A little bird told me
Today it was revealed that the UK's first youth police and crime commissioner will not face police action over a series of racist and homophobic tweets that she sent on her personal Twitter account.
Seventeen year old Paris Brown was forced to resign from her role after complaints were made concerning tweets she posted to her personal account before being offered the £15,000 a year job by Kent police. Many of you will be familiar with the story and of the tweets, which featured racist, homophobic and violent content. After investigating the case, Kent police have decided that while the tweets sent are deemed offensive and derogatory to certain social groups, the case does not pass the threshold for prosecution.
Fifty complaints were made to Kent police after details of the tweets emerged, and as well as resigning, Paris has also made numerous public apologies. This is just one of many instances where social media slips have cost people more than just their pride, but their jobs too.
Since social media became such an integral part of our everyday lives, it's developed from an outlet for our thoughts and feelings into a direct extension of our brains. Whether we're instagramming our newest Topshop purchases, tweeting our opinions on this week's TV or telling all our Facebook friends how 'hanging' we are, it's much easier to share information about yourself than it is to hide it. Nothing is sacred in the world of social networking, from the most intimate details of our heartbreaks to literally sharing what you had for breakfast to the world.
Not surprisingly, employers have realised that to gage the full picture about potential employees, they must turn to the world of Twitter and Facebook to discover whether the CV claims match up to reality. Although I'm happily settled in a full time job, I can't help but cringe slightly at this thought.
While my Facebook privacy settings don't allow anyone who hasn't been accepted as my friend to view any aspect of my profile, my other accounts don't maintain the same level of security. For instance, my tweets aren't locked, and anyone who is capable of using a search engine (and who is also clever enough to spell my name correctly) is sure to come across it if they look hard enough. And although I don't make a point of sending rude or abusive tweets, I don't filter my thoughts as well as I probably should. Hence the occasional foul-mouthed rant or over-opinionated babble. I've sent many an incomprehensible drunken tweet, that just seems too funny to delete the next day. I've expressed my desire to bed many a sexy celebrity, something I'm not sure a future boss would rate highly on a list of admirable qualities in an employee.
Although there are instances of social sharing I regret or would rather forget, I don't feel the need to censor myself too harshly. For my generation, social networking has been a fundamental part of the growing up experience, and it is even more so the case for teenagers nowadays. It's a virtual journal of all our experiences, good and bad, and paints a vivid and emotive picture of our personalities. Sure, everything I've tweeted or Facebooked hasn't been totally sensible or profoundly wise, but making mistakes is a part of growing up. Teenagers were still doing the same crazy and illegal things twenty years ago, it's just that we weren't all able to read about it at the click of a button.
So while I don't agree with Paris Brown's tweets, I can't help but think she's been judged a little harshly. She was put in a position of power, which she should have had respect for. However, the tweets in question were sent when she was between the ages of 14-16, before she was given the job. If we were all judged by employers on what we did at that age, I'm sure even some of the most powerful people in the country would have found it far harder to secure their positions.
So for now, I'll carry on tweeting about the world as I see it. As a journalist, we're taught to present a balanced argument, but as a person, I have opinions and I'm going to continue to share them.