Social media is a powerful tool. Just look at role it played in the rise of the Occupy movement, the spread of the English riots last summer, or the ever evolving Arab Spring - we're living amidst the creation of a global communications network and it's rapidly changing the we interact with each other and our institutions. This past weekend there was riot in London, Ontario by young people, mainly Fanshawe College students, that resulted in a CTV truck being torched, riot police being attacked for hours, and a massive disturbance to the bucolic nature of London's suburbs. Observing how students use social media today is helpful in predicting how these future employees will be using it once they hit the workplace. Prognosis: not good.
What's incredible is that people were taking to social media to gleefully report on their involvement in the riot. Perhaps I come at this a bit differently being a lawyer, but it's never advisable to broadcast participating in or committing a criminal act via a public facing communication. That's exactly what Brenden Dowden did last night after possibly engaging in some good ole' arson while visiting friends. Despite changing his identity on Facebook the damage was already done.
In the harsh light of Sunday morning people weren't exactly enthralled with Brenden's alleged performance and began disseminating information about him across the Internet (I say alleged because he now denies it). His employer, Ontario Power Generation, has started receiving tweets requesting Brenden's firing (which might make for an interesting off-duty conduct case). Beyond this, criminal charges are an almost certainty in the wake of the harsh backlash from the public.
For my previous articles on social media take a look: here, here, and here; furthermore, Lisa Stam wrote a great overview last week about some of the problems social media creates in the workplace. Beyond this, check out some of the incredible footage from Saturday night. See: