May 5, 2012 · 23 Comments
Social networks and micro-blogging platforms such Facebook and Twitter respectively are useful for connecting with others, marketing, disseminating and accessing information in a fast moving environment. Improperly used, these platforms can become dangerous, costly, and often lead to public gaffes and can be career-ending in some cases.
With South Africa ranked fifth in terms of internet penetration in Africa, micro blogging platform, twitter, has become popular, with several politicians, celebrities and the general South African public taking to the platform, often commanding thousands of followers. However too few, if any, are orientated on how to use this platform – understanding the consequences of one’s tweets – and it has been evident in the number of twitter mistakes in the country, including those by prominent politicians such as Democratic Alliance leader, Helen Zille.
It would do a lot of good for Jessica Leandra dos Santos, and certainly the rest of South Africa to acquaint themselves with the downsides of taking to such online platforms, and to understand that one needs to comprehend the façade of social networking which is primarily the reason for ill-informed posts and tweets.
Fundamental to social networking is the idea of ‘networking’, that is, you have “friends” or “followers”. Having an audience, especially one as big as those achieved on social networks has been known as being big a driver of most of the not so well thought out tweets and updates. Out of having great number of followers or friends, most people derive a sense of self-worth and importance – which for some may translate to a perception of being worshipped, important or sometimes invincible.
In reality however nothing could be any further from the truth. While people many follow or befriend you, they are not your friends or followers – except maybe for occasionally checking on your profile. Having 5000 friends or followers that you know, at least in the ‘real world’, is physically impossible.
Also, the belief that one has so many friends fuels narcissistic and attention-seeking behaviour in some – leading to updates and tweets about food instead of eating, happiness instead of actually enjoying one’s happiness – traits consistent with individuals that ordinarily have a low self-esteem.
Individuals that have a great following or a good number of friends tend to confuse those that follow them as being their actual friends. As a result, private transcripts; dialogue that cannot be publically avowed, becomes public.
A simple dynamic, but too few people realise this, perhaps as in the case of Leandra do Santos, who may in her private space utter racially insensitive comments. What she fails to realise is that by writing on twitter – in fact by having joined twitter – her hidden transcript becomes public, and as such, should adjust accordingly. Failing to do so exposes her to a possible public berating, legal action for defamation of character or her own personal safety.
The same thinking can be used when understanding gaffes by celebrities, and perhaps more appropriately in South Africa, politicians such as Helen Zille; who in period of five months issued two perceivably racist remarks.
Politicians join twitter as a way of interacting with their constituency but unfortunately not everyone that follows you is necessarily your constituent, as such, while some things may be understood by your true constituency (those already in your party), it risks being misinterpreted by your non-constituent followers. In this case, party or ideological transcripts become public.
Twitter, Facebook as with other social networking platforms are useful, particularly for those in business seeking to advertise their products and services, get new clients and establish a presence in the ‘arena’ of their intend target market. However, for individuals, politicians and political parties they can easily become a liability.
For the individual it leaves a blueprint of evidence of your online behaviour – something that may detrimental to you or your prospects in either the short-term or in the long term, particularly in light of increasing so-called internet behaviour checks by your would-be employers. For politicians and political parties it may lose you favour in a constituency that you were targeting in your next election and cast doubt about your commitment to your stated goals.
In the final analysis, what is important to know about social networks, as with many things in life, you need to have a reason(s) for embarking on a social networking/media campaign. Failure to do so may result in business-ending and career-ending consequences.
- Political Analysis South Africa