Who are you on social media? Yourself or your profession?
We live in an era in which most personal and even lucrative business transactions are concluded using online media or digital platforms. COVID-19 catapulted this process and almost all business is now conducted online. This also applies to us as chartered accountants in different spheres of the business world, including academia. We have meetings on Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, etc.
Since most of us have been working from home since around March, we tend to take breaks from work by using social media, be it Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or WhatsApp. We use these platforms for various reasons, for instance to interact socially with likeminded people, stay abreast of current affairs, or simply check what other people are up to.
So, when I engage on any social media platform, who am I engaging as? Am I engaging as Mbali the CA(SA) who is associated with SAICA? Or Mbali the associate professor who is a UNISA employee? Or am I just Mbali and my social media platforms have nothing to do with my profession?
This is where it gets tricky. The truth is that it is easy to defend ourselves and our social media engagements and claim that our social media behaviour has nothing to do with our professions. I say tricky, because I am Mbali before I am my profession. I have freedom of speech, freedom to choose who I interact with and how, etc. But do I really have that freedom when other people always see me as a professional? How and where do we draw the line?
As professionals, we always need to be cognizant of that. Furthermore, we need to remember that social media never forgets: whatever we post on social media gets recorded somewhere in the Cloud. I don’t want to be penalised for something I posted on social media five years ago. But the truth of the matter is that we have seen cases where this happened. A recent example involved Bianca Schoombee who entered the Miss SA 2020 competition. Her old tweets resurfaced on social media while the competition was underway. She was called racist and the public Unisac demanded that she be pulled out of the competition. In the end Bianca pulled her entry, issued an apology, and later deleted her Twitter account. What an anti-climax: she could have been the next Miss SA.
This brings me back to the point that our social media behaviour does matter. As chartered accountants, we must not allow ourselves to be fooled by the herd mentality that we can be whoever we want to be on social media. Whether we like it or not, we do represent our profession wherever we go. It is not an ideal situation, but it is what it is.