It has been a game changer, the wonderful world of citizen journalism via social media. And among those citizens exercising their right to contribute to debate in an authentically personal way are those with high profiles, be they stars of stage and screen, rock stars of music and politics or sports celebrities.
Using social media effectively is all about being authentic, so then, how could anyone take issue with Australian cricketer David Warner, taking to the twitter-verse with his personal views about media coverage, in his capacity both as a citizen and a sportsman?
Well, there are several reasons why. The first, in my opinion, is that Mr Warner broke the number one rule of social media, by using profanities and name-calling to turn the debate into a personal attack.
Debate is a wonderful thing, fervent exchanges of a difference of opinion make life interesting, just ask my partner of 25 years who I met through debating. (NB: Kieran advises all high school boys “debating is a great way to meet chicks”)
But as all young debaters learn when first starting out, there is no place whatsoever for personal attacks; attack a position, attack a point of view, but don’t attack the woman or the man.
Had David Warner used Twitter to debate or question the fairness of an editorial pertaining to the Australian Cricket Team’s recent performances, then that would be appropriate and relevant to his nearly 200,000 followers. A strong evidence-based case gives you the credibility to refute an argument.
The second, equally important reason why I contend there is good reason to take issue with what transpired is one that many social media users are still grappling with. And that is that all of us, to an extent, are defined by the work we do, whether that is representing Australia in sport, a political party or a private entity.
More cases of individuals being taken to task by their employers for social media activity are emerging. But the lessons are still being learned. We may take great pains to reinforce that “the views expressed here are mine not my employer’s” – but in such a public forum, there are inherent risks with stepping over a very grey, blurry line of what is deemed appropriate.
The onus is on both individual employees and their employers to take steps towards establishing both a corporate social media policy and having a proactive conversation about what types of commentary and behaviour on social media platforms will be at best an issue to be discussed, at worst, a career ender.