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Advice on Avoiding Social Media Blunders

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Twitter, as we very well know, is one of the fastest growing avenues of social media today. And although it only allows up to 140 characters, it’s still large enough for trouble—regardless of the intentions.

In one story, a British native named Paul Chambers was arrested for a tweet he posted on January 7th in regards to Northern England’s Robin Hood Airport:

You’ve got a week and a bit to get your s*** together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!

Turns out, Chambers’ “threat” was his way of airing the frustrations he held about the airport being closed due to snow. Even if Chambers used the SarcMark, which our consultants reviewed, it’s highly doubtful the situation would have been prevented. For, according to him, the police simply did not understand it was his attempt at sarcasm:

You may say, and I certainly realise now, it was ill-advised. But it was clearly frustration, caused by heavy snowfall grounding flights and potentially scuppering my own flight a week later. Like having a bad day at work and stating that you could murder your boss, I didn’t even think about whether it would be taken seriously.

Call me naive or ignorant, but the heightened state of panic over terror issues was not something I considered as relating to me in any way – until I was arrested, shoved into a police car in front of colleagues, hauled off to Doncaster police station, and interviewed for the rest of the day. My iPhone, laptop and desktop hard drive were confiscated during a search of my house. It was terrifying and humiliating.

I never expected to be charged, but a month later I was: not under the offence of making a bomb threat, for which I was originally arrested, but under the communications act for the offence of sending a menacing message. This first appeared to be an absolute offence, much the same as speeding: conviction does not depend on mens rea. For a stupid mistake, I was faced with the prospect of a career-ruining criminal conviction. After fresh legal advice it turned out I could argue I had no intention and awareness to commit the crime, and I could plead not guilty. Even after all the preceding absurdity and near-breakdown-inducing stress, I was confident common sense would prevail in my day in court.

stressed consultant

© Flickr user RLHyde

This story poses a valuable lesson: social media outlets, though seemingly casual,  may be perceived as mediums of precise communication and can affect employee satisfaction. Whatever is posted can be viewed by virtually anyone. Therefore, it’s dangerous to assume that every reader understands the thoughts and intentions of what is written, regardless of whether the message is clearly absurd or not.

Especially in today’s era of better safe than sorry when it comes to threats, it’s not worth making any joke on social media that could be taken the wrong way. Even if you have your profiles set to private, there’s nothing to stop anyone from screen-shotting your posts and reposting them all over the internet. Chambers writes in his article that he believed he’s no longer able to speak his mind, but in reality, he likely knows a whole lot of trouble could’ve been avoided if he had reconsidered before pressing that ever-dangerous “send” button.

Social media can be a great source of productivity and improvement in both our personal and professional lives. It’s simply a matter of how to use it properly. Productivity and social media can go hand in hand. Not sure how to properly use social media within your organization? Learn more by contacting our business process improvement consultants today!

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