People applying for US visas will soon have to provide their social media details – as part of the vetting process.
If you think about it, it’s amazing it’s taken this long; after all it’s mandatory to disclose if you have a criminal record and to be honest, some of the stuff people do on social media is downright criminal: as Vicky Momberg, Penny Sparrow and even, to a far lesser extent, Velaphi Khumalo, have literally found out. Adam Catazavelos is about to discover this too.
Social media has been the most incredible liberator any of us have experienced; we’ve all become instant citizen journalists or pundits in the space of the time it takes to type a post – often without having to think about it. Which is precisely the problem – the disconnect between what people would say face-to-face in real life and the apparent freedom of a virtual reality.
There is no difference – actually there is; as Catazavelos found out, you end up speaking to a helluva lot more people than you ever imagined possible when your post goes viral, with often catastrophic consequences.
In fact, social media is not just about what you actually post, but also what you are captured doing and posted by a third party (whether under the influence of not) as PriceWaterhouseCooper found out at the weekend, when a video of one of their executives circulated following his drunken racist outburst at Cape Town airport the Thursday night before.
PwC fired him on Monday and then issued an apology, only for the twitterati to claim that it wasn’t enough and the fact that he hadn’t been named and shamed was just another example of white privilege – which it might well be. It’s still a helluva lot more though than any action by the Ekurhuleni licencing department on the back of a viral clip of one of its officials going off about whites in Bedfordview last month.
The point though is that nine times out of ten there’s no escape. You might erase social media, but Google doesn’t forget, which is an enduring mercy for those of us who grew up in the pre-digital age. The reality these days is that if you apply for a job, the first thing recruiters are going to do is fine comb your digital footprint to find out just how far your virtual reality is from the scrubbed Sunday school look you tried for the interview – and how much of a risk you pose for their reputation if they hire you.
Some people couldn’t care less. Donald Trump’s one. It’s difficult to know if he doesn’t care or if he’s too thick to get it – either of which is terrifying given his access to the US’s nuclear stockpile. He was back at it this week tweeting furiously As Airforce One prepared to land in the UK for his state visit, he gave Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, a real digital snotklap.
So, here’s the thing; if Trump actually needed a visa to get back into the US, would he qualify if they checked his social media?
Originally published by the Saturday Star on 8 June 2019.