This week Gilbert Gottfried was fired by Aflac for a series of distasteful jokes that he posted to his Twitter account. Gilbert served as the voice for the famous Aflac duck for over ten years, an incredibly lucrative and high-profile gig in the world of voice-overs, and in the span of 48 hours, this social media blunder derailed his entire career.
Reading over his tweets (which you can find here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-10-worst-gilbert-gottfried-tsunami-jokes), other famous social media blunders come to mind:
- Former MLB pitcher-turned-radio host Mike Bacsik was fired for a racist tweet declaring, "Congrats to all the dirty mexicans in San Antonio" after a Mavericks-Spurs game. He tweeted an apology the next day but was still fired from his radio gig.
- Vanderlei Luxemburgo, a manager for Brazilian football team The Palmeiras was fired after he took a spat with one of his players to Twitter. "Keirrison didn't show up to training," Luxemburgo wrote. "He also didn't give me any explanation. If he isn't sold he won't play for me again."
- Caitlin Davis, a cheerleader with the New England Patriots, was fired over photos she posted to Facebook. The photos show Davis and a friend leaning over a passed-out boy whose entire face and body were covered in anti-Semitic and explicit drawings.
- Pennsylvania sociology professor Gloria Gadsden was terminated after writing ""Does anyone know where I can find a very discrete hitman? Yes, it's been that kind of day..." on her Facebook wall. A month later, she wrote, "had a good day today, DIDN'T want to kill even one student :-). Now Friday was a different story." Gadsden, who had only just started her Facebook account, only had 32 "friends." She said she was unsure how her messages wound up in front of her superiors.
- Chrysler fired the social media firm it hired when one of their employees accidentally posted to the Chrysler twitter account rather than his personal account "I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to (expletive deleted) drive." Though the tweet was deleted, the Detroit Free Press says the original post was retweeted by several people on the popular social network, including Twitter user @tverma29, making it impossible to erase from the Web.
The list goes on and on. Several people who faced repercussions for their online postings did not seem to fully comprehend just how public their data was, and others failed to recognize social media's ability to blur the line between their work and home lives.
Social media is a double-edged sword; one that can bring down tyrants, launch careers, and on the flip side, be the demise of professional and personal relationships. Here are five tips to make sure your online reputation stays flawless:
- Get a second opinion - If you are maintaining a blog or Facebook/Twitter account for professional reasons, always check with a colleague to ensure your posts can in no way be perceived as offensive or unprofessional. And always double check that you are posting to the right account.
- Don't post while angry or under the influence - Have a friend hide your phone, lock yourself out, take a day or two to calm down - just don't post when you can't think straight.
- Resolve conflicts face-to-face - Or on the phone, or using any private medium that cannot be documented. The Brazilian manager's actions were not only damaging to his career, but also an ineffective approach to conflict resolution.
- Remember comedy doesn't always translate online - Comedy that works in stand-up doesn't necessarily work online. Sarah Silverman and Chris Rock have certainly made many offensive jokes in their careers, but because they made them in performance environments where the audience clearly understood that their comments were for entertainment purposes only, they were not blacklisted.
- Keep it classy. Keep it professional - Don't write anything online that you wouldn't feel comfortable having your parents/boss/spouse/potential employers reading. Even if you think you have an anonymous profile, cache archives and technological loopholes can still allow those who seek information about you to access it.
I will leave you with this video created by an employee who was suspended from Best Buy for his popular iPhone vs. EEVO cartoon videos that Best Buy claimed would upset their shareholders: