THE BLOG

The Reality of Swearing on Social Media

18/03/2014 12:30 | Updated 14 May 2014

Recently, I found myself involved as a "Twitter expert" in a "radio debate" about swearing on social media. It went so well that they missed out publishing that week's show podcast and I said "sir" live on air, which while it isn't a swear word, is a feature of my speech that really annoys me that I'm trying to eliminate.

While I might not be an expert at either Twitter or public speaking, it did make me think for a while about the whole topic of what we should be putting on our internet profiles. I only started thinking after the debate, mind - it's against Ofcom regulations to express a coherent, sensible opinion on live radio.

If you're just a casual reader, then I'm going to save you time: I don't think there's anything wrong with using expletives on social media. I'd be a massive hypocrite if I thought differently, because even though I don't do it very often, I occasionally can be found using a swear word for emphasis / sarcasm / addressing the Prime Minister. Sometimes all three at once.

I don't really care whether it's professional or not. This is social media, not professional media. I'm on social media because I want to be sociable, and sometimes, as it does in real life, that involves swearing.

People who have "professional" accounts on Twitter are at best dull and at worst inhuman. They retweet standard news articles that I've already seen, post pictures of themselves being mundanely efficient, and go silent for hours at a time when you know they're getting totally plastered.

Ultimately, will that get them a job? Of course not. Unless you're going to be an absolute PR disaster for your employer, they shouldn't and don't care about what you tweet. They're more interested in your ability to do things.

Instead of earning his company money or business, this man has been checking your use of social media. He is ringing up his boss to ensure that you don't get the job. (Photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection, via Flickr)

This blog is a good example of that. I write this in a professional style about what I deem to be interesting, professional topics. I include it on my CV (or, at least, I will do when I have stuff to apply for), which I then send out to professionals. So, I don't swear on this blog. Nobody puts their Twitter handle on their CV, because it's not important enough.

If your employer is highly sensitive about what you tweet, then unless you're the face of a brand or some such, you don't want to be working for them. That is not going to be a very fulfilling or enjoyable job, which is what we all want to aim for, right?

The argument that 'anyone can see what you post' isn't just about employers, though; there's also a child protection element to the debate. However, if you're trying to protect your child from coming across swear words, you are eventually going to fail, and sooner rather than later. By the time most kids have the technological skills to use the internet and social media, they'll already have a larger expletive vocabulary than their outraged, middle-England, Daily Mail-reading, cotton-wool-bearing parents.

Even the middle classes can sometimes be quite liberal about these things. Stephen Fry, to whom many middle-class families have a shrine (or so my sources tell me), thoroughly endorses the use of the offensive vernacular, referring to any anti-swearer as a "twee person" and a "f**king lunatic".

I don't tend to live my life by the principle that whatever Stephen Fry does is good enough for me, but in this case I'll make an exception. Most people swear because it's a legitimate use of the English language that adds something to their sentence, not because they're unprofessional or they want to harm your kids.

After all, if you want to be an unprofessional child harmer, look no further than the Labour Party.