Guest Post: Why your f*cking behaviour on the internet matters


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 🙂

Faith & Love,
Mamachel
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Author: Brandon Allwood

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19 Comments

  1. I will not forget a couple years ago when my cousin said to me something along the line of ‘change your facebook picture now! Dont u see how u look in it?!’ The picture I had up was one of me at a party with some rum in my hands.

    My first response was of course… why? Its my facebook? I have albums upon albums of party pictures, whats the big deal, and she of course said it’ll make me look bad to future employers…

    Of course my first response was what the fuck? How does my private life impact my professional life? What did these employers do before 2000? Did they have spies at parties and social events just taking notes on everybody there and saying “we cant employ him, look at him, he’s enjoying himself!”, “and look at this girl, thats the 5th man shes wined on! And she’s going on her headtop, definitely unemployable!” I mean… really, none of this makes any sense.

    If an employer asks me for my social media handles I will withdraw my application to work there

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  2. Brandon is spot on here! I’ve had friends blowing up my phone in the past asking me to delete stuff and asking why I would put ‘something like that’ “out there”. TMI and all that Jazz… I’m thinking, out there where?? I’m not imposing my virtual utterances on anyone! My Facebook, My Twitter, My IG, is for me to use however I feel like it! Employers need to it take to LinkedIn…

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  3. Brandon is on point. I fail to see how one expresses him or herself on social media impacts on the quality of work that one performs in an organization. Employees cannot allow employers to appoint themselves as fun police. Using company resources and company time is another matter entirely. At my organization, employees are left to decide when and how they can use social media during work hours. Instead of blocking access to these sites, emphasis is placed on deadlines for producing results. What ensues is a culture where social media is used throughout the day by many employees but it doesn’t impact the quality of work. No one wants to miss a deadline. Balance is achieved.

    With respect to privacy, once the company’s computers are being used there’s a “no expectation of privacy” agreement that everyone agrees to every time a log on is initiated. The policy existed before social media. If you don’t have a smartphone and use the company’s resources to perform social media interactions, you have been warned. So far no one (of thousands of employees) has been called into a meeting with HR.

    By the way, I’m on company time now. Bye.

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  4. good one Brandon. The prissy CARIMAC person hardly shows the university in a good light, unfortunately too many ppl who work at UWI think this way. And what is this Jamaican preoccupation with not cursing?? what has it achieved? The country is falling apart? what else were curse words made for than to use in times like these??

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  5. Hmmm…

    I agree with this “…this policing of expression and behaviour on the Internet is just that—a new form of social control.” I have been called into a meeting and reprimanded for not having my employer (former) on my Facebook, 4SQ etc. Now, I don’t think an employee NEEDS to be privy to my timeline nor my whereabouts outside of work, but clearly s/he (LOL) had other ideas. I have also received calls/emails from clients expressing outrage that I expressed an opinion online that goes contrary to theirs/Company. I signed NDAs, not a censorship agreement, so I should be free to express myself within the ambit of myself…but hey, they had other ideas.

    There clearly is a grey area. See what I did there?

    Over time, I am careful as to who I grant access to and the extent to which I share online because I believe that it is VERY important that we manage our digital selves as young professionals.

    It has become the norm for potential employers to peer into your ‘social media windows’ and use it to inform themselves as to the type of person you are OUTSIDE of your resume. Consider this, your resume is authored information that you have carefully put together to project a certain professionalism/experience…your social media footprint is unfettered so it gives a window into what ELSE you are which can be “insightful”…

    My twitter is open.
    My Instagram is restricted to a select few.
    My Facebook is restricted, but I give access to almost anyone because I use it primarily for work/research.

    I don’t post anything online that I would be ashamed to explain/elaborate on/defend in a professional space if required to. You are who you are most when you think no one is looking.

    Xoxo

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    • yg die bt…Ingat ni..Allah sayang pd org buat salah, mengaku keslahan dan kemudian bertaubat…Allah sgt benci pd org yg bt salah,tapi x mau bertaubat malah berbangga dgn kemaksiatan yg die bt dgn bgtau org lain..Moralnya:-Kalo nak bt jahat tu diam2 je la..x yah nak bgtau org lain..kejahatan yg dibuat tu…Kalo nak bt baik ajaklah kwn2..Kalo nak bt jahat btlah sorg2..

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  6. In theory, employers would be examining your online presence only to glean information regarding possible illicit activities, arrests, ‘risky behaviour’, libelous/harmful comments, etc. They supposedly use it to provide insight as to whether you engage in any behavior that would have DIRECT implications on their organizations and your potential colleagues. For example, an EMT in the New York Fire Department was dismissed for racially charged tweets about blacks and Jews. While the act in itself was not illegal, his employers saw him as a risk. They found a million ways in which his bigotry could potentially affect his work and his colleagues and the public’s view of the kind of people that work for the NYFD. Understandable. The sobering part however is that potential employers will not be as objective as we would like them to be. Our worry is that they will likely use your online presence to make judgment calls that have little to do with us being EMPLOYABLE. And how can those objective parameters be truly set? How will you know if you didn’t get the job because you really weren’t qualified enough or if you just had too many pictures in bikinis with a cup in hand for the HR person’s liking? Scary.

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  7. I saw a link to this post re-tweeted on my TL and was intrigued to see what this young man had to say about ones conduct on social media sites. What people fail to understand is that once you are employed to a business entity your activities outside the office are still associated with it. Inappropriate behaviour goes beyond just using curse words and most companies have every right to deny employing you or your services as a result of your online activities. You have the option of maintaining anonymity on social networking sites where you know you will be acting most inappropriately. However some young people see these sites as an opportunity to gain fame and become local social media celebrities. They therefore engage in juvenile activities such as bullying and “Trolling” to gain notoriety. Last time I checked being a Jamaican social media celebrity doesn’t pay the bills as well as having a solid career in your field of study.
    I don’t agree with him saying potential employers just want to “fass” in your business. People don’t have that much time on their hands to waste. They want to see how much paid working hours you spend not doing your job and if you are capable to keeping private company information to yourself.
    If you’re familiar with Mr. Allwood’s TL you cannot honestly defend someone like him and his right to act in any way he pleases on social media and still expect potential employers to give him a chance. In Jamaica we are quite lucky that most institutions are not as strict as overseas ones where quite often employees are fired for inappropriate tweets or comments. If your online image is already tainted it is very hard to change people’s mind in your favour. The best thing to do is act appropriately on various social media sites where your image and real name are associated. You can also private your account and solidify privacy restrictions. Stop adding random people just to increase your followers list and have a false sense of importance. It’s really that simple. Potential employees have no right to the access of you social media passwords. Remind them of the site policies that say this and point out it’s unethical. Don’t let anyone bully you into thinking otherwise.

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    • I’m not sure if you are the same Lydia I had a run-in with on Twitter several years ago. In that altercation, I admittedly responded to the person in a way that I might not consider today. That’s not because I am ashamed of what I did. I am not. I am no more ashamed of anything on my TL in the past, what you or others consider inappropriate, than the lies I told on the non-existence of my virginity.

      The truth is, more people are familiar with my TL than a lot of others because it is real. My real name, my real thoughts, and my real language and expression. If people are not OK with that, they have the opportunity to shut me out by blocking me, muting me, even reporting me for spam. They can create their own private network—and you seem to miss the important difference between privacy and secrecy. The point is my TL needs no defense because it should not be interrogated, and none of the people in my social network need to me defend it.

      Thankfully, my work speaks for itself. And though some of my clients have expressed some hope that my Twitter would soon change, it hasn’t. And I still represent them. I hope this particular example illustrates that companies have no real interest in what you do on social media.

      That you have a concept of what is “acceptable” and “appropriate” is clearly subjective, and indicative of the problem. Why should my TL be subject to the standards that you (or anyone else) have set up? I do not have a problem with anything on my TL, and the “others like me” don’t either. I have a problem with trying to find ways to hide the true purpose of interrogating social media networks of people. You seem to be trying to rationalise censorship and hegemony with your own values. That’s cool. I don’t share them, and I don’t want to deprive you of them. That’s how you think someone’s social media presence should be like, I don’t.

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      • Brandon, I must say I agree with Lydia to some extent. My thoughts on this argument are long and complex but I will attempt to summarize.

        You are right that your social media presence should be whatever you want it to be and you should not be forced or censored into anything you don’t wish to do. But at the same time, information you publish on social networks is publicly available to the world. With this in mind, I do believe that your public image (a part of which is formed by social media), particularly in your field, could be and probably will be judged by potential clients/employers. I also believe they should reserve the right to say what they deem acceptable and appropriate for their work environment.

        Unfortunately, some employers overdo it. They use your party pics and badwords to determine that you’re unsuitable and that’s sad…but it’s their right.

        I will say that prior to meeting you, I followed you on social media and I did follow you on social media and found your behaviour extreme (mine was probably over the line of extreme too, at the time). After working with you, however, I found you the consummate professional, even with the same behaviour exhibited online. This, Brandon, is the exception, not the rule. Therefore for a client to reconsider based on social media knowledge only, I would probably understand their point of view.

        At the end of the day, I think we must simply accept that we will be judged by the information we put out so we must either change the narrative or accept the consequences.

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  8. Does Lydia realize she negated her entire argument with that last line? :/

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    • Actually, she didn’t Kristine. She’s saying that the employer can access publicly available information by viewing your SM accounts as the public would see it but they have no right to access it through passwords the way you would see it.

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  9. Funny this topic should come up, I found out recently about a person complaining that my interaction with my bf on Twitter was too explicit and inappropriate. Gotta love that sense of entitlement corporations and just regular old people have in thinking they should be allowed to police how you conduct yourself in YOUR social media space.

    I vote for extensive and in-depth classes on how to find those elusive block and unfollow buttons.

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  10. I agree with Brandon’s thought process. I think just like tattoos …you can’t decide not have a tattoo because of how it will look when your 80! When you are 80 who cares? Just like you can’t tweet professionally all the time just in case that future job may snoop and stomp all over your privacy. I like the mindset and I like retaking some sense of personal space on the Internet. Optimistically posts like this would change social standards from accepting the rape of your profile privacy by companies to frowning upon them. However we have to be realistic. Companies and people are going to violate you and snoop so we have to gauge what we say based on it’s reach and accessibility. Hopefully with a change of social Mindsets we don’t have to whitewash everything put on social media.

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  11. Firstly I’m in total agreement with this post in its entirety. Unless you’re using your personal social media page/s to represent your employer, what you do and how you act on YOUR personal page/s is absolutely nobody’s business but your own. No employer has no right legally under any circumstances (unless it’s the CIA, Secret service, or some other top secret US job really) to need access to your personal social media pages…..

    Now with that being said, oh the IRONY of dear madame to use this post to voice her disagreeing opinion, how cute

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