter account after requesting and then posting the address of a gay couple who had recently won a court case ruling the refusal of a B&B owner to let them stay unlawful. And in a Chuckle Brothers show of inadequacy that is more entertaining than offensive, Reading East MP Rob Wilson was quite literally caught with his trousers around his ankles when he ‘accidentally’ tweeted the link to a premium porn site. Twitter, it seems, can be the downfall of people with that special combination of utter senselessness and a talent for rash behaviour.

We are in an age now where social media cannot be ignored. It exists. Facebook is a terrifyingly dominant presence and Google are probably selling our details to everyone from advertising companies to Russian ganglords. Although social media is the very definition of throwaway dialogue, what we say when we don’t think we’re being watched and judged is important, especially when we forget that we are saying it in a context that makes no sense unless people are watching and judging you. If you end up being called out for something offensive you said on the spur of the moment, then there’s no use defending yourself on the basis that you basically didn’t think anyone would notice. That kind of excuse might fly in the real world, but the internet, as everyone who was once the unwilling star of a viral video will know, is forever. Unguarded statements are revealing – that’s why it’s so embarrassing for that one kid who accidentally called their teacher ‘mum’ at school. What we blurt out into the world, be it in a private conversation or to a mediocre number of followers on the internet, is fair game for criticism. Tape a picture of Paris Brown to your computer screen as a warning, and for god’s sake, think before you tweet.