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When is private and personal not private and personal?

The importance of being private

When is private and personal not private and personal?

When is private and personal not private and personal?

An interesting lesson in social media misunderstanding, delivered by a politician recently – starring a woman in a flip-up dress.

Kate Beecroft MHK had to defend a post she made to her Facebook timeline, which annoyed a fair few people. And her defence, well… was a bit silly.

The post was straightforward enough…

Now, to be clear, I make no judgement on the content here. Whether I think it’s offensive, misognyistic, sexist, or whatever else is immaterial.

A number of people did take exception to it, however – citing the fact she’s a government minister. They objected to it and made their feelings pretty clear on Kate’s timeline (you can read the comments underneath).

Of course, being a minister, it made the news: here and here.

Defenders of the mirth

What I find interesting is what she said in her defence; it shows a misunderstanding of social media.

Well, I can see what she means – but on the other hand…

The post is public.

If I stood in the middle of Strand Street shouting something some people would find offensive, I suspect arguing it’s my personal voice and people can feel free not to listen wouldn’t get me very far.

And if you’re in that sort of job, do you really want your professional contacts to see that sort of row on your timeline?

Public vs personal

My advice?

  • Set up a Facebook page. That way you separate public and private life on Facebook. I’m surprised by the number of politicians who don’t do this, and I made a big thing out of it during the last election.
  • Make your Facebook timeline posts visible to your friends, rather than public. They’re far more likely to share your sense of humour than the people looking you up on Facebook as a way of contacting their member of parliament.
  • If you’re going to post publicly, then think twice and post once. Is it something that might cause offence? If it is and you’re a public figure (or, indeed, a business) than don’t post it.

It’s not exactly rocket science.

Social media and the media

I’ve come across quite a  few politicians who claim their personal social media feeds are their own business, and nothing to do with public life – usually after a very public misstep.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

If they say it on Facebook or Twitter and it’s visible, it’s exactly the same as shouting it in the street and will be treated in exactly the same way by a journalist. And by, for example, ministers from other jurisdictions they may meet in the future. And, well, anyone else who can read and access the internet.

Facebook isn’t private unless you set it to be private, no matter what you say to the contrary.

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