Leigh Van Bryan: Where Is He Now?

Thursday, March 10, 2016 - 12:00

Find out what happened to Leigh Van Bryan after one tweet caused the United States government to mark him as a terrorist.

1. Are you currently active on Social Media? If yes, how has your online activity changed since the incident that changed your life?

I'm still very much a visible entity online, I believe social media is a crucial part of modern communication so to even take a step back from it would be removing myself out of touch of our current climate. Social Media as it stands in my arena, is the platform from which I broadcast my own opinions and make my voice heard. Before these shenanigans took place I was very much the free spirit, acting without consequence but entirely innocent by nature, but now after the shock wave of the whole ordeal I've found myself vetting my own voice. Now, a freedom has been removed and a self censorship exists where I have to second guess every tweet and post and try to find fault from the eye of someone with no common sense.

2. What type of support did you seek in the aftermath of what happened to you?
Once we returned to England and our comedy of errors became not only public knowledge but a worldwide news story we didn't really have a chance to even see where we stood as the whole thing snowballed out of control but in the best possible way. We may have been victims in this situation but we aren't victims by nature so we took this experience and made sure that we used our opportunity to not only shed light on the dangers of what the average user posts online and how this can come back with a vengeance but also how with every bad situation has to come with the natural balance of night and day. With bad comes good and maybe there was a lesson to be learnt. The support we received from across the globe in our favor over this whole mishap has completely out weighed the bad, which is mostly down to the fact that we were honest, we told our story and we also embraced how ridiculous the situation - and we -  were!
 
3. If you had the chance to re-do the tweet/post that changed your life, what, if anything, would you do differently?
If i could go back in time and never send that tweet I would, but I'm also certain if we all could go back in time and reverse this scenario they probably wished they had just let me go once they'd realized the mistake they were about to make too. I now always study my own posts before clicking send to make sure I don't accidentally set off another chain reaction but nobody is perfect and with thousands of different languages and slang terms and different sets of lingo everyone is bound to be lost in translation to someone; and we live in a society where everyone is now offended by absolutely everything so playing safe is all I can really do now for me.
 
4. What, if any, ramifications from your incident are you still experiencing today?
Since the story was a worldwide news story, nearly everyone I've ever met knows me, knows of me, heard the story or has seen something similar. My tale has become a modern day urban legend, so obviously everyone has a million different questions and has a million different versions of events that they've heard, seen or read somewhere else so it's a case of constantly explaining myself nonstop. Yet thankfully I've never encountered any unwanted attention from this event in my life.
 
5. Have you had any other life-changing incidents on the Internet since the one we profiled?

Since this whole thing happened nearly four years ago I've constantly been doing interviews or tv appearances or giving talks to students about what happened to me and the power of our written word online. To neglect to educate others from my story would be a wasted opportunity to repay the fantastic response I received from the very beginning of my current adventure. I've done dozens of interviews across TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and even in the award winning documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply which is a must see for those concerned about how the Internet is changing  and the casualties that may lie ahead if we don't begin to monitor and censor ourselves from those searching for problems that don't exist.
 
6. What advice would you give to other people on managing social media?

Be aware of your audience. Always assume someone is watching you and second guess your every word. Some things are better left unsaid and nobody cares that "Roman is having an OK day, and bought a Coke Zero at the gas station. Raise the roof."
 
7. What do you feel are positive aspects of the Internet (if any)?
The way the Internet is evolving already and being embraced by modern society as almost the main form of communication can only be a positive. It has opened many doors, educated a million minds, gave exposure to those in need and provided a voice for an entire planet. We can now choose who we listen to and who we choose to get our information from, be it the President, the local news station or a Kardashian, which is something previous generations never had access to. I feel like this can only be a blessing as every individual is different, we all think and act differently and we now all have an equal platform to speak from and can build our own audiences like never before. The Internet is like a marriage, for better or worse, we're together.