Social Media Assisted Career Suicide, a term coined by my friend Dave Statter, struck again yesterday. A PR executive getting ready for a long flight to Africa tweeted; “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Ugh… She then gets on her flight, oblivious to the pile of crap descending on her head and Twitter account during her loooonnnnggggggg 12 hours of in-defensibility.
During that time, the “tweet heard ‘round the world” blew up her Twitter feed. She only had 500 followers when she made this epic mistake. But, shortly thereafter thousands of others started following her, undoubtedly to let her know how they felt about her comment, and peruse her Twitter feed for other stupid past comments.
I can’t imagine her shock and feeling of helplessness as she turned her smartphone on after landing. Summarily fired by her employer shortly after touchdown, she posted a humble apology, admitting she made a huge mistake in judgment, and then dumped her Twitter account.
Interestingly enough, another epic lapse in judgment in using social media did not have the same outcome. Steve Martin, you know, one of the “Wild and Crazy Guys!” made a similar stupid mistake within the past couple of days. The difference is he deleted the tweet and apologized on Twitter within minutes. Even so, his faux pas spread across the internet at the speed of light, but yet didn’t make CNN headlines. Perhaps he is getting the benefit of the doubt because he is a comedian. Who knows? But, we all know it wasn’t funny.
I’m not defending these epic lapses in judgment. I’m the last person to throw rocks in a glass house. I’ve made my share of stupid comments, and have offended more people than I care to admit (just ask my wife). More often than not it was because I was trying to be funny or witty with people I felt comfortable with. Awkward titters, rolled eyes, groans and stony silence usually let me know immediately that I screwed up. Often, a simple and immediate statement of apology and change of subject was enough to salvage the conversation and allowed everyone to move on. Steve Martin may have benefited from this as well. The sooner you know you screwed up, the sooner you can take try your luck at making amends.
Unfortunately for the PR executive she didn’t have the luxury of time in reacting and retracting. Instead, her reputation and career slowly plummeted from 35,000’. Fortunately for us, we can all learn from this. Never get too comfortable communicating on social media, because;