Engaging with people through social media has made the world a smaller place. Anyone using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other platform must be aware of the fact that there is no hiding place, so it is of upmost importance to use these sites responsibly.
This is a lesson that has been learnt by a number of leading societal figures for all the wrong reasons. Within seconds, your off the cuff remark on Twitter has spread globally and is receiving retweets from thousands of other Twitter users. Unfortunately for some, this phenomenon has resulted in many finding themselves in hot water, with their celebrity statuses left hanging in the balance.
In 2012, social media experienced a turbulent year, which resulted in many contemplating whether social media rules and regulations needed to be implemented.
A prime example highlighting the need for clear regulations was the story involving footballer Fabrice Muamba. When a student from Wales tweeted malicious tweets about the shocking heart attack Fabrice experienced on the football pitch, it caused outcry and very soon the police were on the case.
However, these unsavoury tweets also brought out the best of the social media world when the UK’s Twitter community railed together to get the student arrested and jailed for 56 days on the grounds of offensive comments. With the world now a more local place, social media is providing us with the means to gain even further insights into the lives of our favourite celebrities, athletes and politicians.
However, there have been a number of recent cases where overzealous Twitter users have been abusing the novelty of being able to engage directly with their role models. Footballer Jamie O’Hara quit Twitter after receiving a backlash on the site with #getagrip trending following his tweet about longing for easier days similar to when he was on the Youth Training Scheme.
Twitter is becoming a 24/7 newspaper. This platform is now one of those most commonly turned to for breaking news, with even online news portals looking to Twitter for content. However, the problem with this is that tweets may be interpreted wrongly or may simply be a vicious rumour.
Lord McAlpine fell victim to Twitter rumours and abuse when a flawed BBC report led to his name being spread around the Internet, naming him as a child abuser, accusations that turned out to be completely untrue.
In a bid to restore his reputation, Lord McAlpine is pursuing 20 high profile tweeters for damages. In this case, high profile tweeters are defined by having 500+ Twitter followers. In addition to this, his lawyers are exploring the possibility of taking action against the 10,000+ tweeters who were involved in spreading the false allegation.
Further controversy arose when Sally Bercow, who has had a series of social media faux-pas, allegedly announced through Twitter the name of the teen who ran away with her maths teacher. Although she very quickly retraced her steps, deleting the tweet, in the world of social media it was too late.
With the social media landscape so volatile, interim guidelines have now been published by the government which serve to protect those who fall victim to malicious posts and tweets as well as the tweeters themselves.
When using social media, I recommend that you act responsibly, just as you would when driving a car, avoid drunk tweeting and ultimately adopt a common sense approach.