Before boarding the over 12-hour flight to South Africa, Justine’s excited fingers tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I am white!” Boy, she never imagined in her wildest dreams that the entire world would await her landing in South Africa (#HasJustineLandedYet), while re-tweeting her tweet thousand times over!
The damage unfolded quickly; Justine notoriously became the biggest racist on Planet Earth; media hounded her down everywhere; she was bashed by strangers from countries she’d never heard of; her entity was removed from her employer – IAC’s website; her twitter account lost all traces from earth (Note: InterActiveCorp, is a media conglomerate that owns a huge chunk of world’s social media / media platforms namely the Daily Beast, Vimeo, About.com, Match.com and Ask.com, OkCupid, Tinder, CollegeHumor, and Dictionary.com). The irony is that Justine was hired by IAC as their Communications Director, with Crisis Management as one of her skills as listed on LinkedIn!
Well meaning intelligent souls re-directed the Justine Sacco traffic to a new webpage called www.justinesacco.com, and to the donation page for Aid for Africa to again…ironically end Aids in Africa.
Trivial as it may sound, the incident is yet another eye-opener for us – the trigger-happy folk on Twitter and Facebook. This incident is particularly important because it has highlighted the importance of empathy even especially for those associated with the International Development sector, and the important of “think-before-you-type” for everyone!
That bar “What’s on your mind” get’s us all now, doesn’t it? Is it not tempting to write something whenever you see that bar? I once updated, “Alone at home. I miss my husband.” Some stranger commented, “What are you suggesting, lady? Should I come and entertain you?” I guess it was a learning lesson that not everyone needs to know when I get in the shower and get out of one – neither my hubby nor potential stalkers.
So how can we avoid our “Justine Sacco” moment, which can propel us to notoriety?
- Think before posting – Thinking for “5 seconds” before posting “what is on your mind”. Re-reading what we write before hitting POST!
- Don’t post when angry – Never – never – never post when you are angry. Nothing good can come from an angry rant.
- Check privacy settings – Checking our privacy settings every now and then is critical. Perhaps we do not want “friends of friends” see our updates. Remember “Friends of friends” are strangers. Creating different groups such as “Friends”, “Family”, “Acquaintances”, and “Restricted” and allowing only closed family and friends have access to our posts and pictures.
Being popular on social media platform does give a sense of fulfillment about ourselves, but can also lead to all kinds of unnecessary drama in real life. People have complained of stress, depression, social envy and isolation. Facebook’s “News Feed” is still the best source of news for many people, so keep it sensible, positive and happy for the most part.
Lastly, there is a life outside Twitter and Facebook. We are constantly glued to our smart devices, and sadly forget appreciating the blue skies and the birds chirping. Remember the last time you did that? Spend less time being connected to the virtual world, and connect a little more to the real world.
The International Business Times published a list of all the most terrible tweets from top firms and execs. May we all learn and grow from the experiences of others!
- Justine Sacco’s Tweet About AIDS, Africa Is The Craziest Thing You’ll See Today (huffingtonpost.com)
- Read Justine Sacco’s statement about the tweet that got her fired (dailydot.com)
- Fired PR exec apologizes after AIDS tweet row (modernghana.com)