Blurred Lines: The Ethical Use of Social Media Data

When you tweet you assume everyone can see it, right? But does that also mean that anyone can take that tweet and use it for research purposes, commercial uses or to quote you in a newspaper without your permission?

Like most people I hadn’t actually read Twitter’s privacy policy. The first thing you see when go on the page is this:

twitter.jpgObviously they go into more detail than this, but it’s something that should always be in the back of your mind when you tweet. If you really can’t be bothered to read the policy, at least read this part.

“Twitter broadly and instantly disseminates your public information to a wide range of users, customers, and services, including search engines, developers, and publishers that integrate Twitter content into their services, and organizations such as universities, public health agencies, and market research firms that analyse the information for trends and insights. When you share information or content like photos, videos, and links via the Services, you should think carefully about what you are making public.”(Twitter: 1998)


I’ve been playing around with TAGS, a free Google Sheet template which lets you setup and run automated collection of search results from Twitter. Basically, in a few seconds it scrapes Twitter using any search term you want.

Should this be allowed?

Short answer – yes. Sites like Twitter are public, and if you look closely enough they do warn you that they’re sharing your information. But the lines become blurred with the use of sites with private profiles and groups.

Facebook is full of closed and secret groups.  You can basically tailor your own privacy. So if someone uses these conversations and information without asking, it’s wrong in my opinion. But the trouble is there are no actual rules on this.

When I studied journalism we were taught about asking people for quotes and keeping a record of interviews so we couldn’t be accused of misquoting. But this was mainly to cover our own backs. I don’t remember much about being ethical.

Personally I wouldn’t like to quote someone without asking first. In my short time as a freelance journalist I have interviewed a few people, but never just taken their quotes without asking. I once wrote an article on breastfeeding in public where I found my interviewees on a closed Facebook group. There was one lady who didn’t want to be named. I think I just ended up leaving her quote out.

But the point in TAGS is to grab a load of tweets for research purposes. It’s pretty much impossible to ask that many people if you can use their information. So do you anonymise everyone? Or just when the topics are sensitive? I guess it’s a judgement call for each individual project.

I still don’t know how I feel about the whole Twitter scraping thing. If it can be done on Twitter can it be done on other sites? Private sites? I feel like the vulnerable need to be protected, and maybe researchers need to be protected from reading certain things they shouldn’t be. I know I’m going to tread very carefully.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear any experiences.

Twitter. (2016). Twitter Privacy Policy. Available: Last accessed 7th October 2016.


Hi, I’m Back…

It’s Monday, and yesterday we took the Christmas decorations down. So I guess it’s a new year.

I was in a completely different place when I started this blog… three years ago? Well I was in the same place – my parents’ house. It could have been this exact spot. But I’m not sure we had this sofa then. Anyways, it has been a bit stop-starty, but I feel like I need to blog again.

This isn’t all ‘new year, new me’ or anything. Last year came with plenty of change already. I was dating – like real life cringey, awkward dating. But it was worth it. I found a great guy, who is my opposite in so many ways, with the best heart (and he bought me 14-eye Doc Martens with roses on for Christmas… just saying).

Last year was also the year I applied for my Master’s in Social Media. I got on the course but deferred it for a year (yay government funding this year). So this will be the year I go back to University… and hopefully keep this blog going.

What else? Oh yeh – I failed my driving test 4 times (it could be 5) last year. So I gave up for a while. But this year I’m going to try again with my sister’s driving instructor. I can’t put my poor old instructor through anymore.

Aaannd… this is the year I start my shortbread business. I like to have a little project to keep my fingers busy. I made shortbread at Christmas for the family and everyone loved it. I love to knead dough and cut out cute little biscuits.

I just burnt my toast writing this – I will forever be a toast-burner. So much wasted bread…

So other than that, my bunnies are doing well in their shed. Jerry had a little run in with a fox, which gave me a fright. But he’s a strong boy. Nelly’s not the fighter she makes out. She just ran and hid.

I’m planning a few trips to see old Uni friends this year, and a hot hot holiday abroad with the boyfriend in the summer… It’s going to be a good year.

P.S I also started a new poetry blog last year – FeelaFeelingWriteaPoem. That’s where my creative writing will be mostly from now on. So go have a looky see… I’m thinking of writing a poem of burnt toast if you’re interested..

A Letter to All Graduates

Dear Graduates,

This time last year I was in your position, waiting in line at graduation. I was terrified, mainly that I was going to fall off the stage, or somehow go the wrong way.

But mainly about what was coming afterwards.

The day was fine. That’s the word I would use to describe graduation, fine. It was a bit of an anti-climax really. I had my photo taken, caught up with friends, listened to speeches and shook a man’s hand on stage.

Once the cape and hat are off, it’s over.

If we’re being honest, Uni finished a while ago really. Your work was handed in months ago. You already know your results. But this is the last time you can really call yourself a student. (Unless you do a postgrad. But you know it won’t be the same).

So welcome to the real world. I bet you’re not as prepared as you should be.

Most people are asking, what’s next?

I didn’t know, most of my friends didn’t know. There are the small few who have jobs or internships lined up, those who are going travelling, and then there are those who are moving back in with the family.

That was me.

Remember that first day of school when you were so scared (I cried)? Or the first day you stepped on campus and you had that strange mix of excitement and nausea?

But it’s ok to go back home. Don’t feel like you’re going backwards. You’re an adult; you can still have your freedom. But you really do need to start looking for a job.

It’s like that first day of school all over again.

There’s good news though. This year’s graduates are the most optimistic since the recession started (hopefully that’s a good thing).

So keep looking. There is something out there for you. And if there’s not, you can always turn to sales (seriously Google sales jobs for graduates there are millions!), or a job where they’re asking for a degree, any degree (there’s loads of them too) until you figure out what you’re doing.

But if you really want a career in something relating to the course you just graduated in, go for it!

You’ve just worked your ass off (sometimes) for that degree. Use it.

If you want to do something totally different, you can do that too. There are so many people who switched careers later in life.

Whatever you do, do something!

That’s the only advice I can give. I spent way too long wondering what the hell I was doing. I was so worried about leaving Uni that I buried my head in the sand and was so unprepared when I graduated.

Ok, so everything isn’t going perfect. But there’s a big wide world out there, and as my parents like to keep reminding me – You have a degree!

Yours Faithfully,

Staffs Uni Graduate, 2012

Failed Fledglings

This new label, ‘Failed Fledglings,’ has been all over Twitter today. If you haven’t heard it, it basically means adults still living with their parents. A survey by Saga said that there are over 3 million of us (I refuse to use that silly alliteration again) ‘imposing’ on our parents.

First, I’d like to say that the article in Cosmopolitan hasn’t done us any favours. I can’t judge a 30-year-old for still living with her parents because I can’t truly say what I’ll be doing in eight years. But the sentence “Yes, my parents might still be footing the bill for stocking the fridge” completely kills any argument you may have. For god’s sake buy your own shopping! Even I go out and get the essentials sometimes.

So I’d like to tell it from my point of view.

I moved away to Uni when I was 18. I always assumed I’d find somewhere to live when I graduated. But in my third year it became obvious that I would have to move home. I applied for so many jobs and internships, but now I see that I should have got more experience while I was still at Uni.

I got a job in March this year, and put my name down on a couple of housing lists, which is a lot harder than I thought. My local housing group wont let you put your name down for a house unless you are actually homeless!

Anyway, it has been a hard transition for me, and my parents I guess. There have been arguments (mainly about washing up), tears, and slammed doors. But now I have a job, and can pay rent, I feel like I am really contributing to the house.

I sleep in a box room. There’s enough room for a single bed, a wardrobe, and a chest of drawers, with not much floor space. I’ve managed to fit my TV on a table under the window so I can watch Frasier before I go to sleep. My boyfriend isn’t allowed to sleep round, and I can’t stay at his. But we get around that by staying in a hotel room every month or so (see there are upsides of living at home).

My parents cook my tea. But sometimes I do cook for them. It’s nice to sit and watch TV in the evening with my mom and the cat. I usually get my mornings to myself because I have to be up for work. Also, we have massive garden, which houses don’t really get anymore (and I certainly wouldn’t have one if I had a flat).

I plan to go travelling next year, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I had my own place to look after. Any extra money I have can go into savings, so maybe, eventually, I’ll be able to put a deposit down on a house.

So don’t feel sorry for us ‘failed fledglings,’ or our parents. We’re not all dossers who sleep all day (although I did have my moments), and maybe some parents enjoy having their children around a little longer than usual.

To Freelance or Not to Freelance

I’ve been trying to figure out lately whether I’d like to become a freelance journalist. I’ve been reading a lot of people’s advice and about their experiences, and I feel like I could get into it gradually. It suits the kind of life I want in the future.

Thinking about the future, I’ve been wondering where I’ll be in a couple of years. The problem with working for one magazine is that it’s one subject all of the time. It’s taking me a while to get used to all the business and law jargon, and although I am enjoying it, it isn’t an area of journalism that I’d like to be working in forever. I’ve always been the type of person who likes to be doing a few things at once. So I think freelance is the way to go, and maybe in the future it could become a full-time thing.

But freelancing has always been something I’ve shied away from.  It seems so scary and unfamiliar. We had a lot of lectures and ‘career development’ classes while I was a University. But they weren’t too encouraging.

Anyway, I’m not about to go crazy and give up my job just yet. I’ve read about a few people doing this, and in a lot of cases it hasn’t ended well. There are a lot of thing that people don’t think about, such as: if they have enough savings to keep them going until they start to make decent money; if they really want to be a writer, or just make money fast; and the main one, if they know where to start looking.

Content mills seem to be a problem for freelancers. From the little experience I have of them, they seem to be a lot of hard work for little return. I haven’t really bothered with them much because I’d rather get something published (even if I’m not getting paid) on a subject I actually want to write about. They just seem to want you to churn out 100s of article on the most boring subjects for terrible pay.

A blog I’m subscribed to, Make a Living Writing, has a very interesting post on them – The Reality of Writing for Content Mills. The real life experiences section of the article confirms what I thought. They take away the need for networking and in some cases I’m sure they could help to build up your client list. But with some of these websites you don’t even know where your writing is going, you don’t get recognition for your articles, and you get paid less than minimum wage.

The main problem I’m finding with thought of freelancing is pay. The things I’ve read, and all of the advice given has told me to not sell myself short. But it’s complicated, depending on the subject, word count, how experienced you are, and how much people are willing to pay. Some online magazines have set rates for articles. But other than that it doesn’t look professional saying, “Erm? Well how much for you want to pay?”

This is why I’m definitely starting off slowly, and learning the ropes around my current job. Any successes are a plus because I don’t need them; any failures can be learned from.

Make a Living WritingBlog About WritingWendy’s Writing Now

(Three blogs I’m subscribed to that have some great posts on writing)

I Saw the Strangest Thing Today..

Sitting in a cafe daydreaming, I noticed a bunch of shopping trolleys with metal bars sticking out. I thought it was strange until an old lady tried to push her trolley out of the shop and failed. There was a metal bar across the top of the door stopping her. I know it’s not exactly the Twilight Zone, but I’ve never seen it before. It made me giggle.

Usually you see the ‘do not try to push your trolley through this point’ signs around supermarkets. It was different and seems to be a lot more effective. I may be odd for saying this but things like that which make me smile sometimes. I tried to take a picture without anyone noticing but people started to look at me weirdly.

The first five days of February have been a mixed so far. I started on Friday by going back to Stoke where I went to University. I’ve been meaning to catch up with friends and it was great seeing them again. But, as I got the train home, I got that strange sinking feeling, quite similar to how I used to feel walking to school on snowy days knowing someone would put a snowball in my pocket while I wasn’t looking.

But I had to drag myself out of bed today was the day that I had to go to an induction for a course that I really didn’t want to do. It’s some sort of customer service course.  It turned out to be a lot better than expected though. There was a lot of talk about behaviour, attitude and attributes. I’ve been so worried about not having what employers are looking for that I didn’t realise that it may be showing in my behaviour.

I like being around people a lot more than I used to. I realise that is a strange thing to say, but I really liked to keep myself to myself when I was younger. Isn’t it strange that we hold on to certain things from our childhood? We assume that they are still part of our personality, when we have actually changed a lot.

When is the last time you have looked at your personality closely, instead of just believing what you were told as a child?