Freedom of speech but not consequences
By: Duncan McArthur
A Detroit police officer, Starbuck barista, and a church outreach minister have all been fired after making social media posts. These instances show that people can lose their jobs for posting comments on social media. This relates to millennials because according to the Pew Research Center, 94 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 use social media.
There is a difference between the first amendment’s freedom of speech clause and freedom from consequences.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (1st amendment of the Bill of Rights. Ratified 1791)
“Employers still have the right to do that because it's like the same thing as saying something stupid in person, that’d be discriminatory or something towards somebody else, so they do have the right as your employer to lay you off,” said Deidra Mullins, a sophomore criminal justice major at Wright State University.
This misunderstanding can result in employees being terminated from their jobs. Some people have gotten fired for posting a racist statement, insulting Trump voters, making fun of children, posting semi-nude photos, and blaming women for the school clothing ban on social media.
David Baxter, a mass communication professor at Wright State University, believes there is a simple solution to not getting fired.
“I would just simply say if someone gets all worked up about something --- step back, take a deep breath, count to 10, and take a timeout. Take a mental timeout before you go lashing out and before you start spewing things at people, stop and think what you’re saying and what the consequences might be,” Baxter said.
For some people, Baxter said it’s not simple to decompress, especially regarding topics like politics.
“The only thing I ever see online that sometimes I’m tempted to put my two cents on are if I see a story online on one of these news websites. And you have the comments, but the thing is if you read those comments it’s amazing to me how quickly it degenerates into just name calling and gets completely off the topic about what the story’s about. It’s kindergarten all over again,” Baxter said.
CheatSheet.com lists the seven most common reasons that an employer fires someone.
A survey was conducted using 30 people based off CheatSheet’s seven categories. The majority of subjects expressed little to no concern about their social media activity and shared a post, meme, photo, or some other form of data on social media while at work.
Another mass communication professor, Dr. Jennifer Ware, said companies are often strict regarding their employees’ social media.
“For a corporation or any business, it’s really important employees are respectful and one of the hardest things is when you get a new job they have paperwork that you have to sign and it talks about how you agree to abide by the mission and core values of the company,” Ware said. “The mission and the core values of a company are really important and folks who work for a company, anything that they post online they need to be responsible so that the company isn’t impacted negatively and this is a standard thing that’s in a lot of contracts.”
Ware also gives another suggestion about how people can use social media more intelligently. “So really taking a look at your own social media, especially things that are outdated or are from a couple years before, maybe take a look and see, do those items represent who you are,” she said.
The website Gizmodo provides tips about how people can increase their privacy on social media platforms. The article explains how users on Facebook can change your visibility settings and make it harder for people to find you. There are also settings on Instagram and Twitter which allow you to make your profile private.
Reducing your social media footprint might not be enough to protect your online privacy. According to Ware, some employers request their employees’ social media passwords which would then allow them to see their employee’s private messages and other personal information.
In this digital age it is so convenient and easy to comment or post pictures given the sense of anonymity the internet provides. The First Amendment prevents the government from censoring individuals’ opinions. It does not however, prevent someone from facing the consequences of what they say.
Social Media Use:
Every other day 1
Few Days 2
Very concerned 2
Somewhat concerned 10
A little concerned 6
Not concerned 12
Reasons for getting fired:
Social Media Use Respondents
Engaged in a political debate 36.67%
Shared confidential information 26.67%
Complained about your job 13.33%
Posted something stupid on behalf of your company 6.67%
Shared memes, gifs, pictures, posts, 63.33%
or other similar things instead of
Posted pictures of you engaging in 6.67%
an illegal activity or drunk photos
from work gatherings
Job searching while at work 16.67%
30 subjects took surveys asking the respondents how frequently they used social media, how concerned they are about their online behavior, and seven categories based on CheatSheet’s list.
Reasons for being fired Respondents
Illegal activities 53.33%
Salacious Content 16.67%
Controversial Commentary or Posts 53.33%
Unprofessional Material 50%
Distracting Behavior 6.67%
Violation of privacy 6.67%
Thirty individuals participated in this survey and respondents were allowed to write down more than one answer as their response.
Illegal activities: Photos or posts involving drug abuse, underage drinking, or other blatantly illegal actions or behaviors
Salacious Content: Content which is sexually suggestive.
Controversial Commentary: Statements which are related to sensitive topics such as race, religion, and politics.
Drama: Saying things online or posting pictures which disrupt workplace harmony.
Unprofessional: Acting in ways which might make the company look bad.
Distraction: Sharing memes, posts, or using social media while at work.
Violation of privacy: Uploading sensitive information about an employee’s company online.