As a final year journalism student I'm well aware of the implications of social media and how to use it responsibly. It wasn't until a tweet of mine went viral that it actually hit home however. I'd never imagined that a misspelt tweet would end up with my photo on every news site, a video of me broadcast on ITV, and people across the country sending me messages. What was this tweet? Simply declaring that rioters were trying to hurt police horses and when I intervened one of them turned on me.
Let's skip back a bit first. I grew up in a single-parent working class home where things could be a bit tight. We had our own home and a beautiful dog but instead of turning on the heating we'd wear a number of layers. We didn't get the internet until years after my friends and until a few years ago never owned a car. My mum worked full time but being on minimum wage meant it just wasn't enough. Thankfully however we received child benefits and working tax credits and eventually things weren't so tight. If we were in that situation today however I simply can't see us managing.
I decided to join in the Million Mask March on 5 November both because I'm anti-austerity, but I also hoped to capture it for my university. I'd been on protests before so was pretty excited. Immediately it became clear this would not be an enjoyable experience but I decided to continue filming. A number of protesters had been drinking and the smell of weed was incredibly strong - in fact I'm surprised the police didn't act on this. Some of them were also pretty rude and I witnessed a race row at one point as one man didn't believe an Asian gentlemen should be involved.
The part when things started to really kick off however was when I joined the group and headed towards Buckingham Palace. Straight away you could tell things were not going to end well. Rioters threw flares, not just at police, but into the crowds too. A riderless horse ran by, chased by a group. More horses were clearly distressed so I attempted to prevent them also being harmed. One man ran forward and, presumingly, wanted to remove his rider as he reached for the horses neck. At this point I pushed him off - not just for the horse but for his own safety too! In response he grabbed me and as I struggled punched me in the stomach whilst yelling abuse. No one seemed to care that the horses had no choice but to be there. To them they simply represented the authority they were protesting against.
What did I do? I tweeted. Less than 140 characters and a click send. At first it was just retweets, some hateful comments (now deleted) and some encouragement. By the time I got home papers were already wanting to interview me. Since then I've spoke to seven news organisations and seen myself mentioned in many more. People sent me thoughtful messages, some hate, and more kind messages. I didn't go out looking for the attention, they came to me - or so I thought. Perhaps by sending that tweet, which I knew could be read by thousands of people, I was inviting the attention on to myself? Was I surprised by the fact people were interested? Whist I wouldn't of thought the media would care much about my story I wasn't shocked that they'd found me via Twitter. Heck I find news via Twitter. My tweet was 100% true and I have no regrets over posting it but finally I understand just how big and scary the internet can be. I've been prepped for life in the media but if I hadn't I can't even imagine how confusing this would all be.
Just remember - what you post will be seen and, even if it doesn't seem that big of a deal, it could catch someone's eye. So, if you decide to post it, PLEASE proofread it and check for mistakes!