The trend towards a participatory culture has not only changed the way in which we interact with close relationships such as friends and family, it has also modified the workplace environment. What was once considered as just a small part of a companies’ technology policy, the growing trend for businesses to use social media has now reconfigured the role of both employer and employee. As Howard states this emergence of this sort of participatory or “self- produced media” has created both new opportunities and new problems for researchers of rhetoric and communication (2008, pp.491).
Across businesses nationally and internationally, the methods surrounding how businesses use social media has become an increasingly contentious issue, with many companies creating their own agendas for social media platforms. As a third year marketing student a key component of any product marketing involves the strategic use of social media. With eight of ten consumers making-purchasing decisions based on their interactions with social media, the need for a positive approach is vital for the success of any new or existing product.
However, we must also examine the idea of participatory culture and the negative impact that social media can have within the business environment. As all workers will attest, the end of a stressful day can often lead to frustrations about our workplace environment or our fellow employees. At times most have all said comments that were simply just ‘letting off steam’. Well for those who post these comments on social media, you may find yourself jobless and facing a lengthy arbitration hearing based on your actions. In the Fair Trading hearing between Linfox Australia Pty Ltd and Mr.Greg Stutsel, the defendant was successful in his bid to be reinstated by the company, complete with back payments owed due to his unfair dismissal.
With the issue of free speech high on the media’s agenda the rights of individuals to protect their own thoughts and opinions has never been more important. As users of social media we should all be aware of the ramifications of our actions. In an article by Tim Wilson of WA Today “Free speech, the public service and civilising behaviour”, he points out “Defending the universal human right of free speech is about the legal limits of speech. It is about when the law stops someone expressing his or her view. It is not about voluntary conditions we accept when we take employment. Conditions that are entered into through employment are not the same as the law” (Wilson, 2014).
This is something that I believe many workers are unaware of. The instrument we should all be using is our moral compass. After all, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t broadcast it into cyberspace.
Campbell T 2014, Linfox Australia Pty Ltd vs Mr. Greg Stutsel 2012 FWAFB 7097, http://www.my-workforce.com.au/legal-cases/linfox-australia-pty-ltd-v-glen-stutsel-2012-fwafb-7097, last accessed 5th May 2014.
Howard, G R 2008, The Vernacular Web of Participatory Media, Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol 25, no 5, pp.490-513, last accessed 5th May 2014, Summons Database.
Wilson, T 2014, Free speech, the public service and civilising behaviour, http://www.watoday.com.au/comment/free-speech-the-public-service-and-civilising-behaviour-20140408-zqs2t.html, last accessed 5th May 2014.