Editor’s Note: So I have a guest post from my dear friend Brandon Allwood, Check him out on twitter HERE . For sometime I have been watching the corporate world grapple with Social Media from blocking Facebook & Twitter to finally building pages on said websites. I have also seen them battle with how to manage workers and potential employees and their use of Social media. I am NOT a big fan of censorship and I for one think it’s an overstep of boundaries. I couldn’t put the words together properly but Brandon sure did. See what he has to say on the issue especially after a personal experience.
The day I added the line about laughing to my bio on Twitter is a day I reconsidered my entire social media footprint. I was in the final stages of planning a product launch and asked the project manager to reach out to a contact from the Caribbean Institute for Media and Communications (CARIMAC) for some PR students who would like some paid (a stipend, really) experience. I imagine this is still a routine request of CARIMAC.
A few hours later my project manager called me back with a tone in her voice I won’t soon forget. We made staffing arrangements around getting those four students, but here I was hearing that my contact at CARIMAC wasn’t pleased with the fact that I use curse words on Twitter, and would be checking out my timeline to see.
“Pardon me?” I quipped.
Clearly, I was on the express train to Narnia and sure enough my associate repeated herself. I immediately instructed her to call back the contact at CARIMAC and politely withdraw the request. The funny thing is that I am [GREAT] friends with many of the students. They don’t think any less of me, and each time I ask them to work with me on things (paid or unpaid) they do. I thought my contact was simply silly and I took to Twitter, defending the content of my timeline. I was absolutely furious. Just. Woosah.
We can debate the “use” of social media forever, but I will allow people with more time on their hands to find some way to bring hegemony to social networks. For me, there is no set “use”. Social media uses are transient, because its users are transient. Are you the same person you were 5 years ago? People use social media for whatever they want to, whenever they want to, however they want to. Just take a peek at some of the corporations and their various brands struggling to find a home on Instagram.
With that said, I notice that the trend of asking for job applicants and other categories of people to provide social network information is becoming status quo… and unfortunately, we are letting it happen. Though social networks are on the Internet they are still very private spaces. They are spaces made private by our own actions—we chose who to engage, chose who to follow, chose who to mute, chose who to block, chose what to post. Chose our own avatars and [most of us] can chose when and where to use these social networks. These are features of social media that give every user the agency to create, sustain and re-create their own personal networks. Bloody hell, we can even lie and create spoof accounts.
Privacy and secrecy are very different things. The former deals with choosing what you want to share, who you want to share it with, how you want to share it and when you want to share it. The latter is about a blackout on information. People who use social media are not interested in secrecy on the Internet. They are interested in privacy; because they want to express themselves, in their private networks, to the people they engage with in a way that might not be in line with an HR Manager. Why should I always be on ‘good behaviour’ for a job I might never get? (If your response is ‘because of the job you can get’, then you are missing the point and you are most likely a Twitter Nazi).
This policing of expression and behaviour on the Internet is just that—a new form of social control. The Internet presents a unique challenge for hegemony, because on here we create our own rules and modus operandi. There are no “wrong ways” to behave; but that is not to say that there are a bunch of pleasantries being thrown about in these here Twitter/Facebook streets. My own timeline is a shining example of this.
Organisations and interviewers that ask for your social media information are not just looking for offensive content. You will note that I have stayed very far from starting a discussion about the subjectivity of “offensive content”, however these employers are looking to see if you can really ‘One Drop’ and they want to know where you party, if you’re friends with former employees, or maybe even family with competitors. They want a free pass into your life. They need to know if you ‘fit in’ long before you can even manage to budget out what’s left after PAYE.
‘Oh, if you have nothing to hide then you won’t mind giving it over’.
BULLSHIT. These people already have in mind some kind of mythical identity and that you and your social media presence must fulfill. But those organisations and institutions, which by their very existence are used to dictating norms and values, are at their wits end with how to control us on the Internet, so they find some non-existent relationship between your social media presence and your economic situation. In what rational world could unemployment (or similar ill) be explained by whether or not you use Standard English or throw in a bloodclaat here and there? The ironic thing is that some of the people who subscribe to this ridiculous practice are guilty of the very internet behaviour they scoff. Catch them at a rum bar or a fancy product launch and you just might have to SCRUB YOUR EARS.
A much more rational explanation for unemployment is the failings of Jamaica’s experiment with neoliberalism and capitalism in addition to the last 25 years of failed economic policies. Is there offensive content on the social media? Yes. Is it the place of an organisation or person to tell you that you shouldn’t be using your social networks in the way you see fit? Absolutely not. That is like telling me that I can no longer eat from Popeyes, or play cards, or go to the beach, or write. It is an affront to me. It’s… it’s irrational.
I realised that the day I took to Twitter to tweet-through-it after the staffing debacle that I was in fact doing more than defending my timeline. I was defending myself. I was defending the way I interact with my friends and family. I was defending the way I think, the way I ideate, the way I am. Every time you defend your tweet to someone, you are defending yourself. It is NOT just Twitter; it’s YOUR Twitter.
This is not a call to arms. If you know that you’re employed to a Twitter Nazi, then don’t go about getting yourself fired. But you must be cognizant of the fact that it is not normal for people to ask to interrogate your social media footprint. You must be aware that these Twitter Nazis are trying to control your behaviour and have you conform to their idea of what is good and bad. These Twitter Nazis are out to further the already hegemonic worldview of what is normal and acceptable, even as our generation tries to carve out our own identity. When these Twitter Nazis demand your information, you should feel uneasy about the whole concept. You should feel violated every time you are compelled to write down your information.
I realise now that my contact was not silly; in fact I think I always knew that they were far from silly. But what they are is far more saddening. My contact, and others who require your social media footprint to reconcile with whatever mythical identity they chose to construct, are part of a lumbering, resilient, and unfortunately dynamic system of hegemony that must be challenged and resisted. We can start by demanding our privacy.
Do not be fooled by doomsday folklore that speaks about the absence of privacy on the Internet. There might not be secrecy on the Internet, but there is privacy. And we all must claim it. It is our damned right.
I cannot WAIT to see the comments. Do you agree with Brandon? is he being too defensive? Please leave a comment, share and let me know. Don’t forget to follow him 🙂