Social Media Assisted Career Suicide Syndrome

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One of the blogs that I used to read just about every day and plan to start reading again is “Statter 911.” There is a link to Dave Statter’s blog over on the side bar.

Dave is the person who came up with the highly appropriate and accurate phrase that is the title of this post.

It’s a great term for the stupidity that some people display on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms.

Which more and more are turning into anti social media platforms.

They also enable the Cancel Mob to ruin a persons career and life with a high rate of efficiency.

It doesn’t matter that a person posts a 2 second video clip of someone doing something that looks bad, but isn’t

It doesn’t matter that a joke gone bad can ruin someone’s life and even that of their family.

It doesn’t matter that a bad Tweet can not only cost you your job, but that of your parents, siblings, spouse, or even your kids.

The current political climate is to punish first and then look at the evidence later on, if ever. Once ruined it’s nearly impossible to regain your reputation. It’s so hard that a cottage industry has popped up to help people salvage their business, reputations, and lives which have been ruined by bad publicity.

Search the term “Reputation Restoration” on your favorite search engine and see the results.

If you run a business, a few bad Yelp reviews can ruin it. Or a rant on your Facebook page for that matter.

If you are employed by any government agency, even your off duty, private (or so you thought) comments can be used to terminate you. The magic phrase for that is that your comments “undermined the public’s confidence that you would carry out your public duties without bias.”

Think about that. You make an off the cuff comment at a party about, let’s say Black Lives Matter. Someone over hears you and takes offense. They know who you work for and the next thing that you know you are being accused of potential (not actual) discrimination against a protected class.

And you are fired for it.

If you think I’m making that up, then you might want read this article. Note that it’s from 2011, so the situation is definitely worse now. While that article covers public sector employees there is some mention of private sector employees as well. Almost all police officers and the vast majority of fire fighters are government employees. Some EMS providers also work for government agencies, so there is wide application in EMS.

That’s a long article, but this quote is significant,

In determining what sort of First Amendment rights government
employees should enjoy when they are off duty, the distinction
between speech “as an employee” and speech “as a citizen” is
ultimately not as useful. Employees do not stop being citizens when
they are at work; likewise, they do not stop being employees when
they are not. Furthermore, it does not help to compare off-duty
government employees to off-duty non-government employees.
Outside of the government context, private employers can discipline
their employees for their off-duty expression with impunity, absent a
state-statutory or constitutional requirement to the contrary. In that
way, employees for private employers are always employees in terms
of the precariousness of their speech rights. They enjoy the robust
speech rights of citizens only vis-à-vis the government. The problem
is that for public employees their employer
is the government.

On or off duty, public employees represent their government employers to some extent. Speech that undermines the public’s trust in the ability of the agency to fairly and without bias fulfill it’s duties can result in discipline, up to and including termination.

Some years back a police officer was fired (actually allowed to resign) from his job for allowing a stripper to have a picture taken sitting on the hood of his police cruiser. That was bad enough, but he lied about it when confronted by the chief of the department.

He likely would have been suspended for the picture, but then lying about it when the picture had already been published was just the capper on that escapade.

This isn’t particularly new as Dave identified SMACSS as far back as 2011. It’s just got worse since then.

Here is a post of Dave’s from three weeks ago. Notice, it’s not just rank and file or lower level employees. Even chief level employees can add to the stupidity.

And the SMACSS pandemic grows with 11 more cases

How is it that there are still people in the fire service who don’t get the concept that what you say on social media can come back to bite you? Raise your hand if you don’t know this yet.

Last week we brought you ten cases. Here are 11 more incidents of Social Media Assisted Career Suicide Syndrome (SMACSS). Of the 21 cases, 14 involve chief officers. There’s a clear trend here when two-thirds of the people getting into trouble are chiefs. I get that it’s a difficult and emotional time. But you won’t make it any better jeopardizing your position in the fire service by sharing those emotions publicly.

My former agency came out with it’s policy back in 2010. It was simple.

1) No pictures of anything while on duty.

2) No texting or posting while operating a department vehicle.

3) No posting of any ongoing incidents while on duty.

To my knowledge, that hasn’t changed. Oddly enough, there was no policy about writing blog posts while on duty. Then again, if management knew that I was writing posts during those lulls in action while I was working, they’d have come up with a new rule, I’m sure.

Facebook is good for posting and viewing cute pictures of grand kids and pets, and catching up with old friends. It’s also good for looking at pictures of old ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars. Even at that, there are useless Facebook groups like “Dinosaurs of EMS” full of old fools who think that “Mother, Jugs, and Speed” was some sort of EMS how to movie.

If you’re in EMS, your best route is stay away from social media. On or off duty anything you post can (and likely will) be used against you.

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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.

2 COMMENTS

    • As you know probably better than I, when you sign on for a government job of any kind, you forfeit some rights. Unfortunately, various court decisions have expanded those forfeitures beyond the intent of the Framers.

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