Drunk at a party? Dressed as a stripper? Why we should all be able to start over on social media
PUBLISHED: 14:50 18 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:50 18 April 2019
Are there pictures out there of you in outfits you would no longer be seen dead in? Or worse? Nick Conrad says we all ought to be able to start over with social media
Social media is like burping; it's got a habit of 'coming up' at the worst possible time. That's why we should all be very careful what we post on social media. In fact, it's fast becoming such a problem that we should be reminding youngsters that their social media feed is an extension of their Curriculum Vitae. Absolutely nothing is 'private' on their very public timeline. If they wouldn't be comfortable shouting the comments in the high street, then do not put it online!
But with hindsight it's easy to see why we should be cautious now about what we put online. Recently MPs have had the whip removed, politicians forced to resign, footballers criticised, and public figures derided for foolish comments. I'm not defending them, in fact some of their comments are vile, however I think we should be a little more tolerant…or at least allow people to delete their Internet history and move on. Failing that, we must warn youngsters to be very careful! Journalists, who often just want to dish dirt in exchange for a cheap headline, trawl back to find a single incriminating post before publishing the offending picture or comment. Be careful…it is not just celebrities who are being targeted.
A secondary school teacher told me last week that a picture of her, dressed as a nightclub 'stripper,' from nearly a decade ago resurfaced recently. She suspects a former pupil had cast an eye over her profile then shared the incriminating snap. She was hauled in front of her headmaster, who luckily was supportive. The most troubling element is her claim she had deleted the picture. Social media is the proverbial elephant - it doesn't forget anything.
Why everyone should be allowed to delete their social media accounts and start again…
When I first joined Facebook a 'friend' gained access to my account and posted a picture of a rather large lady posing on a table. It was my own fault; I'd left my profile open on a desktop. In honesty, I wasn't that bothered at the time. I might have even posted a winking or smiling emoji underneath it. However, that picture doesn't reflect my views or values and I deleted it quickly. I'm sure some computer whiz could uncover it!
Aged 20 I was signed up by a London based entertainment supremo. He was a nice chap who had a hotline to radio controllers and television executives - he landed me with a national radio show. His shows were the toast of the industry and he represented the biggest and the best. Alongside a comedian who has now gone on to star in his own series, we started a show on BBC 6 Music and started filming a TV pilot. I cringe to think of those sketches now and I'd be delighted to think (though I suspect not) all the tapes have been wiped. The problem - what I said and how I behaved as a teenager most certainly doesn't reflect how I wish to be perceived now. Working in media I've long accepted that previous content or comment might continue to bite you on the backside, for most others this is a rude awakening.
Everything that appears on our news feed is an advert. It's an insightful view of who we are (or how we'd like to be perceived.) It's not just the content we choose to share. Others can post pictures, tag comments and statuses, which are linked to our profiles. What we post can shape or colour someone's view. Undoubtedly prospective employers are looking at social media when undertaking background checks on individuals.
One of the big issues we face is the lack of consent needed to post then publicise our images. A friend, years ago, posted a youthful picture of me grinning at the camera in a hoody. There was nothing wrong with the image at all, but I was surprised to see it on national French broadcaster RTL's coverage of a news story I was involved in last year.
In general, we over-share online and compromise ourselves. As we move through life, we change but social media doesn't allow people to subtly move on or change their attitudes. The idea that something somebody says while growing up can ruin his or her entire life is preposterous. Too frequently I've seen people lose out on jobs or opportunities because of their social media history. Yes, sometimes it's okay to say controversial things 'in private' but Twitter, Snapchat and Whatsapp are no different to a public space. Would you shout this in the high street?
We are all one or two screen grabs away from catastrophe. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt argued in 2010 that everyone should change their name when they reach adulthood…it would just be easier to delete your Facebook account (alas Facebook won't let me!) and only share personal opinions with true friends.