The danger of having a Twitter account and posting from Syria

Are you a Twitter addict? Are you an active tweeter? Then sooner or later you will get into trouble. While we used to live in a world with clear borders between what is personal and what is professional, “social media” websites, such as Twitter, are starting to show why Tweeting might not be good for you.

Twitter experience No. 1: The blurry line between what is “professional” and what is “personal”

The CNN media network recently sacked one of its senior editors because of a tweet she posted, mourning the death of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fadlallah, and unfavorably inviting the attention of lobbies that basically hated Hizbollah. Octavia Nasr, an active CNN tweeter is no longer there to do CNN a great service. Lobbyists  managed to pressure CNN into firing her.

UK-based The Guardian newspaper published an excellent article by one of its writers, Brian Whitaker, titled:

The trouble with Twitter

The thing is, the CNN (and many other media groups) have encouraged their reporters to post 140-character updates over Twitter. They have encouraged the trend of “personalizing” media, which is generally referred to as “social media.” The fact that Octavia Nasr was sacked for voicing a personal sentiment over the passing of Fadlallah is mind boggling! Where do you draw the line, then? Are you supposed to stay as a social media guru as long as you appealed to everyone and stayed clear off controversial issues?

Isn’t there a booklet out there that tells people what can get them into trouble and what can’t?

This blurring between what is professional and what is personal is very dangerous. Social media should not have been invaded by corporations, it should have stayed outside their media strategies, tools of communication, and outreach plans. Social media is for underdogs, for the alternative crowd.

Lesson learned

Trying to squeeze a monster (corporate culture) into the robes of a Woodstock-like e-communication tool is dangerous.

Twiiter experience No. 2: The blurry line between what is “official” and what is “personal”

US officials tweeting about official Syria visit, almost got into hot waters

A couple of American IT negotiators were in Syria a few weeks ago, and they almost got in trouble for the tweets they posted about “the greatest frappuccino ever at Kalamoun University north of Damascus” and eating contests with Syrian officials.

The New York Times posted an article about:

Twitter Musings in Syria Elicit Groans in Washington

The two officials, Alec J. Ross and Jared Cohen, were part of a delegation, “which included representatives from Microsoft, Dell, Cisco Systems and other companies, met with Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and other senior officials, as well as younger entrepreneurs who are bucking their country’s tight control of the Internet,” the NY Times reported.

“The delegation told Mr. Assad that companies would invest more in Syria if it stopped blocking social media Web sites like Facebook and YouTube, and did a better job of protecting intellectual property,” the newspaper continued to say.

What’s ironic is that the two officials who posted “warm” tweets about Syria over a “social media” website were about to get fried for it. I guess Mrs. Hilary Clinton and her media strategists caught this loophole and decided to make advantage of it by hailing the two young officials for their tweets over their official Syria visit. Very smart, and very inspiring.

Social media and the invasion of privacy…

Social media, Twitter, and the likes (including blogging :P) are very blurry places. If you don’t draw a clear line between what is personal and what is official/professional, you might get into trouble (as the 2 stories above might suggest). It’s not a safe fad, and it’s not cool to tweet like there was no tomorrow.

As a 50% Syrian, and a media professional, I would like to congratulate myself for drawing the line at Twitter and iPod. These are two “areas” I am not willing to venture into. Life is far more valuable than to waste it carrying your music library around and getting fed up with it (the iPod experience), and it is faaar too  exposed and open to lose the few inches of privacy modern technology has left us with.

About 50% Syrian

What is identity? I was raised Arab (of varying origins), with a Syrian mother, and Moroccan, Lebanese and Tunisian great grandfathers and grandmothers. I always felt 50% Syrian, and this percentage mattered to me more than anything else. Love of my life, my late Sufi grandmother, is Syrian... all her bedtime stories were about her life in Damascus. Damascus is where the heart dwells.
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One Response to The danger of having a Twitter account and posting from Syria

  1. Pingback: Living in illusion on a Damascus day | 50% Syrian

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