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Has Social Networking Gone Too Far?

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Just before midnight on the 17th of June 2010, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced to the world that he had given the green light for the execution of a convicted murderer, by firing squad.

While this is not an unusual announcement in a state which champions the death penalty, Mr Shurtleff announced this on his Twitter account.

He wrote three posts in all.

The first was about the possible decision he may have to make. The post telling the world he had given the execution the go-ahead was the second. The third tweet could be seen as even more shocking, as he gave notification of a press conference and a link to watch the conference live, following the execution.

The case of Ronnie Lee Gardner

Ronnie Lee Gardner was convicted of killing a lawyer while attempting to flee court over another murder charge. It was his choice to be executed by firing squad, and is only the third such execution since 1976. Utah has now revoked the option of being executed by firing squad. Mr Shurtleff has since written comments to his critics on his Twitter page. ‘I believe in an informed public. As elected official I use social media to communicate directly with people,’ he stated last month.

Is this use of social media right or wrong?

Mr Shurtleff believes he is using modern media to inform his electorate of his continuing commitment to the policies that got him elected, but is Twitter an appropriate forum for this kind of announcement? Social networking sites were originally designed to keep people in contact with individuals they would otherwise have no, or very little, communication with.

Social networking is now fully utilised by businesses, to spread the word of their products and services, trying to tailor these to the profiler’s own tastes. There have also been news reports over the past few years about employers using these social networking sites to investigate prospective employees.

By posting personal information about your life such as what you got up to with your friends over a weekend, or venting your anger about a previous boss, you may be putting a future employer off, and damaging any future prospects in your career. While most people view these sites as harmless fun, the repercussions for our lives from social networking can reach further than we sometimes imagine.

How private is your private life?

Networking sites have been in the news on many occasions over the past few years, for what is seen as a blasé attitude toward people’s privacy. The majority of information you put on your profile on Facebook is essentially public property. Anyone with the right knowledge can access information about us that we may not want them to know.

Surely, if we don’t want people to know this information, the best tactic is to not post it on a networking site in the first place. These sites do have privacy settings, and it is up to us to alter them to our personal and business preferences. This information can be seen by everyone, or just by your network, at the click of a button.

Was Mark Shurtleff just keeping his electorate informed of his political decisions, or did he go too far?

It’s our choice if we want the world to know what we had for breakfast by way of Twitter, Facebook or any of the many social networking sites.

At a time when online media is being used for business networking, political updates and governmental campaigning, is it time to reconsider your use of Facebook and Twitter?

Please share your views in the comments below.


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29 Responses to Has Social Networking Gone Too Far?

  1. Mitch October 6, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Strange as this seems, since I’m normally against the death penalty, I don’t see anything wrong with what the attorney general did. It’s information that would get out anyway, and if they had let a reporter in and that reporter had access to the internet the same thing would have happened.

    Now, if you want a real lesson on social networking and some of the issues it can cause, as well as issues it can solve, check out the video on this link; Syracuse NY story that you might find interesting:

    • Andrew October 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm #


      I’m not sure whether it was too far or not, really.

      Just a strange thing to do.

      Thanks for the link.


  2. Patricia October 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Wow Andrew. I find it quite shocking but like Mitch points out; that’s how reporters and indeed most people seem to be communicating “news” these days.
    A lot of information is getting out there that some people probably wish wasn’t and as they say now that even if you take things down, someone can still find it and show to whoever they want. I am very wary of what I put out there.
    A sobering but thought provoking post Andrew
    Patricia Perth Australia

    • Andrew October 8, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

      I’ve just read a great little book: Me and my web shadow – can be a little scary about what is on the net about us / you!


  3. Rahul October 6, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    A real gem standing out from the rest..Well I don’t know if its the right thing to do by officials but its a great strategy for entrepreneurs …

  4. elayne October 7, 2010 at 5:13 am #

    I think it is tasteless, yes the information is freely available in the media, but I find it disturbing. Perhaps I have a different point of view as I have had two family members killed by a gunman. I felt very sorry the gunmans family, they had nothing to do with his actions and I think they were in a way punished by the media, I guess I feel the same way here and a bit cynical about the Tweeters real intentions.

    • Andrew October 8, 2010 at 2:34 pm #


      Families are the ones who can suffer just as much as the convict. Press..local residents…all have it in for them.


  5. Steve October 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    It seems like an “odd” thing to do. A little tasteless. But not really “too far” in any way.

    The information would get out in any way. He could let it get out only by a reporter and trust that the spin would go in his favor or do it himself and make sure his own opinions got out there.

    The guy is an elected official so part of his job is to be accountable to the people. I think the move lacked a little class, but I can totally understand it.

    • Andrew October 8, 2010 at 2:37 pm #


      Nice line: “I think the move lacked a little class, but I can totally understand it.”

      Sums it up for me.


  6. Scott Bergman October 7, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    Hey Andrew…my opinion is that it was completely right the way the attorney general acted. I think he used twitter in one of the ways twitter was intended to be used, to pass along information.

    In terms of privacy in my life and social media, I fought a long battle with myself over this. There are dangers to being public, but on the other hand there are dangers of not being public. To get anywhere in life people have to know who you are, and social media can be a big help in that regard. I think the real trick is to be careful getting publicly involved in hot controversies. If your going to live in the spotlight, you have to exercise restraint in your words.

    Thanks for the article.

    • Andrew October 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm #


      What we need is a big room and we could all debate the best use of social media at the same time!


  7. Jason October 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    I think you are just about at it at the right topic. Good thing of you posting this. I would like to see other people’s opinions on this. But if I could give mine: Social networking is totally going out of control now. Especially Twitter. I have read, at least one, such an instance earlier this year about the same thing: Someone tweeting a few tweets – and the entire world knew about it within minutes. Literally minutes. The power of that could be utilized in a great way. I once saw in the news someone who had used his cellphone notifying the other that he ad been trapped in house with a mudslide . . . Merely an hour later people came to rescue him. Wasn’t it for that marvelous connection that saved his life, he would have died. Now that is what the real purpose of use should be about.

    One very famous actor (can’t remember his name), said at the time of Michael Jackson’s dead that: Wouldn’t it have been for the technology of today, people wouldn’t have found out within an hour abouthis death. He wished it was 20 years ago, now.

    • Andrew October 8, 2010 at 2:39 pm #


      With the internet around rumours and truth spread like fire.

      It’s when it rumours and untruths that can cause most pain.


  8. Dennis Edell October 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Next: YouTubing the executions? Pulease…

    • Andrew October 9, 2010 at 3:38 pm #


      I bet there are some of those type of videos around already!


      • Dennis Edell October 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

        Not legally sanctioned…..THAT would be the end or me.

  9. Diane Williams October 9, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    I actually think this it’s quite strange because Social Media is a more personal venue than PrimeTime news on television. There is more of an intimacy I think.

    That’s why reporting an execution via Social Media makes it more perverse, perverted, and crass all rolled into one big FAIL!

    • Andrew October 9, 2010 at 3:39 pm #

      Hi Diane

      Nice to see you here.

      It is a strange thing to do…I’m sure he thought his reasons were valid.


  10. Maggie Clark October 12, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    This is great, very informative article. To get anywhere in life people have to know who you are, and social media can be a big help in that regard. Social media is useful to us like news in our country, what happening in our surrounding we know through social media.

    • Andrew October 12, 2010 at 9:08 am #


      You are right…wsocial media is becoming more and more important…be interested to see what’s next in this world!


  11. Elizabeth Wilson October 12, 2010 at 2:35 am #

    Social media is very useful now a days,especially in terms of news we know what happen in other country and in our surroundings through social media.

    • Andrew October 12, 2010 at 9:08 am #


      As I said to Maggie above – very true.


  12. Penelope October 13, 2010 at 4:04 am #

    Indeed social networking was created and made to make it possible for those distant acquaintances to still have communication to each other. However what is happening today is beyond the purpose of social networking. Though personally I love using social networks for business purposes, eh. But there are times that the use of social networking sites can harm already. Just like the examples that you had given Andrew. People posts because of political motives, just for the sake of fun and sometimes to earn sympathy from others. Whew!

  13. Maggie Clark October 27, 2010 at 6:06 am #

    Iam very thankful in social media, especially saving life of people,they can extend hand for helping and rescue them, community can do that because of the help of social media. All of this I know and I saw in media.

  14. Elizabeth Wilson October 28, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    For me there are bad and good side in social media. Good side we aware what happening in our surroundings in news. But the bad side is the private life of the people broadcast in whole place it is not good for me, and there times very brutal news can effect to the side of children. Be careful when you watching social media parents guidance is needed.

    • Andrew October 28, 2010 at 8:48 am #


      Totally agree. You hear of so many stories of kids being bullied via social networking.

      I would not want to be a kid in todays world.


  15. Daniel December 21, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

    nice post, i think that social media can be used for evil, but i think most great stuff on the internet eventually becomes abused. we just have to strive to keep it from becoming that way.

    • Andrew December 23, 2010 at 9:30 am #


      Agree – just think what Twitter was like just a couple of years ago!


  16. Linda Wise September 24, 2011 at 3:08 am #

    I think its a bit informal to announce political stuff in twitter rather than live television. But he may have used it to provide real-time information and as he said, to communicate directly to people.

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