Leader: Social Media - ‘There can be unexpected consequences’

Social media can come with its own problems. Picture: John Devlin

Social media can come with its own problems. Picture: John Devlin

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SOCIAL media has changed the way that we communicate, from how we keep in touch with our friends to our interaction with big companies.

The impact of these changes can be far-reaching at times and we are only just beginning to understand many of them. People leaving school today, for instance, are far more likely to stay in touch with their friends for life than their parents’ generation because of the connections they forge online.

And when we are unhappy with the service we receive in shops or cafes we are not so powerless any more. Instead of sending off a stinging letter we can go public with our gripes by telling all our online friends or leaving a bad review on Trip Advisor.

So it is no surprise when the things that we say and do on Facebook sometimes have unexpected consequences. The Lothian Bus drivers who joined the Facebook campaign against the tram extension most likely never thought that what they said online would ever come to their bosses’ attention. But the reality is that there is no knowing where our comments will end up and who will see them when we post them publicly on social media sites.

This is something that schoolchildren are being taught. There is an experiment popular with many teachers where children, with their parents help, post a message on Facebook with an appeal for it to be shared just to see how rapidly one online post can spread across the world. It is a lesson which we teach our children but it is one that everyone who ventures online would do well to heed.

Lothian Buses cannot be blamed for asking their staff to behave in a professional way whenever they identify themselves as company employees. To their credit, their approach seems to have been light touch, amounting to only a gentle warning to staff. It is unlikely to stop this Facebook campaign spreading though.