Social media is a very important tool for communicating with the world off the ship as well as keeping direct contact with family and friends. Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and many others are fantastic for keeping in touch, sharing information and general entertainment. They are immensely powerful and can make the separation from home less onerous.
However, seafarers should bare in mind that the use of instant communication tools must be done so carefully, responsibly and with regard to negative consequences.
How to use social media sensibly
The ability to stay in touch with friends, family and partners from even the most remote corner of the globe is a real advantage. Being able to check in and say goodnight or good morning to your partner, spouse or children is a great way to stay positive and connected even when you’re thousands of miles away at sea.
Nevertheless, seafarers need to be careful with their social media usage, whether they are working at sea or shipping offices ashore.
1. Don’t tell people you’re away from home
This is an advice not only for seafarers. But for anyone. No one should post on social media telling the world that they are going to be away from their home. This massively increases the chances of your empty home getting broken into.
2. Always check your posts
We have all had that one post that we thought it was hilarious, and the world would miss it if it did’t get published right now. However, before sending any post (even if it is indeed the funniest joke ever), always double check it before hitting the send button.
You must be sure that the post does not say anything that may put your current and future career at risk. In fact, these days many shipping companies are running a history backround check on potential employees before hiring them. They mostly look for rants and intolerance, no matter how ‘humorous’ the intent was.
3. Be careful of the legal issues
This is an important one. No matter what the rank onboard, every seafarer must take into consideration the potential legal implications of what they post online.
This could be as simple as posting a Tweet that would be perfectly fine in your country, but not for the place you are currently in.
In addition, while it can be fun to create and share clips of life onboard, it would be wise to refrain from posting photos and videos of cargo, locations, security, maintenance work or technical manuals.
In the same spirit, avoid posting anything that could be misinterpreted, such as showing photos of celebrations.
4. Respect your coworkers
Fellow crewmembers will undoubtably play a starring role in any seafarer’s time at sea. For this reason, you should always check whether your coworkers are comfortable with you sharing photos or videos of them on social media. You don’t want to cause any problems for them back home.
What is more, it is important to remember that as a company may check your backround, they would also do it for any other seafarer. Therefore, respect the other crew, in order not to cause them any issues for their future career.
However, social media have many grey areas, and it is natural for seafarers to not always know what is ok to post and what is not. For this reason, if in any doubt, read the social media policy of your company and as the HR if anything is not clear.
5. Do not spend all of your free time online
Of course it goes without saying that during their free time onboard seafarers choose to talk to their family. And that is perfectly understandable. However, try to log off from time to time and spend some quality time with your crewmates.
As it happens on land, people lose track of their time on social media very easily. We’ve all had that sudden realization that for the past hour or so we are scrolling though our feed. Be mindful of that time, and take an honest look at your social media use. Are you actually spending too much time online, neglecting the other crewmemembers?
If that is the case, it would be a good indication that it is time to log off for a period of time. Again, this does not mean not to talk with your people, or stay up to date with world news; but try to spend some time with the people around you, as human contact its very important.
In order to help seafarers establish a safe and sound online presence, INTERTANKO has published a guide, in which it recommends the following:
- Never publish inaccurate information. If you are unsure of the accuracy of your comments, do not publish them.
- Always ensure that if you are talking about your workplace online that you have made it clear any statements are your own and do not represent the views or values of the company.
- Avoid violating the privacy of your fellow seafarers and co-workers. Only post online what you would be comfortable saying to people in person or in public.
- Never use social media as a platform to harm, intimidate, insult, threaten, defame or embarrass others.