Episode [] MSP51 [] The Social Commandments [Rules for Social Media]

Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched @ Kulturpop

Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched @ Kulturpop

Episode [] MSP51 [] The Social Commandments

The penalties for bullying and trolling should be obvious. But how should we be punished for pretending to be on holiday, or holding up everyone’s dinner for a food shot? Written on a tablet, these are Matt’s Social Commandments.



These shows are dictated to and transcribed by machines, and hurriedly edited by a human. Apologies for the minor typos and grammar flaws.

I can sense we’re in somewhat dangerous territory again today, Kulturpop’s Matt Armitage casts himself as a weird techno demigod from time to time. It usually doesn’t end well. Apparently, this week he’s had a vision and he wants to tell us all how to behave online. Contractually, I have to let him Mattsplain.


You’re calling today’s show The Social Commandments. Are you trying to make any allusions here?

·      Well, apart from the fact that the original Ten Commandments were written on tablets and so were my Social commandments, they don’t have anything else in common.

·      I’m not a naughty boy and I’m not a messiah. 


That’s good to hear. But you are about to tell us how to live…

·      One of the things we come back to all the time on the show is that technology moves faster than our ability to codify behaviour.

·      So, for example, we know that it’s wrong to kill someone.

·      Most religions accept that. 

·      And in fact, that principle pre-dates most of the world’s major religions and has its origins in people coming together in larger groups.


In a tribe it’s fine to whack someone on in another tribe on the head with a club?

·      It’s a ritual you see in cities around the world every Friday and Saturday night.

·      And at weddings and family gatherings.

·      In the old days that was how you get access to food and territory.

·      When you have to share your living space with hundreds, thousands or even millions of other people, then that kind of behaviour is socially destabilising as much as it’s morally wrong. 


Posting a badly lit selfie isn’t the same as repeatedly stabbing someone in the abdomen.

·      No, it isn’t.

·      And that’s a weirdly specific example. 

·      [Aside] Can we get one of the interns into the studio to chaperone the recording?

·      Where was I?

·      Badly lit selfies. Yeah, the big stuff is easy. Don’t kill, don’t steal, screw the lid back on the bottle. 

·      It’s how we get to the smaller stuff that’s more complicated. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

·      For example, where did the idea of treating people with courtesy and politeness come from?

·      Those are the things that evolve over time. They’re a bit like oil that greases the cogs of our social interactions.


And you want to the Internet’s grease monkey?

·      Not how I would have put it, but sure. 

·      The digital world is this emerging and evolving realm and we don’t always know how we should behave.

·      Today I thought we could have a go at establishing some Social Commandments to help everybody, including me.

·      To bring down the temperature of our online interactions and to maybe talk more and shout less.


Will there be 10 of these Commandments?

·      There will be as many as we can get through by the end of the show.


Will there be punishments?

·      There will be. They won’t be internationally enforceable until I can force the UN Security Council to ram them through.

·      At the moment I’m concentrating on forcing regime change in the Isle of Man, so I’m not going to heap too many things on them at once.


What’s Commandment No 1?

·      Let’s be clear, these are in no particular order.

·      If, in 1,000 years’ time,  a race of super apes picks this podcast out of a pile of sand at the hand of the Statue of Liberty, these may not be the rules you want to base your civilization on.

·      Let’s start with holidays. We all take lots of pictures. You can stick them all in an album on FB but let’s face it, most people won’t wade through more than two or three.

·      Same with Instagram. You can bundle them up but most of us want to spread them out.


So, that’s fine? Spreading them out?

·      With a caveat.

·      We often hear that the glamourous lives of our friends and social media acquaintances can cause anxiety.

·      Don’t misrepresent. 

·      So, if you post a picture after you’ve come back, just say so. It’s not hard, it’s called context.

·      It’s something that people in the media have always done. That’s why we call it social media. 

·      Just be honest with people.

·      I’ve seen people who’ve gone for a two day, one night stay to Bali, stretch out the pix for 3 weeks.

·      It doesn’t reflect well when you spot someone in the supermarket buying toilet paper and instant noodles when 30 mins earlier they posted something on Insta that makes them look like they’re a high roller at Potato Head or something.


What’s the punishment for a crime like this?

·      I originally suggested a lifetime ban from all social media apps and a 6 months ban from Instant Messaging services.

·      I’ve moderated it now. 

·      For first offences, I think a month with a simple auto filter on all their posts with the single word ‘liar’ should be enough to reform most people.

·      Persistent offenders get extensions to the sentence a court mandated photographer and videographer sent out to record and broadcast their actual life in all its boring glory.

·      And no shots from their good side. 

·      It would also help to create employment for all the photographers and videographers that free digital content has made unemployed.


One thing that people often ask is: can you post too often?

·      If you’re a brand, or heaven forbid, an Influencer then how often you post will probably be something you think about.

·      You want to maximise the reach of those posts. So, if you post too often, you may find that the algorithms that run those services tune out some of your posts.

·      For the rest of us, who cares?

·      If you want to post 20 updates on your parrot a day, that’s up to you.

·      Your friends will obviously already know what kind of person you are, so it’s not going to be a surprise to them. 

·      Go for it. Anyone tells you otherwise, tell them to go curate themselves.


Should we respond to comments in a certain time frame?

·      If you’re a brand or an influencer, sure.

·      As fast as possible.

·      For normal folks, again, who cares?

·      If someone is commenting on your breakfast on Instagram, it’s probably not life or death, unless they’re reminding you of a food allergy.

·      In which case, it’s still too late.

·      As for Twitter. Please. That stuff takes all day. 

·      Most of us have things to do.


You’re known for having an untidy Inbox. Should we be paying attention to the look and feel of our various News Feeds?

·      This one is purely a taste issue.

·      I know people who have beautiful looking profiles. 

·      Colour coordinated. Uniform.

·      Other people’s look like a unicorn threw up on them.

·      I’m currently far more interested in glitching than is healthy in an adult male. 

·      The rule here is that are no rules.


Are we heading towards that old cliche: keep it real?

·      This is where it gets tricky.

·      That’s the thing with social behaviour. It isn’t always logical.

·      Adults can swear. Kids can’t. The words are the same.

·      Racing drivers can take part in Le Mans. Apparently, I can’t.

·      We all have to live with weird rules that make more sense to one group than another.


So, What is Your Commandment?

·      There is definitely room for artistic and creative expression.

·      But don’t misrepresent your life.

·      We all live relatively ordinary and mundane lives.

·      Let a little of that shine through.

·      My life isn’t all breakfasts with supermodels and lunch with tech tycoons, you know.

·      Occasionally I have to send my assistant out to the pharmacy, like a normal person or have the Paul Smith boutique closed down so that I can do some clothes shopping.

·      We should all try and find a little humility. It’s too easy to play to your ego online.


On the subject of being fake: what are the rules about posting photos and other content?

·      This one is really contentious.

·      And it’s something that the EU’s GDPR takes really seriously.

·      Again there’s a really fine line. 

·      For example, Childish Gambino’s This Is America video went viral earlier this year.

·      And it spawned dozens of copycats, tributes and remixes.

·      My favourite is This Is Nigeria btw.

·      Taking someone else’s content and not crediting them is just plain wrong. There are no cases where that is allowable.

·      Even if you credit them, they have the right to ask you to take that post down.

·      For big artists and companies they employ law companies to go after people and seek damages, so you may think that adding a bit of Ed Sheeran to the audio track of your school prom video gives it that little zing, 

·      the people whose job it is to make money from Ed Sheeran’s music may agree with you and ask you for some cash and you can’t really complain about that.

·      Ed Sheeran isn’t rummaging around in your fridge and stealing your socks.

·      Don’t do the same to him.


When we come back. More rules of social interaction. The MSP way.




We touched on something a little more serious before the break – how to credit and use other people’s content. On a similar topic, where’s the line for Influencers and brands when it comes to paid content?

·      I read a really interesting interview with the actress Busy Phillips last week. On the Guardian website.

·      She was in Cougar Town and Freaks and Geeks and various other stuff.

·      She was an early adopter of Instagram’s Story format and has around 1.3m followers.

·      She does a good job of keeping it real – it’s quite refreshing to see her in airport waiting lounges with bags under her eyes, like a normal person.

·      She gets criticism from some of her followers for doing promoted and paid posts.

·      The idea being that she’s super rich already. 

·      She isn’t, she’s a jobbing actress. Her husband is a screenwriter. 

·      They have good years and bad years and she’s quite right when she says it’s crazy to turn that kind of thing down.


So paid posts are fine?

·      It’s that context thing, again.

·      We all have a different moral compass. 

·      I wouldn’t promote any weight loss product unless they paid me loads and loads of money.

·      We all have our red lines.

·      But you should always make it clear if something has been paid for.

·      I sometimes endorse products for the 20 odd people who follow me, and I make it clear that this is a personal choice, not something I’ve been paid to do.

·      And I would 


What about nudity?

·      No one has really asked me for any nudity.

·      I follow quite a lot of photographers across my social media world, and there are some who post nudes, male and female.

·      But those people have given their permission. 

·      That’s the most important thing. 

·      All this stuff about revenge porn, upskirts etc is really horrible and degrading.

·      I genuinely expect to see more prosecutions of this kind of behaviour in the future.

·      Hashing technologies make it far easier to pull identifiers out of images than people realise.


Give us your stock speech, one more time, for the crowd.

·      Don’t send unsolicited pictures of your genitals. Ever.

·      If someone solicits naked pictures – think really hard.

·      Ask yourself - Would you print them out at a photo booth?

·      If the answer is no, then don’t send them. 


You’re saying that as soon as those photos are stored on a cloud, or sent to someone, then they are at risk?

·      That person you trust may betray your trust.

·      That secure server might not be so secure.

·      Short of disconnecting all of the world’s electricity, that information, those ones and zeroes, they aren’t going away.

·      And short of starting a digital Armageddon over some embarrassing photos or videos, you’ve now lost some of the control over what happens to that content.


I doubt you’ve given much thought to this, but what should we be doing about our kids? Is it ok to include them in our posts?

·      That’s something you have to think hard about, too.

·      Your kids are probably not old enough to consent.

·      They may be happy to see their faces online now, but no teenager wants the world to see their baby pictures?

·      Don’t be gratuitous and if they insist you delete the posts a few years down the line, don’t argue, archive them and do it.

·      Kids can be mean. Don’t promote your self-image at the expense of theirs.


And what happens when parents, or couples, don’t agree?

·      Keep that stuff quiet, please.

·      I would say no one wants to see that but the truth is, people do.

·      It’s sport. Especially if you’re a celebrity. 

·      Keep it private. Especially when there are kids or make-up artists you share custody of.

·      You may be in a bad place, but don’t let the world laugh at your misfortune. 

·      Calvin Harris has been caught like that from time to time.

·      Other spats are just funny. Kanye and Amber West have had a simmering feud for years.

·      Taylor Swift. Who can even count her feuds?

·      Even then, there’s that thin line between engaging someone and trolling.


Where will you send the trolls?

·      Where all trolls belong. To live under bridges. 

·      China’s just opened that massive bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland.

·      Room for a lot of trolls under there. 

·      Trolling, body shaming, bullying.

·      To be a little more serious, I think there comes a point where we have to accept that more regulation is needed.

·      For me, the rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t say it to a person’s face don’t say it.

·      Check out Dylan Marron’s incredible podcast Conversations with People who Hate Me if you want to see how that works out.


What about free speech?

·      Exactly. What about it?

·      Free speech is a privilege. There are billions of people in the world who don’t have that right.

·      It might be for political reasons, social or economic. 

·      If you do have the right to voice your opinion, bear that in mind.

·      I know how ridiculously lucky I am to have this show and I never take that for granted.

·      We’ve come to this weird place where everyone’s opinion has to respected.

·      But people have to understand, their right to be heard is tempered by our right not to listen.


I think we’ve probably asked this before: should everyone on social media be held to journalistic standards?

·      When we go on air and we have standards that have to be maintained. 

·      If we lie, libel someone, or repeat unsubstantiated rumours like the one that Jeff Sandu is away this week because he’s getting butt implants done in Brazil, we will get in trouble.

·      There are laws, and bodies and lawyers that hold us to account.

·      We have to get into the headspace that social media is publishing. 

·      So maybe not such a high bar but there should be norms that we observe.


So there should be limits to freedom of speech?

·      We have always had limits to freedom of speech.

·      As soon as you threaten, harass or intimidate someone in the real world, you’ve committed a crime.

·      Many countries now have hate speech laws and people are convicted under them.

·      Why should online be any different?

·      If you cherish your freedoms you have to nurture and respect them.

·      When you abuse them, people with no respect for your rights step in and take them away.

·      And once that starts to happen – and we see it happening in some countries – it’s really hard to stop other freedoms being threatened. 


You’re saying that the idea of online and in real life is a false one?

·      Look at the generation born since 2,000.

·      They’ve never known a world that didn’t have broadband,

·      Anyone born since the mid noughties won’t even have known a world without apps.

·      This IRL divide is entirely artificial.

·      For most people their world is a seamless mix of the two.

·      So behaviour in both spheres should be held to the same standard.


Let’s go a little bit lighter. How would you deal with the phenomenon of poor spelling and grammar?

·      I know that people think I’m some kind of grammar nazi. 

·      Abbreviation, emojis, all of that is fine.

·      What annoys me is the people who make spelling errors that you know their phone or laptop is trying to correct for them.

·      Sometimes the machine is at fault. On last week’s show, when I dictated my notes, Siri kept a silent b to the word itch. 

·      But for common words, come on, you think that you have a better idea how to spell therefore and the various forms of to than 

·      If you’re not even smart enough to realise when the machine is trying to help you and stop you looking silly then you should be publicly shamed.


Like being locked in the stocks?

·      Sure, digitally anyway.

·      Maybe as well as all its like forms, Facebook can add a rotten tomato you can hurl at people for this kind of stuff.


One thing that a lot of people waver on is food pix.

·      I like a good food pic. 

·      If only to wonder how people like my friend Warren are still alive.

·      I had no idea that a human could eat so much meat and fried food.

·      But yeah, there should be a code of conduct.

·      If you’re holding everyone back from eating, then there should be consequences.

·      I think all smartphones should ship with an ambient thermometer. 

·      If you take so long arranging shots that the temperature of the food drops, I think you should automatically be banned from posting for 24 hours.

·      At the same time a notification goes out to the kitchen to remove your food and you pay a fine on top of the bill.


I think I can already guess the answer to that one: posting links to articles we haven’t read.

·      I know that we’ve probably all done this.

·      You read a headline and think it sounds interesting and share it anyway.

·      But that’s how fake news gets spread.

·      How do you know that the article headlined 7 ways to take better food pix doesn’t actually contain an essay listing all the reasons that white people are better than every other race?

·      We’re so hungry for content and to make our lives look interesting.

·      It goes back to what I was saying earlier: let people know your life is mundane rather than fabulous.

·      I watch my slaves clean out my kitty litter in the morning like a normal person.

·      This is one area that you can keep it real by checking it’s real first.


Are we going to see a Social Commandments roadshow in the future?

·      I can think of better things to occupy anyone’s time.

·      Some of this is common sense. 

·      Adults should know better – and we’re the ones who are supposed to be guiding kids.

·      I do think that this will eventually be a subject taught in schools.

·      Not my rules, of course.

·      But I think codes of conduct and online behaviour will become a part of the school syllabus in the future.

·      It’s too important not to. Because, as we’ve said today, our freedom is at stake.