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Twitter can get you fired in 140 characters or less

by | Mar 23, 2009 | Social Media, Twitter | 0 comments

The ‘it’ social networking tool of the hour streamlines your humiliation
By Helen A.S. Popkin
Why waste valuable social networking hours getting yourself “Facebook fired,” when Twitter allows you to humiliate yourself quickly, and in 140 characters or less?
A recent tweet by one would-be Cisco employee proves that when it comes to placing a permanent black mark on your resume via the Internet, Twitter is now the tool of choice. To illustrate, here’s the tweet the now Web-infamous “theconnor” shared with the world:
“Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”
It wasn’t long before Tim Levad, a “channel partner advocate” for Cisco Alert, shared this open response:
“Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”
Was “theconnor’s” job offer rescinded? Nosy netizens have yet to suss that out — but they’re doing their darndest to make “theconnor’s” life miserable in the meantime. It didn’t matter that “theconnor” almost immediately set his Twitter account to private and deleted all information from a home page. It was already too late.
This social networking comedy of errors spread like dancing hamsters across Twitter. In the retelling, “theconnor” earned the nick, “Cisco Fatty.” Before the work day ended, Web sleuths revealed “theconnor’s” true identity. “Theconnor” was lampooned in a popular YouTube meme. And thanks to Google Cache, the deleted content of “theconnor’s” homepage resurfaced on, a Web site erected to commemorate this cautionary tale.
Even if the good folks at Cisco somehow see their way past “theconnor’s” monolithic lack of inner monologue, there’s a lesson here: The Internet can get you fired.
Unfortunately, it’s also a lesson even people apparently smart enough to get offered a “fatty paycheck” are incapable of learning. So let’s review: The Internet is not your BFF. Everyone has a “My boss sucks” moment. But the prudent know to express this sentiment away from the keyboard because they also have the “My boss knows how to use the Internet” sense they were born with.
“Cisco Fatty” and all those who came before, and those who will inevitably come after, are breaking the cardinal rule of the Internet: Never post anything you wouldn’t say to your mom, boss and significant other. Alas, if that message hasn’t sunk in by now, it never will. And thanks to Twitter further eroding the wall between your big mouth and a moment required to download some good sense, the Internet is now empowered to get you fired faster than ever.
It’s like virtual Darwinism. The “Cisco Fattys” of the world are damned by their own senselessness. It’s only a matter of time before each they stumble on the Twitterific platform of their ruin.
It almost makes one misty for the early era of Web 2.0, way back when getting yourself “Facebook fired” took a couple of days following an unfortunate post  … or at least a couple of hours, before your co-workers, boss, friends and/or family caught on. Sigh.
Who doesn’t have fond memories of the Sean Colvin Halloween Pixie Fail of aught-eight? He’s the young man who took time off work for a “family illness” only to turn up in a time-stamped Facebook photo at a costume party in full fairy regalia.
Why it was just last week Philadelphia Eagles stadium employee/football fan Dan Leone lost his job of six years for this overzealous complaint posted to his own Facebook profile that read:
“Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver … Dam Eagles R Retarted!!”
Sure Leone’s got a potty mouth and his inability to spell an archaic adjective is unfortunate, but that’s no reason to fire a guy — especially a guy so passionate about his employer. It’s not like “theconnor,” whining about Cisco’s “fatty paycheck” and hating the work.
Whether unfairly “Facebook fired” in the past or “Twitter fired” in the future, what’s fair won’t change the fact that you didn’t think before you posted, and now you can’t pay the rent.
Internet culture smarty pants Clay Shirky speaks of a day in the not-too-distant future when human resources departments will have the wisdom to look beyond social networking faux pas — at least in some small part because by then, everyone will have made at least one.
One only need look to the government to see this may already be happening. The government, where Twittering through the president’s speech to Congress results in nothing more damning than a perturbed mom pointing out to Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. that such behavior is simply rude.
In the government, even compromising the security of a Congressional delegation in Iraq via Twitter is no biggie. Back in February, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., tweeted this as-it-happens update regarding his group’s location and destination:
“Moved into green zone by helicopter Iraqi flag now over palace. Headed to new US embassy Appears calmer less chaotic than previous here.”
Such a status update on old-timey Facebook wouldn’t have been nearly as potentially deadly. Happily, it seems, guys who may wish America ill weren’t following Pete’s feed. But I bet he’s getting a good ribbing from his fellow Congressmen for that one. As the Cisco Internet meme demonstrates, sometimes the possibility of losing a job (or your life) may not be as painful as the humiliation that ensues.
Another government guy who failed to get fired for his Twitter blab might agree. In early February, Jeff Frederick, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, thwarted his own party’s Congressional coup with this tweet:
Big news coming out of Senate: Apparently one dem is either switching or leaving the dem caucus. Negotiations for power sharing underway.
Unfortunately Frederick never figured the Democrats were following his feed, and said negotiations were quickly quashed. While this historic loss of Republican power may mean Frederick’s eating his lunch alone for a long long time, Frederick still has his job. and like “Cisco Fatty,” he’s experienced one inalienable truth: Live by the social, die by the social.