FROM THE CAPTAIN'S WINDOW
Stories on Maritime Leadership
Social Media for Seafarers: The Digital Semaphore
“You are what you share.”
― Charles W. Leadbeater, We Think: The Power Of Mass Creativity
Social media for seafarers is almost a lifeline- giving them the ability to connect with friends and family even from the opposite corner of the globe. It connects, informs and entertains. I certainly love seeing pictures of sunrises from the middle of the Pacific, or time-lapse videos of ships passing through canals.
But like every technology, it pays to use it smartly. The rules for social media use for mariners are just about the same as for other professionals- these are more than social graces- they are practical.
What you post on the internet never goes away- never ever. It is common for employers, insurers and law-enforcement agencies to check your online profile. Before you share anything, ask yourself if you would be comfortable having your family or colleagues read about it?
If you’re frustrated with things happening at work or in your life- social media is not the place to vent. Besides, offensive or untrue posts can give sufficient reason for disciplinary, or even legal action.
Few weeks ago, a video of a seafarer being killed by a wire under tension was shared on social media. Though this was a shocking video which can help understand the dangers at sea- such graphic images are hard for family members of the deceased seafarer to watch. In any case, it is unwise to post personal injury photos and videos as these can have serious impact on legal or claims proceedings.
Ensure what you post complies with the laws of your state, or the place that you are visiting. Do not share anything which could contravene intellectual property laws (photos, movies, technical manuals for example).
These days it’s quite common to see drone photography of ships appear on social media. Be aware of local regulations (and fines) for the use of drones in port.
Do you put up a poster outside your house to tell everyone where you are travelling- especially when you are going to join ship for several months? If not- why do it online? Do check the privacy settings for your accounts- including the geo-tag options.
When sharing pictures of friends and family, especially young children- take care. Ask your friends or colleagues if they’re OK with you sharing a photo with them online.
Do change your passwords every three months and check routinely that your account has not been hacked.
Read your company policy on social media use. Check what you can share, and what you cannot about the company. If in doubt, ask your HR Department. Particularly check if you are allowed to share photos and documents of your ships, especially:
• The location and cargo on your ship. This information in the wrong hands could be used for targeted piracy, smuggling or theft.
• Maintenance work, especially that done in dry-dock.
• Demolition photos of the ship. Even if the ship was recycled in compliance with the relevant conventions, these photos could end up on newsfeeds and raise un-necessary questions.
• Security arrangements on the ship or in the port.
• Emergencies. While it’s good to capture evidence on camera, beware of sharing it with the external world, especially the media- it can hurt your employer’s position and reputation.
Even an innocuous photo- such as of crew celebrating with non-alcoholic beer can create a negative perception. Once the images are out there, damage control is difficult. You don’t have to share everything that’s going on in your life, or all that you feel.
What you like, comment, or share is watched by the world and recorded for ever. Think before you post.
In August 2007, a collision between the fishing vessel Vertrouwen and the motor cruiser James 2 resulted in the cruiser sinking with loss of 3 lives. Vertrouwen’s skipper used his mobile phone to send a message on social media to a friend and neglected his lookout duties.1
Do not use social media during work hours, especially if you are on watch. Period.
Are you neglecting your normal relationships?
Be mindful if your internet activity is weakening your social interaction with your shipmates while at sea. The ship is your home away from home. Nothing can replace the good time and support one can share during face-to-face conversations. Sadly, most ships these days don’t even bother to have a TV in their lounge- and seafarers stick to their own personal devices. Is it then a coincidence that suicide rates among seafarers have tripled since 2014?2
That said, I’ve met some very interesting people through social media, and learned a lot in the process. I don’t even have to remember birthdays- I get prompts so I can wish my friends on their special day.
With around 2.5 billion social network users worldwide, and growing- it’s a powerful tool. Use it effectively, and - stay social.
And please share this post!
Captain VS Parani, FNI, FICS, CMarTech-IMarEST is the author of Golden Stripes- Leadership on the High Seas.
1: MAIB report 02/2018
Related link: Intertanko Social Media guidance for seafarers http://www.intertanko.com/upload/106576/Social_Media_Guidance.pdf