Have you ever done something you’ve regretted? Said something you wish you could take back? Or even had a controversial thought that doesn’t reflect your beliefs?
(If you answered no to all of these, I don’t believe you.)
Well I’m part of the first generation of guinea pigs whose regrettable comments from my younger and less mature self are documented. In public. Forever.
I’m talking about the medicine and poison that is social media. The magic tool that has connected people all over the world, transformed lives in so many tremendous ways, but also ruined many too.
For some people social media can jeopardise mental health, social skills, relationships or in the case for many celebrities- their careers.
It is becoming far too common for celebrities to fall from grace as old posts on social media, particularly tweets, come back to haunt them.
In the news in just the last year we have seen names such as Stormzy, Maya Jama, Zoella, Jack Maynard, to mention a few, make headlines after some quality ‘investigative journalism’ found them to make some questionable remarks on social media which left the stars to be labelled as ‘homophobic’ and ‘racist’ by the media.
This coverage is flawed and is not a good a reflection of journalists uncovering the truth. These labels are misleading and at worst not true. And the press needs to give good people a break.
I’ll use the example of Jack Maynard:
Jack is a YouTube vlogger who has 1.4 million subscribers. He films vlogs, challenges and comedy videos for his audience. A lot of whom are teenage girls.
Jack was part of this year’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here line up- and made history by becoming one of show’s shortest-lived contestants. When he entered the jungle, The Sun Online persevered themselves into some investigative journalism and found tweets from 2011 and 2012 where Jack used terms which led to the media labelling him as racist and homophobic.
The following day, Jack Maynard was removed from the I’m A Celebrity Get Me out of Here jungle because of his dated tweets. They read:
“Nandos & film with my N***as! #CantSayNo”
“@Blank Damn N***a be jealous of my brains”
“You retarded F***ot”
“Do you know who I find annoying… bloody French people -__-“
His removal from the jungle is not a media victory. It is misleading coverage about a young, immature 16-year-old who has since grown up.
At first glance, you should notice, that these tweets were posted more than 6 years ago. Who is to say a person can’t change in six years? People make mistakes and turn their lives around in six years. And everyone says things they regret and changes their opinion at some point in their life. Don’t punish them for turning into better people by dragging them back down. Remember, we are the first generation where are teenage years are published on social media… eek.
But that’s not even the main flaw here- Jack would have been 15 or 16 years old at the time he sent those tweets, he probably didn’t know what those words meant, that they were derogatory, and they were almost certainly, innocent.
I had my first Facebook account at just 11-years-old -it was to keep in touch with friends I was leaving at primary school, who also, all had accounts. That means I have been posting statuses for 8 years. And I bet I have posted a load of TRASH (Please don’t let that come back and haunt me.) Whether it was about my dinner, my homework, a funny text, a teacher that got on my nerves, my first boyfriend… I regurgitated everything that happened to me… because it was cool!
In that same decade, not only was it cool to post stupid things but it was cool to say words that today, I wouldn’t be seen dead saying in a derogatory way.
The word, GAY, I first heard around the age of 11… it became quite a popular part of my vocabulary, I copied it from people around me, everyone called each other it including gaylord and so gay, and dragging it out to gaaaaaay.
I remember the first time I was told this was wrong. I was about 16 years old. A teacher of mine, who I later realised was homosexual, said it was very offensive to use it as a negative word, and until he explained that to me, I had no idea. Being homosexual wasn’t something I was familiar with as a young teen, and everyone said it. It took AT LEAST, five years for someone to turn around and tell me that calling someone gay was offensive. At school, on a playground, it was the norm.
Things have moved forward massively in the past decade, so hopefully, teens’ insults will too. But let’s not forget, these tweets are OLD and represent a totally different society.
Of course, as an adult, 10 years later, I couldn’t imagine saying gay in anyway other than to praise a beautiful community of some of the kindest people that walk the planet. Love is love.
But there was no education on that.
Likewise, the slang word N***a that Jack Maynard used in one of his tweets, which has also got the likes of Stormzy and Maya Jama into trouble with the press, was thrown around the classroom left, right and centre. The songs we sang were littered with the word and the boys around were always addressing each other using that exact word… in fact, they still are. But always as a compliment? Which is just how Jack uses it in his tweet. How are you meant to explain to a teen that such word is illegal or racist when people use it to complement each other?
If I achieve anything by writing this, it’s that people understand children and teens don’t get a social media education.
We make accounts, we post stupid things, and hope they don’t come back to haunt us in our professional careers.
There are no do’s and don’ts signs and there are no warnings of how much it can turn your career into a car crash if you’re not careful. At 11, 12, 13 years old – you have no idea how important the words you write will be in 10 years time and getting teens to understand that isn’t easy either.
Kids will be kids and all we can do is teach them what is right from what is wrong. No good will come from punishing an adult for silly words they used as a child, particularly if it was said innocently.
As part of ‘the media’ I will not take part in dragging people down for mistakes people made as teenagers in the big scary world of social media. We were guinea pigs who were given keyboards with no idea that our every move could come back to haunt us.
Give people a break, these are not malicious comments. Instead, spend your time warning the next generation, that the World Wide Web is an infinite library, think twice before posting anything. Unfortunately our generation learnt that the hard way.