Fired by social media
By: Jim Longworth
In May of this year, comedian Roseanne Barr tweeted some racist remarks in a late night rant which she later blamed on having taken Ambien. (Fact check: Ambien makes you sleepy, not racist.) Regardless of her intent or her lame excuse, Roseanne’s tweet was inappropriate, and it set social media ablaze, with calls for ABC to fire its biggest star. Within hours, the network had sent Barr and her hit T.V. show packing.
Increasingly today, people write and do stupid things on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and when they do, there are often severe consequences. It is not just for big celebrities, but for us regular folk as well. Take the federal contract worker who gave President Trump the middle finger as his motorcade was passing by. She posted her dirty digit antic on Facebook, and was fired shortly thereafter. Or how about the North Carolina waitress who was recently fired for going on Facebook and calling out two customers by name for stiffing her on the tip. Then there was the Mecklenburg County teacher who tweeted to her friends how much she hated having to work in, “the most ghetto school in Charlotte.” (businessinsider.com) That teacher no longer complains about the school she works at because she no longer works at any school. Meanwhile, Lydia Price, a reporter for people.com recalls a man who went on a Facebook rant about immigrants, only to learn that the owner of the company for which he worked, was a recent immigrant. Not surprisingly, the ranting man was fired. And, Rolling Stone magazine tells of a daycare worker in Newport News who was fired for going on social media and making fun of the kids in her care. Whether a mega-star like Roseanne, or a relatively unknown daycare worker, it is becoming more and more common for these kinds of insensitive people to lose their jobs because of social media. In fact, according to CareerBuilder.com, nearly 20 percent of employers say they have fired people for something they posted on social media. Clearly, these people have no one to blame but themselves, but there are cases where someone is fired by social media for something that someone else posted. Case in point, Adam Bloom, a caucasian former executive with Sonoco, who also formerly served as chairman of the Glenridge Neighborhood community swimming pool in Clemmons. As chairman, one of Bloom’s responsibilities was to make sure that only residents had access to the pool. Over the Fourth of July holiday, a pool-goer reportedly asked Bloom to check on the residency status of Jasmine Abhulimen, an African American woman who had been relaxing by the pool with her child. Bloom approached Abhulimen, who then began video taping their verbal exchange. At some point, police were called by Bloom, and the responding officer calmly resolved the situation. Among other things, the four-minute video reveals that Abhulimen was the only person singled out by Bloom that day, even though she was a resident of Glenridge and had a key card that had allowed her access to the pool in the first place. We also hear Abhulimen asking Bloom to apologize for racially profiling her, but he refused. Winston-Salem Journal’s Sarah Newell reported that the video went viral with approximately 5 million page views, and Sonoco was inundated with demands for Bloom to be fired. The social media crowd got what they wanted, and within hours, Bloom no longer had a job at Sonoco.
Clearly, mistakes were made at the Glenridge pool that day. For one thing, there was no sign-in protocol being used. For another, when Bloom was asked to check on Abhulimen’s residency, he could have gone around the pool and asked for an I.D. from everyone. Finally, he refused to apologize for embarrassing Abhulimen. Still, two questions remain. Is it fair for someone to lose his job because he showed poor judgement in handling an incident that occurred away from his workplace? Should social media mobs act as judge, jury and executioner in deciding the fate of someone based on a short video? I watched the four-minute video several times, and I didn’t like how Abhulimen was singled out. I’m also not sure what was in Bloom’s heart, or if he harbored any ill-will toward Abhulimen. What I am sure of, is that a social media mob can’t know those things either. No doubt video postings can serve a valuable purpose when examined in the proper setting, but too often they only serve to incite. Bottom line? Before we help to take away someone’s means of support, he deserves a fair hearing, not just a social viewing.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).