I tweet therefore I am? #welovebaskers

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I’ve just read an excellent post by Ann Kempster about the recent hounding in The Daily Mail and The Independent of Sarah Baskerville, who I’ve been following on Twitter as @baskers for a while now.

Twitter friends have rallied around Sarah using the hashtag #welovebaskers and I’ve been happy to join in supporting her.

It seems that too many people misunderstand how Twitter can be used. Sarah is obviously the kind of person who is very open about her feelings and opinions online. Her account on Twitter clearly states that her views are her own and not those of her employer (just as I do on my blog here and Twitter account). Sadly, it seems this disclaimer is not enough. Her tweets have been taken out of context and listed as if they were direct attacks on her employer and there have been implications that she’s some kind of binge drinker (which is ridiculous – I’m sure I’ve probably tweeted about wanting a glass of wine at the end of the week before! I hope that wouldn’t make people think I’m some kind of drunkard).

Anyone who is a digital resident on Twitter would know that many folk use Twitter as a form of self expression, knowing that a tweet about a hangover is just the equivalent of saying to a colleague before going into a meeting ‘I’ve got a hell of a hangover today’. I see my network of friends on Twitter as my extended group of colleagues.

I always tell people when I do my training that you must be careful not to write anything on Twitter that you’d be embarrassed for your boss or a loved one to read. I think I largely adhere to this. However, I am not willing to separate my personality into little boxes on Twitter. This means that I will tweet about work, what I saw on tv last night, good music I’ve heard recently, stuff to do with my Christian faith, the X Factor and The Apprentice, and yes, occasionally, what I’ve had for lunch. I behave in the same way online as I do with my friends and colleagues. At work we’ll chat about the weekend’s TV, the fact we’re going out for drinks and also, of course, about work. I do all this on Twitter too. I want to be the same person at home as I am at work. I also want to be the same person online as I am at home and at work. It’s so easy to compartmentalise your life but I can’t cope with being lots of different Bryonys – I have to be true to who I am. I wrote about this on my personal blog last year.

One of the things to remember about Twitter is that you as a user choose what you want to read. If you think I tweet far too much about the Apprentice or the X Factor then STOP FOLLOWING me! What the journalists who wrote these mean articles about Sarah have missed is that they really don’t have to read what Sarah’s saying, she’s not imposing her tweets on the world, they are there for people who are in her network who have chosen to follow her. I don’t follow Courtney Love any more because her tweets were really bonkers and got on my nerves. Writing an article like that one saying ‘Oh please, stop this twit from Tweeting, someone’ is like saying ‘Oh please, stop everyone from expressing their opinions down the pub’. It feels like living in Tudor times when you could get burned at the stake for saying the wrong thing in earshot of someone.

This recent case involving Sarah along with the other stories about the guy who tweeted about wanting to blow up Robin Hood airport and the Alibhai-Brown story have made me a little wary though.

Sadly I think I will be a bit more careful about what I tweet from now on.

Such a shame. I don’t know what else to write here really but I would recommend reading Ann’s post for a good overview – I wholeheartedly agree with her.

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7 thoughts on “I tweet therefore I am? #welovebaskers

  1. a6ruled

    yeh i agree. i was thinking on the way to work about the telegraph article on ukuncut. how it and similar articles state as a big deal that “they use twitter to coordinate…” it completely misses the point that this is where many conversations happen.

    i’m not saying that digital communications aren’t significant – they clearly are. just that, as usually deployed, a phrase like “they use twitter to coordinate…” hardly carries any more meaning than “they use talking to speak”.

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  2. Completely agree. I had someone try to tell me what I should and shouldn’t tweet a while back and though I liked that person, I had to explain that unfortunately, I had to block them. Why should I be made to feel like I have to walk on eggshells on my own Twitter page on the off chance that I might offend someone? Heck, you can’t please all the people all the time and Twitter is a place for me where I do like to have a bit of a vent sometimes.

    I think part of the problem is also that people are far too over sensitive these days. That comes in large part from reading what someone is saying, rather than hearing them say it. You can take things a number of different ways when you see it written down and people tend to get all in a tizzy over nothing.

    I’m the same as you – my stance is, if you don’t like what I’m saying, simply unfollow. I don’t take it personally. I understand that my tweets and personality aren’t for everyone. But I’ll be damned if I let someone tell me what I should and shouldn’t say.

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  3. Mike Doherty

    Hi Bryony,

    I hope you are well. This was a very interesting post and it is something that I have given thought to working as I do in the IT industry.

    I agree with you that it is sad to see a medium which is so expressive being used to attack individuals like this but we also need to remember that, informal as twitter is, putting information on the internet is not the same as chatting in the pub.

    Posting information on the internet creates a permanent and irrevocable record of your thoughts at a point in time. Google, Bing, The Internet Archive and countless other companies are reading and archiving the majority of the content on internet every day.

    It is possible to go back and retrieve content from years ago even if the website no longer exists on the internet today.

    I know a number of people who have been blogging for years now about a range of stuff from professional to personal. However the opinions that they posted 10 years ago as students often no longer reflect their current opinions but they are still there for all the world to view along with pictures of former girlfriends, interiors of flats, dates of birthdays (via the date information which cameras attach to their photos) etc.

    I’ve recently noticed an increasing use of Google to research potential employees, dig up dirt on people for news paper articles, etc. I believe that his will only be more common going forwards as the internet becomes more widely used. We are already seeing this with the increasing number of news articles related to comments posted on Facebook.

    I believe that in the coming years we are going to see a shift towards having to manage what we post on the internet to avoid exactly these sorts of problems. Unfortunately that leaves those tweets and blog posts which have been posted to date as a news article waiting to happen for those who end up exposed to the public gaze in the future.

    God bless,

    Mike

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  4. Bryony Taylor

    That’s a real shame. A reminder, however, that Twitter is public and we all need to be aware that our words can be used against us. The character assassination of Sarah Baskerville in the press, however, was totally out of order – but that’s what newspapers do.

    Like

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