Step 1: Drunk tweet
As any Spring Break partier knows, drinking impairs your judgment. It seems to have also impaired the judgment of Major League pitcher-turned-sports-radio-host Mike Bacsik, who put on quite a show during a San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks NBA game in April 2010. While watching the game, Bacsik bragged that he was "About 12 deep and some shots." He proceeded to unleash a string of insults aimed at NBA commissioner David Stern, accused the refs of fixing the game, and even threatened to blow up the NBA's offices. But the one that really got people riled up came after the Mavericks lost the game, when Bacsik tweeted:
@MikeBacsik: "Congrats to all the dirty mexicans in San Antonio."
After sobering up, Bacsik deleted the offending tweets and issued an apology. But it was too little, too late. Numerous people complained to his radio station, which first suspended Bacsik and later fired him. After his dismissal, he told ESPN Dallas, "When you tweet like that, it's not a playful, harmless thing… I'm very sorry and will try my best for my actions to speak louder than my tweets."
Step 2: Break the law (or just anger your governor)
Twitter has become a great tool for politicians to connect to the voting public. Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, for one, has really embraced the technology as a way to share his opinions and views. For example, in December 2009, he sent out a tweet saying:
@HaleyBarbour: "Glad the Legislature recognizes our dire fiscal situation. Look forward to hearing their ideas on how to trim expenses."
Jennifer Carter, one of his Twitter followers who worked for the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMC), read this message and offered up a suggestion on how Governor Barbour could personally save the taxpayers money:
"Schedule regular medical exams like everyone else instead of paying UMC employees overtime to do it when clinics are usually closed."
This "Oh, snap!" moment referred to an incident that had occurred three years earlier, when the governor requested the medical center open on a Saturday, when they were normally closed, and bring in a staff of 15-20 people who were paid overtime to administer his annual check-up. This happened before Carter worked for UMC and she was simply repeating what she had been told by other employees.
The governor's office tracked down Carter and made a formal complaint to UMC, saying Carter had violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a privacy law that states no employee of a medical facility can reveal any information about a person's "protected health information." Some argued that Carter didn't violate HIPAA, since she didn't actually give out any information about the health of the governor. However, others believe that simply saying the governor had even visited a doctor is a violation.
Semantics aside, UMC administrators said it was a violation, so they suspended Carter for three days without pay and strongly suggested she resign to avoid further disciplinary action, which she did.
Step 3: Have an NSFW lifestyle
St. Louis-based blogger "The Beautiful Kind" had been writing online about her polyamorous sex life for years. Knowing that not everyone would agree with her chosen lifestyle, she was always very careful about maintaining her anonymity, especially when it came to the workplace. So when she signed up for Twitter, she wanted to be anonymous there as well. She thought that, thanks to the similarities between the two, it was like signing up for an online message board — you supplied your real name to the website privately, but could choose to be known publicly by your username only. But when she logged in for the first time and saw that, not only did it show her username (@TBK365), but also her real name on her profile, she immediately went back and removed it.
Thinking she was now safely anonymous, she used Twitter to promote her blog and to discuss sexually explicit topics with her followers. However, when her boss at the non-profit group where she worked was told by upper management to do a Google search of all employees, TBK's Twitter account information — with her real name still associated — came up on the Twitter tracking site topsy.com.
The next day, TBK was called into her boss' office and fired on the spot. Afterwards, her former boss sent her a letter saying, "While I know you are a good worker and an intelligent person, I hope you try to understand that our employees are held to a different standard. When it comes to private matters, such as one's sexual explorations and preferences, our employees must keep their affairs private." Because Missouri is an at-will employment state, meaning employers can fire someone for just about any reason, TBK was SOL.
Step 4: Question company policy
When California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) traded in their standard white shirts for black ones, employee Tim Chantarangsu wasn't happy with the change. So he tweeted @calpizzakitchen his opinion:
@traphik: "black button ups are the lamest s**t ever!!!"
He didn't expect anyone to notice or care, but the next day he received a direct message from corporate asking what restaurant he worked for. He knew better than to respond, but they tracked him down anyway and he was fired. They not only referenced his tweet about the shirts, but also an earlier one where he had said he was getting ready to work at "Calipornia Skeetza Kitchen."
Little did they know that Chantarangsu is kind of a big deal on another social website, YouTube. Under the name TimothyDeLaGhetto2, Chantarangsu has hundreds of thousands of subscribers, accounting for over 10,500,000 views of his videos at the time. Of course he made a YouTube video telling his Twitter story and it has been viewed well more than 100,000 times. Shortly after the incident, he asked his followers to bombard CPK's Twitter account with RTs (re-tweets) of his offending message, which they were more than happy to oblige.
Step 5: Make a celebrity look bad
During his five years on the job, Jon Barrett-Ingels had served a lot of celebrities as a waiter at Barney Greengrass, an upscale restaurant in Beverly Hills. One day, Jane Adams, star of the HBO series Hung, came in and had lunch to the tune of $13.44. Unfortunately, when the bill came, Adams realized she had left her wallet in the car. Ingels knew who she was, so he told her she could run out and grab it and come back. The actress left, but didn't return. Instead, someone from her agency called the next day and paid the bill. However, they didn't leave a tip. Ingels had recently signed up for Twitter and so, his sixth tweet to his 40 followers said:
@PapaBarrett: Jane Adams, star of HBO series "Hung" skipped out on a $13.44 check. Her agent called and payed the following day. NO TIP!!!"
Over the next few weeks, Ingels started using Twitter to send out a few harmless observations about celebrities that came in to eat — mainly what they ordered or what they looked like that day. Then, out of the blue, Jane Adams came back to the restaurant. According to Ingels' blog, she was clearly upset and begrudgingly slapped $3 on the bar for Ingels as a tip. Surprised, Ingels told the actress she really didn't have to do that, but her gesture was appreciated. She allegedly replied with, "My friend read about it on Twitter!" before storming off. Adams complained about the tweet to management, so someone from Barney's corporate started following Ingels on Twitter to see what he was up to. After reading his celebrity tweets, it didn't take long before they gave him the boot.
Step 6: Don't get hired in the first place
If you've followed steps 1 – 5 and you still have a job, here's the ultimate way to make sure Twitter will keep you from gainful employment.
When recent college grad Skye Riley heard back from Cisco, the computer networking giant, about her job application, one of her first instincts was to tweet about it. Unfortunately, this is what she tweeted:
@theconnor: Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.
The unfortunate part? An employee of Cisco, Tim Levad, came across her post while doing a Twitter search for Cisco. He replied to her by saying:
@timmylevad: Who is the hiring manager. I'm sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.
Riley's story was the tweet heard round the world. It became a hot topic on tech blogs for weeks afterwards, with writers calling it the "Cisco Fatty" incident. She later claimed that the tweet was taken out of context — that part of her message was referring to a well-paid internship she had turned down — but it appears the damage had already been done. While only she and Cisco know what really happened, according to her online resume, she has never worked for the company.
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