Sun | Apr 23, 2017

A lesson for Minister Arnaldo Brown

Published:Tuesday | January 6, 2015 | 1:00 AM

Marcia Forbes, GUEST COLUMNIST

Naturally curious and always interested in media-related matters, when the stream of tweets re 'Fruit Pop' were noticed on my Twitter timeline this past Friday night (January 2), I investigated. It appears that a misunderstanding of how Twitter works and how to decipher one person's tweet versus another's may have confused Arnaldo Brown, state minister in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, hence his mention of me in his letter to your newspaper.

Having seen the 'Fruit Pop' tweets, I asked two persons, who seemed very involved, what the whole thing was about. So as not to heighten any ill-feelings with regard to this 'stir in a teacup' (not to be elevated to the category of a storm), mention of specific twitter names will be replaced by Tweep 1 and Tweep 2. My tweet investigating the matter was as noted below.

"@Tweep1: @Tweep2 lef FruitPop minister alone cha....Big Bully you!"} What is this 'FruitPop' matter about?

For those who do not understand Twitter (the site of my digital ethnography research and written about in my book, STREAMING: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles), please note the following:

1) The open and close quotations indicate the tweet posted by Tweep1 to Tweep2.

2) The twirly bracket, }, is my way of separating Tweep1's tweet from mine. Note, therefore, that my tweet consisted only of a question - What is this 'FruitPop' matter about?

In response to my query, Tweep1 said, "Doc I suggest you give Arnaldo Brown a call ... he needs a social media course ASAP!" Her response drove me to Brown's twitter timeline. There I saw his posting re the Fruit Pop score as well as his responses to persons on Twitter who were lambasting him for wasting time posting a score for an online game.

Having read Brown's timeline, my response to Tweep1 was "Scanned tweets & saw what you all on about. Let the young man entertain himself as long as not using taxpayers' money/time)". And that really is the crux of the matter. Civil society is getting increasingly restive about those in Government who are perceived to be wasting taxpayers' hard-paid money or to be inappropriate in their postings.

Big phone bill

We will recall that this very state minister was perceived as racking up large amounts of money for cell phone bills. Concern about that and his cell-phone usage came out in the tweets re Fruit Pop. Then, too, we also recall the 'Shell-down London' posting by another state minister during Jamaica 50 and the outrage those tweets caused. Taxpayers want accountability for their tax dollars.

To conflate the matter into Brown's belief that "it seems offensive to some for Members of Parliament (MP) to have social lives" is to take a simplistic view of the mocking he suffered on Twitter last Friday into Saturday. It is not that Jamaicans have issues with MPs and their social lives per se, but rather, there is grave concern when it seems that MPs and other public officials are wasting time or money or are using 'official' social media sites for postings that are seen as of a more personal nature.

I trust this article will help State Minister Brown to better understand how Twitter works and to appreciate that engaging via social media requires 'thick skin and a broad back'. He should have laughed off the 'ribbings'/'roasting', harsh as some were. Responding angrily, posting to Facebook and then writing your newspaper about his Fruit Pop experience has done nothing to enhance Brown's image. Perhaps, indeed, I should heed the urgings of so many and offer courses in social media.

Dr Marcia Forbes is a media consultant and executive chairman of Phase 3 Productions Ltd. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.