Blog archive


On personal terms and conditions

Two things happened to me recently which have made me question my readiness for the heady world of social media:

  1. I flippantly agreed to be in a short Vine video advertising a spare desk in the office, in which I then proceeded to act the fool, take my top off, and then the video did the rounds on my most of the social networks I use among friends, peers and clients. Weird.
  2. I had to ask a close friend not to leave a certain kind of remark repeatedly on one of my social profiles as I was worried it would offend other friends, to which he took offense and suggested I was being overly sensitive.

Neither instance is particularly significant, uplifting or upsetting for me, but they both forced me to consider why I do what I do online and who’s out there to consume it. Have I thought about why I use these different platforms, and what I expect from others? So far so self-involved. But, I added twenty years onto this, pervasive technologies and an army of younger people with increasing appetites for sharing, and I thought:

Cor blimey, maybe we should give some thought as to the terms under which we as individuals use social media?

I don’t mean long and boring legally worded statements protecting us from copyright infringement or libel, but simple statements of intent. I use Facebook because I like knowing when your birthday is and I also enjoy seeing your holiday photos. These views do not represent those of my employer. When I’m on LinkedIn swearing at me isn’t appropriate, but when I’m on Twitter don’t fucking hold back. I think that outing our intentions will allow others to interact with us better, and avoid some of the messiness that social media can so easily create.

Of course there’s an argument to lead by example; behave as you’d like others to and they will follow suit. My only issue with this is the reality that we all have very different social norms. What is open for me might seem reserved to another, and what counts as a joke to one person can be the ultimate insult to somebody else. As human beings we’re clumsy, fallible and prone to moodiness, and as an always-on mirror, magnifying glass and megaphone social media is a hotbed of anxiety and embarrassment.

I don’t know how to conclude this as it’s something I’m going to continually worry about.

This post was filed under Social media, The future Comments are currently closed.


  1. Really interesting post – it’s about all those different people and parts of your life potentially coming together in one place – which is inevitable and unavoidable as we spread ourselves more liberally, and social bits and bobs get more integrated.

    I pretty much take the opposite view to you – I’d like to think we’re heading towards bringing more of our real selves online all of the time, and when online, learning to behave more consciously knowing that we’re in a public forum. Hopefully that will feed back into our ability to express our real selves more offline and reduce the likelihood of us being offensive and upsetting people when we’re online and previously felt like we’d get away with it.

    One of the causes (as I see it) of some of our biggest problems we face, both personally and as communities/businesses is that people feel that it’s wrong to bring their humanity into the decisions they make at work – which is why conventional business has such a bad rep.

    In short, I reckon what you’re describing might be a slow and sometimes uncomfortable normalising process. In the case of your Vine video, completely self-perpetuated and actually something I think did you more benefit than harm, by showing the real, fun and lovely Ross Breadmore that I know, not what a ‘professional consultant’ should seem like. There’s only one Ross Breadmore, there are thousands of boring, polished social business consultants, and I know which I prefer.

    Posted 26th February 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink
  2. Ross Breadmore

    Max – completely on the same page with regards to the ‘bringing more our real selves thing’ – I really hope this is the case and believe it will be. That said, I’m conscious that that’s a huge journey for lots of people and one littered with potential pitfalls.

    On the second point, I’m a passionate supporter being real online and never want to edit myself in a way that makes me grey, but I guess I’m starting to think more conservatively about where bits of me might end up. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s something else, but I’m definitely paying more attention to where I end up.

    Posted 26th February 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink
  3. Ruth

    I guess there’s a question of ‘how far am I responsible for what happens on a social space that has my name on it’? And ‘what can I actually do about that’?

    I think being more human is a brilliant thing – but I’m also aware that we don’t all share the same idea of what that means.

    My (Facebook) friends are a very mixed bag – from ultra-Conservative born-again Christians, to people living experimental and very alternative lifestyles (I live in Brighton, after all) – and everyone in between.

    While I’m not going to police my profile so that it conforms to the most conservative person’s expectations (they’re a friend of mine, after all – they should have *some* idea of what to expect), I also don’t want to upset them too much, too often.

    People from one part of my life wouldn’t be necessarily setting out to shock people from another part of it by posting something a bit ‘out there’ or potentially offensive – so how will they know not to (or, perhaps how to do it well, and who their audience is), if I don’t tell them? And what’s the best way to do that?

    Posted 26th February 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink
  4. Pat

    I think the solution is a technomagical one – real time sentiment analysis of posts written in social network sites.

    Each user can set their boundaries and train the system what is nice content and naughty content based on those boundaries.

    It would be handy if I could block those moany “FML” type posts…

    It could also give you a heads up before you post something – “Hey Pat, you know that post will probably offend 76% of your network?”

    *Presses send*

    Posted 26th February 2013 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
  5. The slightly shocking thing Ross is that you can publish a picture of me WITHOUT MY PERMISSION.


    And the even more worrying thing is that I honestly can’t remember where that was taken. Age setting in?

    Or why you are modelling an early pair of Google glasses. WHY I DON’T HAVE ANY!

    Actually, that all just goes to show I am much more interested in me than in you.

    With the deepest respect, how I appear is much more important to me than how you appear.

    So my little suggestion to this useful debate is that people wake up to the idea that everything they do they do in some relation to someone else.

    Perhaps everything we do is some kind of ‘performance’. That is worth noticing, I think – because it raises a question: what are we trying get across through our performance?

    What are we trying to communicate to others?

    As you say social media are an “always-on mirror”.

    Personally, I hope having that mirror in front of us gives us something – a different, and potentially helpful, view of ourselves – but it will only work if we are brave enough to look.


    Posted 27th February 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink