As Facebook continues its Orwellian endeavor to monitor and infiltrate the lives of everyone on Earth, I grow closer and closer each day to deleting my own account.
Unfortunately, it commands such a presence within my demographic (not only by age, but also by profession—I’d be hard pressed to find coworkers who don’t have a FB acount) that I feel unable to get rid of it. Some of my associates who I contact regularly either a) are so ingrained in Big Blue that it’s pretty much their only form of communication or b) I have no other means of contacting them—either it was lost to time or never provided to me in the first place.
It is this chronic presence of social media, Twitter pictures, mobile updates, etc. within the fire service that I’m concerned about. It’s already bad enough that the citizens we protect can be all too litigious without warning; but if you spread something stupid around the internet, it’s certainly lights out for your career. Both the higher-ups and the general public can get you into more hot water than you thought possible.
Here’s a quick timeline of Internet-based screwups, just from 2010:
February 11th, 2010: South Carolina firefighter/paramedic Jason Brown posts an animated short film which he created using xtranormal.com (a site where you can make various characters interact with dialogue and actions of your choosing)—the video in question depicted a conversation between a firefighter and a doctor. The Colleton County Fire/Rescue Director ruled that “[Brown] displayed poor judgment in producing a derogatory video depicting a member of this department with a physician which is implied to be at Colleton Medical Center.” Amidst several allegations—not the least of which was outright racism—Brown was dismissed. His appeal process was unsuccessful, and he was escorted to his station to empty his locker while his officers watched over him.
“I felt like a criminal,” he said.
Source: WCSC News / Charleston
July 17th: A 23-year-old female is involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident in Spalding County, Georgia. Responding firefighter Terrence Reid filmed the accident scene and the victim’s body with his cell phone, then passed it around to friends at a bar. After the video hit the internet, it didn’t take long for the victim’s father to learn of the video that contained graphic footage and firefighters’ conversations describing his daughter’s mangled body.
Reid has since been dismissed, for various charges including lying to his supervisors about the incident and conduct unbecoming a public officer.
October 1st: A Florida firefighter awakens from a nap to find an unusual picture on his laptop computer. While he slept, a coworker had exposed himself and stood… unnecessarily close to the sleeping man, then uploaded the picture where the napper would certainly find it. FireGeezer reported more back in late October.
(Note: while I see that the issue is more about complaints of repetitive hazing amongst the High Springs Fire Department, it’s just an example of the kind of stupid uploaded photo that can get you in some serious trouble. )
October 27th: Austin, TX firefighter Alejandro Garza is placed on indefinite suspension without pay due to the discovery of nude photos he had posted online earlier this year. In the “profile” area of his account, he had included information that revealed him to be an Austin firefighter. Despite arguments that he had posted the photos in 2006 and had since “taken them off the internet,” a second complaint indicated that he had posted additional photos as recently as August.
Source: El Paso Times / El Paso
November 4th: A Canadian paramedic has been fired over a Facebook photo that showed people “having fun,” said an anonymous source. Spokesmen for various agencies (including unions representatives and county officials) refused to give details, as it may compromise investigations. However, Brian Gregg, the chief administrative officer for Essex County, said that “an employee would not be fired simply over a photo posted on the Internet, though a picture could lead to an investigation.”
“It’s not the photo itself. It’s the investigation that comes of it, if someone is conducting themselves in a way that’s inappropriate, based on either our employee code of conduct or our technology-use policy.”
Gregg also stated that Essex does not enforce nor does it have a social media policy, although it urges employees to be “judicious” in their use.
Now, I’m not advocating that everyone trash their social media accounts and hermit themselves up with no virtual communication—far from it. I will continue to use Facebook and Twitter, and all of you will to. My only suggestion is that everyone be careful with what gets posted. The second you hit “post” or “send,” it’s all out of your hands.Go back and delete it all you want, but remember: a bad decision on the internet is like herpes.
That shit never goes away.
P.S. – BusinessInsider put up two great features regarding everyone’s Facebook use; take the information for what you will.
Edit: TheHappyMedic posted his own take on the matter today, venturing more in-depth into an interesting double-standard out in his neck of the woods. Head on over if you haven’t seen it—take it all together and let us know what you think!