“I’ve been hacked!”
And other excuses of the social media age
What do John Delaney, Greg Horan, Rita Ora and Kasabian have in common? All discovered that social media can transform a story in a blink of an eye. Thanks to a video of the FAI chief letting his hair down and belting out an aul’ rebel song in a Dublin bar and photos of Kasabian performing against the backdrop of an anti-London banner at a Glasgow gig, both of them discovered that social media can distribute a video or a photo around the world faster than FedEx or UPS. In the case of the other two (chosen randomly from a Google search for “Twitter ceebrity account hacked”), various tweets went far and wide before the prolific tweeters in question discovered that their accounts had been hacked.
As so many others have found out in 2014 (come on down, the Samhain festival, for example), there are both upsides and downsides to using social media to talk about yourself or promote your business. The proliferation of social media channels, from videos and photos to Facebook posts or Twitter’s 140 characters, means you can quickly, easily and cheaply communicate your message in a way which would have cost you a small fortune in resources a short few years ago. When things go wrong, of course, social media users are quick to use the very same channels to talk back to let their true feelings be known.
But the greatest social media drawback actually comes from the user themselves. Forget about all those calls for social media to be regulated – a column like this is a bit like the 123 bus and another one will be along before the month is out calling for similar regulation – it’s the casual and careless usage habits which people have adopted which are the biggest problem. People become comfortable on Facebook and Twitter and forget the consequences of their quickly typed post or tweet. You may think you’re trying to be funny, but those bon mots could turn out to have unintended and unseen consequences. A friend of mine has a “think before you tweet” maxim, but there are very few others who adhere to this. Sure what harm can a tweet do?
Of course, in the case of Delaney and Kasabian, it was not the individuals themselves who were responsible for the transmission of the deed in question. Delaney has said his ballad singing was recorded in “a sly way”, though surely the FAI big kahoona knows that he’s a well-known figure and cameraphones always prove problematic for those in the public eye. Kasabian said the anti-London banner was down to a production screw-up. Regardless of intent, both actions found their way into the wild and the social media shock-horror narrative (there are only two emotions on social media: shock-horror or “everything is amazing” with nothing inbetween) took care of everything else.
In some strange ways, the manner in which social media behaviour is now judged is setting puritanical standards for those with a hefty public profile. There are probably many individuals who’ve changed their social media behaviour because they know that being themselves can only lead to problems due to perception and misrepresentation. Issues around bullying and trolling are often trotted out to explain why folks cut down on their social media usage, but there’s also the self-censorship which has become far more common in recent times. After all, you don’t really want to be that soldier claiming to have been hacked when some spur-of-the-moment flaming or mildly spurious banter goes viral.