So far, Donald Trump has proved to be one of the most controversial presidents of the United States of all time, if not the world. Despite the millions of American voters who opted for Clinton and his discourteous tweets both during and after the election, Trump — today — stands as one of the most powerful and influential people in the world. But that is not always the case. Unless you are a successful businessman who makes billions from real estate and has made cameo appearances in television series and movies, you won’t be able to get away with his tweets and still become the president of your country. Let’s hope this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that old, rich white men are the most privileged group of people in America. For us ordinary people, one reckless tweet can not only block our chances of being presidents, but it can also provoke our employers to lay us off our jobs.
In December 2013, Justine Sacco was fired from her job as a PR consultant for posting a tweet that was deemed racist. Just before boarding a flight from London to Cape Town, she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It was her last tweet before her plane took off and during her 11-hour flight, the tweet got famous with hundreds of re-tweets and negative feedbacks (inspiring the trend hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet). Huffington Post suggested that maybe her twitter account was hacked, but after further investigations (going through her previous tweets), it was proven to have been an unlikely theory. Upon landing, Sacco was devastated to have received an email from her firm, releasing her of her duties. She tweeted from Cape Town that she had lost her job because of the aforementioned tweet.
A couple of years later, Sacco was interviewed by Jon Ronson, a British writer who was working on his book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, where she was quoted as saying, “I’m single; so it’s not like I can date because we Google everyone we might date. That’s been taken away from me too.” A year later (after dinner and a couple of margaritas), Sacco and Sam Biddle, the journalist who made Sacco’s tweet viral became friends and he issued a public apology on her behalf, saying, “Anyone working on any endeavor needs someone smart enough to tell them to just shut up, which is why Justine Sacco is the most qualified person in her entire field,” he writes in his apology, “She has the expertise of ten lifetimes when it comes to dealing with bad press. She survived a genuine personal crisis. She’s unkillable and smart, and she will tell you to shut up, idiot, it can’t get any worse.” Today, according to Ronson, Sacco has a job in communications, but “she wouldn’t say where.”
Like many singers before her, Azealia Banks ruined her own career all on her own. We’ve heard of celebrities who killed their careers due to drugs (Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan and poor Amy Winehouse) and others who’ve recovered from drug addictions, such as Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. But for Azealia, it wasn’t drugs or alcohol abuse – at least as far as we know. It was social media and the freedom of speech it guarantees. The 25-year-old has used her social media platforms to personally target, belittle and discriminate against other artists, including Iggy Azalea, Eminem, T.I. (yes, even him), Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and the queen herself, Rihanna. She went from calling Rita Ora so thirsty, accusing her of climbing “over the wall of my dancers’ dressing room to snap photos” to calling Rihanna an immigrant.
But it all ended for her when she went after ex-One-Directioner, Zayn Malik, when he publicized the video of his song ‘Like I Would’. She claimed the video was inspired by her and began firing racist comments towards the Pakistani young male artist. In this rant, she called him a “sand n**** who emulates white boys’ renditions of black male hood” and also calling him a “curry scented b*tch” This led to a whole new twitter fight with then-14-year-old Skai Jackson (who was just standing up for Zayn) and needless to say, everyone was in support of little Miss Jackson and it took only a few hours for Twitter to suspend Banks’ account. She letter released a lengthy apology, but you can’t put a band-aid on a broken bone now, can you?
In early 2017, Banks came back with more racist jokes, but on Facebook this time. She first released a video ranting about Brazil and as if that wasn’t enough, she posted, “I didn’t know they had internet in the favela. When are all these third world freaks going to stop spamming my page with broken English over things they know nothing about.” Facebook — like Twitter — banned her too. What’s she doing now? Well, in March 2017, she was sentenced to anger management classes, as a result of punching and biting a nightclub’s security guard. Her music career has gone down a downward spiral, to say the least.
But does it depend on the nature of your job or the number of people who got offended by your tweet? Do your employers fire you because they feel that your tweets reflect the kind of person you are and that person does not respect the values of the company? Or are they simply releasing you of your duties because your followers on Twitter — possible consumers of the company’s goods and/or services — are angry and are likely to demand less of the company’s goods and/or services? Are they afraid that the consumers will opt for a substitute good and/or service from another company? Can you come back from your stupidest tweet ever?
If you’re Donald Trump, yes you can be president. But otherwise, just be careful what you post on social media because just as a simple tweet can make you, it can break you as well. Is that racist tweet really worth your job? In the new age of social media, tweeting stupidly in order to gain likes and retweets is the new norm. But with a career than can be destroyed in seconds, it will only benefit us to think carefully and read our draft multiple times before posting anything. Remember: once you put something out there, a thousand apologies can neither justify ignorance nor turn back the hands of time.
This piece was first published by Peacockplume.fr on February 25th, 2017.