Social Media Onboard Superyachts
We can’t deny it, we can’t fight it – social media has infiltrated our everyday lives to the point of obsessive addiction for many. Some people can’t go five minutes without checking their feeds and accounts; this narcissistic need for likes from total strangers justifying their existence, and more worryingly, dictating their moods. Whereas land-based employers can simply block social media sites like Instagram, facebook, or twitter from being accessed on work devices, or banning use of personal phones during work hours, out on yachts with everyone carrying a phone in their pocket it’s not always so easy. Especially when crew use them to keep in touch with friends and family back home.
One Captain told us how he went to the extreme of effectively banning the use of all social media sites onboard. As he put it, “it’s not private, the whole idea of social media is being social! It’s sharing pictures and information. This seems to be a fact many crew just don’t get.” The veto was a result of one of his crew members befriending a guest, then before anyone knew it the owner was also connected and could see everything that crewmember was posting. Unbeknownst to any of the senior crew, that crewmember had posted pictures of crew in the jacuzzi, made comments about guests, including tipping practices and even ethnicity… The owner banned crew from various areas of the yacht and put a “no friends/family to visit” rule in place and even after the crew member was dismissed, continued to follow them on facebook for some months. That’s just scary.
Another Captain related a tale of how a (male) guest sent a friend request to one of the female crew on board. She accepted, he proceeded to stalk and harass her. How do you block someone without repercussions when it’s a repeat guest and friend of the owner? And when the guests’ girlfriend turns up on board? Awkwardly, that’s how. In the old days (for want of a better expression) the worst that could happen would be the request of a phone number. And let’s face it, moving around the world, nobody used to really have a fixed one! Let alone a portal to allow someone to watch your every (publicly posted) move and read your thoughts. Oversharing on social media is prevalent, how many times can we say we’ve seen the attention seeking posts or the embarrassing rants, on someone’s page who we aren’t exactly close to, and wondered if perhaps it would be more appropriate to talk to whoever has upset them privately? Or a fairly explicit instagram selfie, and wondered if their parents see that as well as the rest of the world?
In addition to the general Non Disclosure Agreements many yachts have in place, a Chief Mate from one busy charter motoryacht told us their captain’s standing orders clearly lays out guidance and rules in a designated section on Social Media. “Any interaction, friendships or communication between any crew member and guests is forbidden. Should a situation arise where a guest requests online friendship, the crew member shall directly approach the Captain who will speak to the guest and explain the policy on board. Crew members also need to be reminded that within the terms and conditions of their SEA, disclosing the vessel and/or company they work for shall not be published on any mediums of social media including but not limited to Facebook. Photos and information that points to revealing such information is also a dismissible offence and shall be treated in the severest manner.”
Yet people still post pics on their public Instagram… which can be seen by anyone with an account. Not to mention you can screen shot it, and share with anyone who doesn’t. And when that happens, it’s instant dismissal and in some extreme cases the boss could sue you for breach of contract. Serious stuff for something the crew member assumed was “harmless”.
One captain in Palma repeatedly posts updates on which celebrities have been onboard for charter, and his personal thoughts on them, and as if that wasn’t enough, pictures of the yacht he’s employed on, with his own guests drinking champagne and behaving as if its theirs. When questioned on whether or not he felt that was a breach of trust his reply was “it’s my private page and only people who I trust can see it.” Which of course begs the question – well how does everyone know about it then? One of his ex junior crew told us they found it inappropriate and it made them feel uncomfortable, “I left the yacht as I did not want to get involved in using my boss’s pride and joy for the captain’s ego inflating parties. He was rapidly developing a reputation and I didn’t want to be tarred with that brush as it might stop me getting a job in the future.” Smart kid. That captain could find it tricky to find a new job with an attitude like this, and it’s been widely agreed he’s setting a terrible example to the younger generation who are constantly being told to put their phones away and interact in real life.
Passive aggression online has really peaked with Social Media. Instead of telling your boyfriend/girlfriend/catsitter/mum’s friend you’re annoyed with their behaviour why not post elusive needy memes or attention seeking statuses about them? Because it’s really immature and pathetic, that’s why. Why this need for the barrage of “you ok hun?” and “PM me babes” posts? If you were genuinely worried about a friend would you not contact them privately and ask? Why does everything have to be so very public? Is everyone trying to prove themselves? What happened to having a crap day and telling your immediate circle about it, and then moving on? Although admittedly it’s rather amusing when a crew member posts a total rant and has forgotten they accepted a friend request from the subject of said rant’s bestie or even better, the subject themselves, and then we get to watch the online fall out…. But on a serious note, it’s a shame because when someone does put out a genuine cry for help on social media it might not be taken seriously.
Not to mention the angry keyboard cowboys and cowgirls who, behind the safety net of a screen, insult, attack, belittle and bully to their heart’s content. What they fail to acknowledge is that doing so on a public forum could be career suicide. The amount of senior crew, captains, managers and agents who log on to these pages to silently scroll and read comments is quite frightening. Which leads on to those crew looking for work, either via social media or otherwise. A Chief stew told us, “First thing I do is go and find their Facebook and Instagram accounts to see what sort of people they are. Even if their facey is private I can still see all their profile and cover pics, and quite often that’s all I need to know. I’ve not hired a ton of people due to seeing inappropriate photos – and before I get told not to be so uptight, if I can see it, so can my boss, his PA, the management company, any guest, the broker… should I go on? Anyway just make sure you keep it fun and clean and you’ll be fine.”
A Chief Mate added, “(social media has) been instrumental in potential crew not getting jobs on board here from the “marital status: single” with wives/husbands/fiancés on their profiles to “non-smokers” with photos of them puffing away on a night out, completely eliminating them from the selection process even if up until that point they were (on paper) the stand our candidate. It’s also invaluable for “friends in common” feature as the 6 degrees of separation is probably more like the 1 degree rule in Yachting with that common denominator usually more than happy to either verify a reference/period of employment or completely dispel it. With the exception of green crew, I wouldn’t touch a candidate who we didn’t share at least one friend in common as there’s usually a sinister reason as to why the average crew member has a lack of activity/connectivity on social media.”
Another Chief Mate drew attention to the mental health issues the overuse of social media brings. “The biggest draw back we’ve found is with green crew assuming other crew are having a much better time/more down time/easier season due to the illusion they’re creating online. Social media is a great-in-theory platform for interaction, however the human nature factor usually turns it into a negative experience that encourages a flattering exaggeration of people’s existence.” It's completely true, not many of us would post pictures of us scrubbing toilets, cleaning up sick, fixing black tanks or sat doing accounts or other menial tasks – we only post the fun stuff, the achievements, the good things. And some people may exaggerate… or inflate the truth, just to get those precious likes.
At the end of the day lives portrayed on Social Media are vastly different to real lives. It’s important to remember to take everything you see online with a pinch of salt. The grass is not necessarily properly greener over there, let’s face it, it was probably an ugly brown patch before it had 15 filters slapped on it and has been edited to within an inch of its life.