Could You Get Fired For Your Social Media Behavior?

You might want to rethink tweeting about that coworker you can’t stand, or venting to your Facebook friends about how much you hate your 9-5. Recently, the world watched Roseanne Barr lose her job after a racist tweet she sent out. The comedian later blamed it on Ambien, which resulted in a pretty sick burn by Ambien's social media manager. This is only one of many incidents of employees being fired due to their poor social media decisions, and many having fewer followers than Roseanne’s whopping 688,000. These are some of the other people that didn’t think before hitting ‘Post’ and lost their job because of it.

  • Justine Sacco thought it would be funny to joke about getting AIDs before hopping on a plane to South Africa. She was actually the senior director of communications at media company IAC. Ironic?

  • Mike Bacsik former MLB pitcher drunk tweeted “Congrats to all the dirty Mexicans in San Antonio” when the San Antonio Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks in 2010. (Hint: He wasn’t a former MLB pitcher when he sent the tweet.)

  • Cameron Jankowski a former Taco Bell employee shared a photo of himself peeing on a nacho order. Um, ew.

  • James Kennedy ran to Twitter complaining about low wages at Chipotle. He was later let go after inquiring about shift breaks but came back to sue Chipotle for wrongful termination and won.

So where does the line fall between what is appropriate for social media, and what will cost you your job? Where do First Amendment protections run out? Unfortunately, there isn’t a definite answer to those questions, but there are some things you can do to make sure you’re protected.

Read The Policy

Some jobs will have stricter social media policies than others. In any case, it’s a good idea to read them, even before getting the job. As of 2017, 70% of employers screen potential job candidates through social media before hiring them. This is a 10% increase from 2016. If you’re going through the application process for a new job and you’re unsure about your social media history, you should go private. Going private isn’t a surefire way to protect yourself, but it’s a start. If you've gone private, go through your followers with a fine-toothed comb to ensure you’re protected from potential screenshots.

Add a Disclaimer

It’s always a good idea to specify that your opinions are not the beliefs of your employer. On Twitter, professionals do this by adding something along the lines of “All thoughts are my own” in their bio. You are allowed to have a voice and you are allowed to share your political beliefs, as long as you’re not discriminatory or misrepresenting any institution you’re affiliated with. If you do think discriminatory thoughts: 1) Don’t. 2) Definitely, don’t share them. 

Think Before You Post

Remember when your mom used to say 'Think before you speak?' It's the same concept. The bottom line is, you have to think before you post. How would my boss, coworkers, and peers perceive this? Is this appropriate? Is this an act of activism, or a rude act of irrationality? If you think it might cross the line, odds are it probably does. It is possible to maintain your professionalism while sharing your thoughts on the internet, and yes you’re still allowed to share those funny memes and have a sense of humor.

Everything you post represents you, so if you’re okay with everyone on the world wide web knowing, post away! Otherwise, you might want to keep it to yourself.