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Bad Judgment + Technology = Big Mistake

Ann All

D'oh. Once again, technology makes it easier than ever to turn a snarky remark into a life-altering mistake.

 

Less than a week after the Philadelphia Eagles fired a part-time stadium worker for an unfortunate Facebook status update, an incident that earned attention here and elsewhere in the blogosphere, most of it from folks who thought the Eagles overreacted, a Twitter user posted a similarly unfortunate Tweet.

 

In it, the user (who appears to be a Berkeley student named Connor) alerted all in the growing Twitter universe that she was mulling a job offer at Cisco even though the work wouldn't appeal to her. In her words, she'd have to "weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work." She got a rapid and curt (it's Twitter, after all) response from Cisco employee Tim Levad, who ominously told her the hiring manager "would love to know that you will hate the work."

 

He also pointed out (somewhat unnecessarily, I thought) that Cisco employees tended to be a pretty tech-savvy bunch. Thus a good number of them use Twitter. Hadn't this occurred to Connor? (She apparently has since taken her Twitter account private. Similarly, the fired Facebook user changed his privacy settings.)

 

The incident certainly proves the viral power of the Internet. You can get the rundown here from Hutch Carpenter, the blogger who first wrote about it. Highlights include appearances on Reddit and Techmeme and a huge spike in traffic on his blog. "Cisco fatty" became a meme, and some opportunist even created a site called ciscofatty.com, complete with Google ads. You can't buy this kind of publicity, and companies that try sometimes end up wishing they hadn't.


 

Carpenter nicely illustrates how even seemingly smart people like Connor (who was sharp enough to get offered a job at Cisco in this crummy economy) develop a "false sense of privacy" on public (or semi-public, depending on your settings) channels like Twitter. He writes:

 

... Public tweets are not e-mail. Twitter search and the retweet protocol make anyone's tweet accessible everywhere. With Twitter, you have to keep your guard up. It's unfortunate, but I look at it as a small price to pay for the self-expression, learning, interacting and connecting you can do via Twitter. The thing is, I'm sure every few minutes someone somewhere tweets something that crosses the line of propriety. The vast majority of these are never known. But as this case shows, the potential is always there.

 

Though clueless middle-aged types like me aren't as prone to these types of gaffes on Facebook or Twitter, I bet darned few of us haven't hit the "sent" button on an e-mail and almost immediately wished we hadn't. (Unlike Connor's experience, if your boss is on a CC list, you know he or she will see it.) So, thanks Google, for introducing a fabulous Gmail feature called Undo Send.


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