Round The Bend: Anti-social media

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…but would your Facebook page impress these guys?

Talkin’ sh*t like that on the net an’ stuff, can you get well into sh*t, fo’ sho’

Last month’s flurry of excitement over the release of the A level and GCSE results gave rise to the BBC finding a seemingly endless stream of talking heads willing to denounce the Government for not giving every school-leaver and graduate the job of their dreams. It gave me a wry smile.

When I left higher education in the late 80’s the job market was also extremely competitive and it required not a little effort to find decent employment. At the risk of sounding like one of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen – I ‘ad to get up in the morning at ten o’clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, eat a lump of cold poison, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill AND pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got ’ome, our Dad would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing “Hallelujah” – in tough times, life is what you make it.

Ten years ago, Peter Kay brought the Python’s sketch up to date with his take on parents of the future. You don’t know you’re born. All your mum and me used to have in the evenings was Sky Digital. Playstation, yeah. We used to have to manage with a car each. A car each! Your mam, she used to have a dishwasher! You don’t remember – look at her face, you don’t remember them, do you? She used to have take over all the plates, load them in, by hand, on her own! Turn it on!”

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Peter Kay may reminisce about technology’s good old days…

And then of course, there’s his famous riff on t’internet. Ah, the internet. Some of my recent comments in this column caused a bit of a row, which spilled onto the web. Facebook and Twitter. Nothing on the scale of saying that I’d drowned a squirrel or called a TV presenter a “dyke on a bike” but enough to cause a bit of stir all the same.

Using social media to put fruity comments into the public domain will inevitably produce a reaction – just ask The Times’ restaurant reviewer and columnist Giles Coren – and people in motorsport tend to be rather conservative. Just ask me. Unfortunately, many young drivers in karts and cars are not.

A recent check on Facebook revealed a photo of a single-seater driver and his pal, helmeted and according to the comments he’d posted on his page, racing their identical road cars round a section of the M25. Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali might be a pretty funky kinda guy but he won’t employ a dangerous idiot. McLaren are renowned for their conservatism and could be monitoring the Next Big Thing via his or her Twitter feed, where they would see him detailing how they were ‘so drunk last night they thought they’d gone blind.’ Dropping the F-bomb – or worse – is guaranteed to offend.

Look closely at the brands that have a ‘street’ reputation and you’ll still find that they moderate what they do and say – Red Bull are the most ‘out there’ with their ‘Holy S**t’ button on their website. Cleverly though, clicking on it reveals images that can only prompt a response echoing the headline.

Facebook is a curious place because its original purpose as a social networking site between individuals has now been embraced by big business and presents a corporate opportunity. This means that a vast range of people use the site and have different responses to what they see and read. Teenagers have a completely different idea of what Facebook is for, and of course now use an evolved version of English slang that many adults find baffling. The old ‘Isn’t it’ has become ‘innit’ and is used much like the French drop n’est ce pas into conversations. This can infuriate or lead to mockery from cynical, hard-bitten middle-aged business people who control big budgets. Armstrong and Miller’s brilliant RAF pilots are a gentler example of this.

All this means that if you’re talking to your mates and are, say, 16-years old you would be well-advised to bear in mind that comments made on a social media sites like Facebook or Twitter are not private. Those of you planning for a long-term career as a professional driver, whether in karts or cars, should remember that the person you want to impress and give you the chance you most want in life could well be following you online and not just in the result sheets.