When we caught up with TomSka, we were reluctant to leave. Having blown us away in the mental health panel at Summer In The City, Tom has long been a wise guy who we could easily listen to for hours. Having been on YouTube since 2006, Tom has essentially grown up on the Internet and has learnt a few lessons along the way. We spoke to him about digital footprints, controversial opinions and online dating.
“All I ever wanted since I was 11 years old was to make video online, I didn’t know what that really meant at the time but luckily YouTube came along.”
“Saying that, I’m very glad I’m not 15 today because if I was there’s no doubt every little opinion and every stupid thing I ever said would be caught on film, uploaded and shared with the world. And that would be an absolute disaster!”
So what about those who are 15, and younger, now? Surely the world’s attitudes to embarrassing online content will have to change?
“Everyone’s digital footprint will eventually become screwed up.”
“We now all have huge digital footprints, sharing everything we ever think about. Honestly, the possibilities for stalking alone are immeasurable. If you really wanted to put in the man hours, you could scroll through years of someone’s tweets and learn everything about them- everywhere they’ve ever been, every friend they’ve ever had, every meal they’ve ever eaten! And that’s the harmless stuff. Every bad thing you’ve ever said can be screenshot and pulled up and regurgated as if you said it today.
I’m only so open with the internet because I’ve never had to actually send my CV anywhere! If I had to get a real job, they could just Google me. Seriously, internet dating is right out the question for me!”
Whilst we can educate people on that, there’s a chance they might not listen. What’s TomSka’s ultimate piece of advice?
“Cryptic is not cryptic and you can’t sub-tweet anyone, everyone knows it’s about them now or they think it’s about them even if it’s not.”
“If you’re going to set up a YouTube channel or even post on social media, don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to a parent. If you don’t have an informed opinion on something then shut up. And that’s something people need to learn, including me. I’m 25 and I’m still doing stuff I regret and wish I could take back.”
And as a creator, do you think the YouTube community owe it to their young fans to be vocal about crafting a careful digital footprint and being safe online?
“The YouTube community should do a better job of warning people not to be stupid, although we do have very little authority because we still say stupid stuff all the time!”
“I just hate the idea of some 14 year old kid saying something dumb- maybe they’re raised in a really racist family- and then they get bullied to the point of suicide because that can happen and is happening. It’s a completely new frontier. 10 years ago, all you had to say to kids was “watch out for peadophiles” and now it’s about watching out for absolutely everything!”