The dangers of unprofessional tweeting

Béibhinn Thorsch

Is it fair for people to lose their jobs over unprofessional tweets?

When someone says something they regret or says something the wrong way, it can be quickly explained to the small group of people who may have heard it and then it can be forgotten. It’s becoming more obvious that this isn’t the case when it comes to the written, or typed, word.

Recently it was Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, whose name was put into the spotlight. Musk is known to go big or go home, and has just been sued for libel for calling British caver Vernon Unsworth a “pedo” and “child rapist”. Unsworth had helped rescue 12 Thai kids and their soccer coach, earlier this year.

While Unsworth is seeking to “punish… (and) deter him from repeating such heinous conduct”, recently Musk has come back under fire for more online comments. It seems that Musk has not changed his approach to the way he handles his own social media.

Mentions of pedophilia have always been difficult to take with a pinch of salt due to their dark nature. While Musk’s tweets were made earlier this year, recently the filmmaker James Gunn has come under fire for tweets where he made jokes over a decade ago on the same topics.

“I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago;” Gunn said as part of his apology. Gunn’s apology feels genuine and gives real reason behind his actions, but most importantly tells how he’s changed.

It’s important to consider how maturity may change accountability for actions, and how someone can grow to really understand their wrongdoings where they may have found it difficult before.

“The message is very clear, especially to women at the company: if Reddit wants you fired, we’ll fire you,” Jessica Price, a narrative designer for video games. Price said when she made a comment to someone who had replied to a post she made on Twitter, which subsequently riled up a large group of video game fans.

Both Jessica Price and James Gunn experienced huge personal losses from the backlash of their Tweets. While Elon Musk has not experienced huge losses so much as he has experienced huge negative press, he has recently resigned as chairperson of Tesla after some online comments (which turned out to be false) about making Tesla private.

While these events were on a much larger scale, it’s not unheard of for ordinary people to experience consequences for things they have said or done online.

Now that the world has evolved so that we have a life online, it makes full sense for our online actions to carry equal consequence for actions performed offline. Meaning the more our technology evolves, so to does it’s ability to affect our lives, personal and professional.

The biggest difference is only the amount of people who have first-hand access to evidence of these actions. Our actions are still our actions, so the consequences remain so.

Béibhinn Thorsch

Image Credit: Alison Clair