Continuing our theme on social media and forgiveness, we highlight a NY Times Magazine article this week: "How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco's Life".
The highlights in case you missed it as it unfolded:
Justine Sacco was 30 years old, a NY'er, and senior director of corporate communications for IAC. Flying on her way to South Africa to meet her family, and clearly punchy from dozens of hours of airports and airplanes, she engaged in a series of dopey tweets like this: "Chilly- cucumber sandwiches- bad teeth- Back In London!" There was another one complaining about the body odor of a German gentleman in first class, and then finally, as she boarded her flight to South Africa and the last leg of her trip, the tweet that changed her life (for the worse) forever: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get Aids. Just Kidding. I'm White!"
By the time she landed, her twitter account was the number one trending account on Twitter world wide. Her phone had blown up. A high school friend she hadn't heard from in years texted her "I'm so sorry for you." The Twitter-universe arranged for other tweeters to be at the airport and snap pictures of her in the terminal. In short order she was fired, shunned, and pretty much had ruined her professional career in the blink of an eye.
It was a stupid tweet, no doubt. But what happened to her, and the magazine article lists a few other shocking examples of social media wreaking people's lives, should cause anyone to think twice before ever tweeting or posting anything on Facebook beyond a picture of a puppy and a kitten sleeping together.
Who amongst us hasn't put their foot in their mouth? We remember that intense argument that unfolded in front of a federal judge a decade ago where in the heat of the moment we blurted out (to the judge) "just shut up for a moment"!. Whoops. The judge was a friend and actually leaned back in his/her chair and laughed and we took a break and of course we apologized and life went on.
But what if a media outlet was covering the case and went with the headline on Twitter or Facebook "Lawyer tells judge to shut up!" ?? Would we have had to face that reputation in court for the next decade or so?
Isn't our authoring of this blog enough to wreck our professional reputation when we reveal ourselves ?(To recap, we have agreed to reveal our identity upon appointment to any court at the level of the 3rd DCA or higher, win the lottery, or retire, resign from the Bar, and move out of state. Don't expect a revelation anytime soon.)
Like our previous post on the Brian Williams saga averred, there is a vicious and perverse pleasure people take in using the anonymity of the internet to destroy other people for the slightest comment, tweet, or post, that does not completely conform to the norms of our social ethics. It's why we had the foresight to start this blog anonymously several years ago.
So be forewarned. That Tweet about the size of someone's ankles, that Facebook page relaying the stupid joke you heard in the bar ten minutes ago after your fifth shot of tequila, may well end your career. Something to think about.
No court tomorrow.
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