Paris Brown furore and my Facebook and Twitter social media history: A lot of drink, a lot of fags and some really dodgy photos

After Paris Brown was vilified for tweets she sent years earlier, Oscar Quine thought he had better check his own social media history
  • @oscarquine

Splashed across the front pages, Paris Brown's tweets certainly painted an unattractive picture. Gays were dismissed as “fags”, immigrants as “illegals” – and her craving for hash brownies sat uncomfortably with her new role as Britain's first youth crime commissioner.

But after the dust settled this week, and 17-year-old Miss Brown had tearfully resigned her £15,000-a-year role, one thought stuck in the minds of those of us in the internet generation – could it happen to me too?

Young people who have been raised being candid about our lives online are now entering, or attempting to enter, the world of work. We're told that the first thing a potential employer may do is trawl applicants' social media. So I decided to get there first, to see what embarrassments are buried in my digital closet. And for the sake of thoroughness, I asked a private investigator to see what extra digital dirt he could dig on me. And, for some reason, I agreed to share it all here.

First up, what can I find on myself? On Facebook, there's booze and fags, a lot of. There's mild nudity and photos of me looking worse for wear. Some of me kissing girls, sometimes, it seems, despite my recollection, without them fully enjoying it. There's one of me pretending to kiss a male friend, and one of me actually kissing a male friend: drunken, full-frontal. One of me kissing a dog. A handful from a Thai strip club, and some at a Moulin Rouge birthday party with a girl's suspenders between my teeth. There's one of me intimately nuzzling a female friend dressed as a vagina, and one where I'm simulating sex with a giant penis made from snow.

On Twitter, I admit to being in a car driven by someone who is drunk ("I don't care if it's a stop sign, I just wish I was sober" #designateddriver). On Instagram, a photograph of a spliff in Amsterdam. And, across all, an ungodly number of pictures of food.

My youthful transgressions may be far from unique, but it's hard to imagine a potential employer looking on them kindly.

Of course, we self-censor. Cameras are only appropriate at certain times. There's the occasional detagging. Once or twice, I've asked a friend to take a picture down, usually with family members or potential employers in mind. I largely got my Twitter account for professional reasons. And during a period of frequent visits to the United States, I was advised by an immigration lawyer to remove anything vaguely suspect, in case I was pulled over by immigration. All of which makes me feel for Paris: she hadn't been dress rehearsed in these ways.

On the employment front, a recruiter tells me he sees trawling social media as bad practise: employees should not be judged on their private life. But I have friends who have had information about them brought up by superiors at work that could only have been found online. And Tony Smith, the private investigator with Insight Investigations, estimates that 15 per cent of his business comes from recruitment companies and employers.

I also trawled through the Facebook profile of my 14-year-old brother. I'm part of the internet bridge generation (I remember the sound of a dial-up modem), and have a different distinction of online and offline worlds. He was born broadband, and spends almost as much time online as in the real world. I found nothing incriminating, he's still a bit too young for adolescent mischief. Brown on the other hand, had a few more years to experiment with controversial lifestyle choices and opinions, and unfortunately for her, record them publicly.

Some journalists, the moment a story breaks, will take to social media to find out anything and everything about those affected, their family and their friends. I've been shown by a private investigator how to strip the EXIF data from a photo to give the exact location it was taken, with which camera model and the precise direction in which the photographer was facing. Scary stuff, but all perfectly legal, and public – and you never know when someone's spotlight might turn on you. Which leads me, hesitantly, to Smith's findings. From what he called 'the briefest of checks', he told me which universities I'd studied at, the different countries I've lived in, languages I can speak, and a charity event I took part in.

He gave me details of my family: their ages, addresses, occupations, how much their houses are worth. And he gave me information of business dealings my dad had over a decade ago. At first I was shocked, but then I thought: with a bit more time, other people could easily find something similar. I just hope there's no one out there who cares enough, and that I've been suitably thorough in vetting my online presence.


Oscar Quine @oscarquine26

April 11 “I don’t care if it’s a stop sign, I just wish I was sober” #designateddriver

Oscar Quine @oscarquine26

6 May 11 cheap margarita sour mix does not make for good hangovers..

Oscar Quine @oscarquine26

14 May 11 got home to vodka and no mixer but beer. #allkindsofdrunk

Oscar Quine @oscarquine26

11 December 11 drunk, always drunk

Oscar Quine @oscarquine26

28 March 12 Must remember, never get drunk BEFORE doing the important things

Oscar Quine @oscarquine26

7 June Just for the record, I am going get completely battered on this flight. See you soon England.

Oscar Quine @oscarquine26

19 June 11 I just orgasmed. if there’s no god why does cheese, bacon and avocado exist?