If you haven’t already heard the shocking, sad tale of Taylor Chapman, who recently accomplished this, here it is (minus its coarser details).
Chapman, a 27-year-old Dunkin’ Donuts regular customer, and, ironically, a commercial-video spokesperson, unwisely posted, on Facebook, her profanity-laced, racist-fueled and ultimately self-destructive 8-minute video that got her fired by her South Florida boss, online, in a retaliatory video, after a torrent of online and voice mail condemnations. (Warning: the company video is also profanity-laced.)
The lurid details and condemnations are everywhere on the Net. The fire(her!)storm her video and behavior triggered has even spread to The Daily Show, where she was mercilessly roasted, in an equally vivid, livid skit.
Overnight, she became “the most hated person on the Internet” and poster child for self-sabotaging employees, as a direct result of the venomous, seething, self-indulgent and utterly miscalculated tirade sparked by her outrage. Outrage over what?
1. Not having gotten a receipt with her late-night Dunkin’ Donuts purchase
2. Having been told to wait until the next day to collect on the Dunkin’ Donuts guarantee of a free meal as compensation for an unissued receipt
3. Alleged “attitude” from the counter server handling her purchase.
At this point, further condemnation of her behavior and video is neither necessary nor constructive. Having allegedly “gone into hiding” and having erased as much of her trail on social media as possible, Chapman has, without a doubt, gotten the amply-made online-community, media and employer’s message.
What is much more useful is to identify, in a general way and as a cautionary tale, the kinds of background factors, motivations, thinking and risks associated with such an egregiously failed cost-benefit calculation that can cost not only one’s current job, but also future career opportunities.
A Guide to Getting Fired Online
As a warning and an analysis, here is my “how to get yourself fired by and on the Internet” guide:
1. Claim rights, deny obligations: This blunder is responsible for much of the incivility, narcissism, selfishness, self-entitlement and maybe even much of the violence of modern life (e.g., manifested in the exercise of someone’s self-perceived right to have your Nikes or iPhone—not just like yours, actually yours, with no offsetting obligation).
Instead of seeing rights as but one side of a fair coin, balanced by corresponding equally important obligations on the flip side, anyone growing up now or in the past twenty years has been bombarded with the culturally approved message that a fair shake and fair toss require a one-sided coin stamped “my rights”.
As one’s inflated sense of entitlement expands without apparent limit, patience, gratitude and empathy tend to disappear into some black hole of and in the soul.
That’s what appears to have made Chapman’s rant so natural, so right—a matter of “natural rights”, e.g., for a replacement meal on demand, pure and uncontaminated by any notion or awareness of corresponding equally natural obligations, e.g., to be at least civil, maybe even understanding.
Ask yourself this: When, if ever, was the last time you heard or read a mention of the “natural obligations of man” in any discussion, e.g., of Thomas Paine, John Locke, the French or American revolutions, the Bill of Rights and, most importantly, of the “natural rights of man”?
Google it (in quotation marks)—you’ll find at least 798,000 results for “the natural rights of man”. “The natural obligations of man”?
“The natural duties of man”?
2. Confuse notoriety with fame, celebrity and community: If you want to get fired and maybe sued or even jailed, ignore the difference between being famous, celebrated and being notorious. To increase those odds, also confuse these with community.
That’s a lesson now incarcerated, heavily-fined and sued Vancouver hockey rioters are learning after videos of them committing assaults, robberies, firebomb vandalism, etc., in 2011 were used to finger and arrest them.
Because few of us still live in villages or even small towns, whatever sense of community and community acceptance and validation that may have once existed for us is sorely, if even only unconsciously, missed, leaving a void poorly filled by “celebrity”.
Fundamentally, celebrity is the state of being familiar to and shown respect by a large percentage of the population; offered unstinting hospitality by many of them; being a target of envy, gossip and sought favors; and feeling that we “matter” to others, including those who barely know us. Reread this list. Think, “village”. Now think, “Brad Pitt”.
Hence the pervasive, sometimes deadly insistence on “respect” from strangers on city streets, far from any village, among whom are those ready to shoot us for “dissin’’” them.
Insecure with whatever validation their failing “community” can offer, they will demand or extort it—or exact revenge if they and you fail.
Completing this perversion and extension of community, celebrity itself has been broadened to include notoriety—fame for doing something awful.
Hence, there is blanketing obliviousness to how utterly different community and notoriety are, among those who expect “community” in-group support for doing something rotten.
Looking for fame, celebrity, “justice” and a sense of community through notoriety may, through a horrible irony and to your dismay, thrust you into an online community much larger, much more aware and much less forgiving of you than any village—and force you to look for another job.
3. Ignore the difference between quantity and quality (of YouTube views, Facebook “likes”, tweets, etc.): Chapman gleefully warned the Dunkin’ Donuts’ staff that her “surveillance” video would be going “viral”, unmindful of the full and natural implication of the term: exponential and potentially deadly growth.
That blissfully naïve personal equation of boundless growth with bounty is a reflection of the deeply entrenched “bigger is better”, “gigantomania”, “growth-is-good”, GNP growth fixation of modern economies, societies and cultures.
Somehow, we have come to believe that quantity is good, no matter what its quality or amount, even when it should be abundantly clear it is not.
“I can’t wait to post this on Facebook!”, Chapman exclaims in the video. This kind of thinking (to the extent that any occurs), fixating on anticipated quantity, recklessly and delusionally equates it with quality.
If you want to get yourself fired, get fired up about racking up a huge Facebook or YouTube pinball score, without questioning the wisdom of the game or what the score really means.
“Can’t wait”? If only she had.
4. Mistake your Facebook page for the observable universe: Social media are supposed to be media, conduits and bridges of communication, not self-contained, self-absorbed 2-dimensional social universes that obscure or replace the rest of the world and the people in it. When that is not understood, it becomes easy to imagine that not only is the world flat (as a screen)—as ancient erroneously mariners thought, but also that it is populated only by “friends”—people (who) like us—on our Facebook page.
That’s a very dubious and dangerous assumption—not to mention sloppy statistical analysis, given the non-random, selectively screened sample of heavily biased and filtered Facebook friends on which it’s likely to be based.
5. Watch and mimic too many Jerry Springer re-runs and other “reality” shows: Maybe we should blame CNN and other news networks for incessantly asking, “How do you feel?” rather than, “What do you think?” Nah. Blame Jerry Springer and his live family feuds and brawls for elevating heat so far above light that an “argument” has come to mean only one thing, not two—war.
Now, letting the world know how we feel seems to be widely regarded as so much more important than either thinking more about what we feel or whether we should be feeling it in the first place. It certainly has become more important than thinking about or of the feelings of others—unless making them feel pain is what we’re thinking about.
The upshot is that “honesty” has been reduced to or at least glorified as the emotional bullet to the heart, at the expense of the more thoughtful light shone on the mind.
So, if you have some unfulfilled kamikaze need to vent rather than think, negotiate or empathize, go the Springer route—and, if you can’t do it on TV, do it on your own show, on YouTube or Facebook.
6. Fail to grasp the difference between the “privileged perspective” of a video and an imagined “perspective privilege” of the video maker: iPhones and other recording devices are easily misunderstood. The misunderstanding at issue here is to think that because they offer a privileged perspective (that of whoever is doing the filming), they also confer a perspective privilege, namely, to lay indisputable claim to absolute truth and self-righteousness.
It’s as though filming is self-validating—in two senses: The video is seen as validating its own content and therefore also as validating the video maker.
To believe that is to imagine that the uniqueness of the video proves its “truth” and to confuse the privileged unique perspective with some presumed privileged knowledge.
That is tantamount to forgetting a genuine truth: Just because it’s all in your camera doesn’t mean that what it means isn’t also all or mostly in your head (case).
Forget that, and you will be one step closer to stepping onto a global stage and falling off a career cliff.