Posting your opinions and updating your social media feeds on what you are doing has become a daily task for most millennials. The Internet is often viewed as an outlet where people are able to express their opinions with the safeguard of their screen. Many people do this without hesitation or think about the consequences that can follow. A study done in 2014 found that there are an increasing number of employers that turn to social media networking sites to find additional information on applicants. Another survey from CareerBuilder showed that 51% of employers found content that resulted them in turning down a candidate. Posting content that includes provocative photographs, drinking/drug use, discriminatory comments in relation to race, gender, religion and criminal behavior often prompt employers to take the candidate out of their consideration. Moreover, a survey done by Jobvite in 2014 revealed that 66% of hiring managers would hold poor spelling and grammar against applicants. Although the Internet is a virtual space, there is no doubt that this virtual reality leads to real life consequences.


[Source: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/ImageGallery/ImageDetails.mspx?id=a7d43098-9d32-4fff-87f4-8ba6ed2fb20e]

To examine this, we can take a look at Justine Sacco’s case where her twitter post became highly publicized in 2013. Before boarding her flight to South Africa to visit her family, Justine Sacco tweeted ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!’.


[Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2527330/Blonde-female-PR-executive-tweets-Going-Africa-Hope-I-dont-AIDS-Just-kidding-Im-white-causes-international-outrage-likely-fired.html]

During her flight, her tweet went viral which resulted in the launch of the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet. Many people were outraged and angry with her racially charged ‘joke’. By the time Justine landed, there were thousands of angry responses  that resulted in one Twitter user going to the airport and live tweeting her arrival.

Along with a picture he took, he posted ‘@JustineSacco HAS in fact landed at Cape Town International. She’s decided to wear sunnies as a disguise’.


[Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/22/pr-exec-fired-racist-tweet-aids-africa-apology]

Sacco, a PR executive for IAC (a major media company) had no idea what was coming for her. Moments after her arrival, her offending Tweet and Twitter account were deleted- but the damage had been done. The Tweet had caught the attention of her employer where it was later confirmed that she had been fired as a result. One representative stated ‘We take this issue very seriously, and we have parted ways with the employee in question.’ Consequently, a tweet that may have only taken 30 seconds to write resulted in Sacco’s career suicide. With such a highly publicized tweet gone viral, many would wonder whether Sacco would ever land a job. The answer is yes. After months of hiding out, Sacco landed a job at another PR company where the name of the company has remained unidentified. Needless to say, the simplest of tweets can have the biggest consequences

Justine Sacco’s case is one of hundreds of people who have suffered the consequences of posting something on Internet. It is important to remember that the Internet is a very public space where anyone can access information that is posted. You can almost say that there is a watchtower surveying your every move. You can delete an inappropriate post but there is a high likelihood someone has already seen it. However, having a social filter is easier said than done. Social media has become so intertwined and embedded into the social being of people that they tend to forget what is appropriate to put out on the Internet.

Moral of the story- If you are going to post something risky on the Internet, prepare to suffer the consequences. You can set your social media profiles to private but remember, there is always someone who knows someone, who knows you. Whether the post was yesterday, a week ago, or a year ago, there is a funny way of how they always come back to haunt you.

About The Author

June Li
Social Media Specialist

York University graduate, majoring in Communication Studies and Anthropology. Moved from Hong Kong to Toronto as a young child. Consumed by social media and real estate. Loves festivals, food and Netflix. Wanderlust at heart.

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