Posted by Mark Grainger 07 Jan 2015

You are what you tweet

We spend an increasing amount of time on social media these days. Facebook and Twitter in particular seem to be past the teething pains of the platform that all but saw off earlier rivals, like Myspace and Bebo, and are continuing to adapt and thrive. One study last year even suggested that, whilst we have fewer friends than before, we are less lonely and more self-confident thanks to these new technologies.

Of course the heady mix of self-esteem and self-publishing on platforms like Twitter isn’t always a good thing, with the quest for affirmation frequently leading to users posting thoughts, jokes and comments that should really have been left in their heads.

Take, for example, the case of Rayhan Qadar, a stockbroker with Bristol based firm Hargreaves Lansdowne, who swiftly found himself out of a job after his New Year break thanks to a tweet he posted on the way to work. 

At 8:05 on Tuesday morning, Graduate stockbroker Qadar tweeted; “Think I just hit a cyclist. But Im late for work so had to drive off lol." The message was retweeted over 150 times, with hundreds of messages of condemnation flooding Qadar’s mentions and police forces urging him to provide details.

Some hours later he returned to Twitter in an attempt to clarify the matter, writing: "My previous tweet about the cyclist was obviously not true. I did not hit cyclist. Not today. Not ever. A bad joke on my part it seems.” adding; "Sorry if anyone thought i actually hit a cyclist. Anyone who follows me on Twitter know 99% of the things I tweet is nonsense." 

It wasn’t enough for his employers though, who issued a withering statement concerning Qadar’s conduct before promptly dismissing him.

It’s far from the first time that 140 characters have landed someone in life-alteringly hot water. Twitter trolls, such as the North East’s own John Nimmo, have been jailed for threatening women and racially abusing people online, whilst Paul Chambers fought a two year legal battle in the so called ‘Twitter Joke Trial’ to prove that his frustrated tweet, where he vented that he would blow Nottingham’s Robin Hood Airport ‘sky high’ after his flight was cancelled, didn’t represent an actual and credible threat of violence. He eventually succeeded but the personal cost was great.

Whilst these cases clearly differ in severity and context, the common message is that you really should be careful what you tweet. In the case of trolls, twitter is not an invisibility cloak and venting your threatening thoughts onto the Internet as opposed to the street affords no protection. As for Chambers and Qadar, well we can only really advise an extra element of common sense. Road accidents and bomb threats are serious business, even if their tweets were not, and action will always be taken, especially if you have a public twitter account and reputation-savvy employers

An official investigation by Avon and Somerset Police into whether Rayhan Qadar actually hit a cyclist is still ongoing but it would seem that the only crimes the 21-year-old is actually guilty of are poor use of grammar and a failure to think before tweeting. For now his punishment is the loss of his job and any subsequent employment issues he may still face in future.