At this point in 2018, we’re all too familiar with the never-ending list of political figures, Hollywood celebrities, high-profile athletes, public figures who have been fired for what they said online. After all, public outrage is easy when there’s a reputation to burn. However, what’s also worth looking at is the less high profile yet just as important social media firings that keep cropping up on local news stations across the country, ensuring we factor in accountability for the people who sign on to keep us safe.
Accountability matters. Here is a small sample of folks who have been fired from the past few months…
A Louisiana cop was fired for having social media ties to a controversial (read: white supremacist) group known as the “Proud Boys”.
An Oklahoma nurse came under fire for creating a Snapchat story disparaging Native Americans.
A Detroit rookie cop was terminated for comparing private citizens to “zoo animals” on Snapchat.
A food service worker was fired in Missouri for posting a racist video claiming to go “n——r hunting.”
A Milwaukee cop was fired after publicly dragging a high-profile basketball player he’d helped arrest the night before.
A South African nurse was fired after posting victim-blaming comments concerning a high-profile rape/human trafficking case on social media.
Two Dunkin’ Donuts employees were fired after filming themselves dumping water on a homeless man.
Why these jobs and not others?
It’s interesting that these occupations keep popping up on our radar more frequently than all the others, which got us thinking—these careers (when performed well) require tremendous amounts of empathy and interpersonal communication with the public. It could very well be that because individuals in these fields are constantly attending to people in weakened or less-than-exemplary states, their tolerance for poor behavior—and therefore the likelihood of behaving similarly—increases considerably.
Think of it this way: if an off-duty law enforcement or healthcare professional were to say the same things they were fired for saying online at a barbecue within earshot of their boss, they’d probably be disciplined if not fired altogether. The only difference is that all context is lost when something like that is posted online, which leaves any real account of circumstance up for speculation.
We know that law enforcement, healthcare, and food service are difficult jobs that often get fewer thanks than they deserve. It can be challenging when the job gets rough to keep your cool. That’s fair, and we should all be practicing healthy ways to blow off steam, but there is never an excuse for venting demeaning slurs or violence online.
Conclusion: It’s easy to scream online. Don’t do it.
A sweeping trend we’ve seen resonating across social media this year is all about social media as an outlet for frustration or outrage. These aren’t unreasonable emotions online and are a large part of why companies like Yelp, Angie’s List, or Rotten Tomatoes exist. When something strikes an upsetting nerve or we feel unjustly treated, it’s hard to hold ourselves back when hitting “post” is just too easy.
However, the reality is that these public online forums keep a record of what we do and say. What we choose to share online is a direct representation of how we choose to act in public, a distinction that many fail to make online that can come with real-world repercussions. So, the next time someone has mistreated you and you need to just “get it out”, consider that what you say online is a public space. If social media has become the proverbial town square, then it follows that people should be subject to the same ethical standards for public civil discourse as they would be in person.
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