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Social media and me

by Captain Dave Wallsworth BALPA member

Recently BALPA featured a blog looking at the pros and cons of social media for pilots. This blog follows on with a look at one pilot who has practical experience of harnessing various media streams. Dave Wallsworth hosts an active Twitter and Instagram feed – talking about his life as an A380 Captain for British Airways – and has more than 40,000 followers.

Dave says:

The genesis of my Twitter profile was when I was asked by BA to document my switch from the smallest Airbus, the A318, to the largest, the A380.

These early tweets proved to be remarkably – and surprisingly – popular.

Quite quickly, those with an interest in our new, enormous jet were posting questions and asking for behind-the-scenes photos.

I remember the days when passengers were allowed into the flight deck during flight, and I enjoyed talking with those who came to visit. Indeed, I remember my first foray into the flight deck as a child and the impact it had on me. It struck me that, by careful use of social media, I could effectively open this now-locked door and allow people back in the flight deck. I could not have imagined the level of interest there would be in the photos and information I have posted online.

One particularly pleasing aspect of Twitter is that it allows anyone to post a question to anyone else. This has resulted in numerous queries from our more nervous passengers, who now have relatively easy access to a BA pilot to express their fears and get a quick reply.

On a personal level, the positive feedback received from those with an enquiring mind, those who are nervous about flying, or those who just wish to see the view out of the best office window in the world has been very rewarding. I find it very satisfying that, one moment, I could be sending a reply to a question from a child at school who is interested in a career as a pilot, and – the next – I could be holding a discussion with someone like Professor Brian Cox!

The videos of take-off and landing from within the flight deck, which British Airways gave me permission to film, have also proved just how interested people are in our profession. They have been viewed more than one million times, and been featured on TV in various countries.

There are many who feel our profession is not held in the same high regard as it was years ago – but we should be in no doubt that we have a career to which many aspire, and it is still thought to be one of the most responsible and professional roles.

When used with care, social media allows people to see what we do and how we do it, and to learn more about the job than they would ever have been able to do previously.

However, we do need to proceed carefully when using this instant medium. Once something has been posted online, it is out there – forever. Even if we decide, 24 hours later, to remove a post, someone, somewhere, may have copied it or referred to it.

We are all too painfully aware of when the use of social media has backfired and resulted in personal and professional embarrassment – and, in some cases, termination of employment.

The golden rule is don’t post it if you have even the smallest doubt about whether you should.

Be very mindful, too, that – even though your social media profile may contain the words ‘views expressed here are mine and not my employer’s’ – it does not exempt you from a possible charge of bringing the company you work for into disrepute. If we are going to post online, we have a responsibility to our colleagues and our profession to
make sure it is appropriate.

Also, be aware that the internet is full of ‘trolls’, who spend their time replying to posts and
trying to get a reaction. If this happens to you, don’t reply. A very good friend of mine reminded me of the ‘triangle of fire’ with which we are all familiar. Starve the trolls of ‘oxygen’ and they will stop targeting you.

Social media is here to stay. It isn’t for everyone and does need to be used with great care. But it can be incredibly rewarding – and I now enjoy letting people into our ‘office’ on a regular basis.

Twitter: @davewallsworth Instagram: captain_dave_a380

Photos courtesy of Dave Wallsworth.