Fired for Facebook, by Eric Rodriguez

Eric Rodriguez is the voice of The Millennial View here at Management Excellence. You can follow Eric on Twitter @mvieweric for more on the millennial perspective.

I like many other Millennials love social media. If I didn’t have a Facebook account, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with old friends, post pictures of a party, or find out if someone I met was single. Facebook is fun, but there are Millennials and many others that are oblivious that social media could cost them their career.

Dan Leone is the perfect example; he was a stadium operations manager for the Philadelphia Eagles, and in 2009 when he found out that his favorite Eagles’ player, Brian Dawkins, signed with the Denver Broncos he posted this on his Facebook page:

“Dan is

[expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver … Dam Eagles R Retarted!!”

(By the way, the spelling errors are Leone’s not mine.)

The next day management found out about Dan’s comments and told him they were letting him go to “Denver or Oakland or maybe Pittsburgh.” But, they really didn’t care how he would get there because Dan was to be terminated immediately for his offensive remarks about the Eagles and people with mental disabilities.

Dan’s termination illustrates this decade’s newest form of corporate dismissals – Facebook firings.

There are people in my generation who think “What happens on Facebook stays on Facebook.” Someone actually told me this and I responded with, “It’s all fun and games – until someone gets fired.”

Every tweet, every picture, every webcast, could be saved, copied, or pasted away for further reference that can bury a career or reputation  – I’m thinking of you Charlie Sheen.

I’ve seen profiles with pictures that look like a Jersey Shore party, people who use language that makes them sound like Eric Cartman, and I’ll never forget when a past acquaintance sent me a friend request. Their photo was a mug shot.

(Editor’s note: If you don’t know who Eric Cartman is, you’re probably not a Millennial. I had to look him up. He’s a fictional character on the cartoon, South Park.)

I understand that many in our generation were teenagers when social media hit and many of us felt comfortable posting whatever, whenever we wanted because nobody thought that one day an employer or university we wanted to go to would look at our online profiles. We were so wrong, everyone looks at Facebook: admission counselors, employers, bosses, coworkers and my mom.

I predict that in this decade and beyond irresponsible use of social media will be the end of many careers, promotions, political aspirations, and marriages.

This may sound harsh, but it’s true, and it has happened.

That’s why posting dumb stuff on social media has become the equivalent of getting drunk at the office party, downloading illegal files on an office network, hitting on the boss’s daughter, or surfing for porn at work. No career professional in their right mind would do these things if they wanted to keep their career and project a positive image, so it irks me when I hear stories of people who could have avoided being fired if they would have used their brains when posting content on the web.

I’m a child of the digital age and an early adopter of social media and I use extreme prejudice in what I post and say when I’m using it. I love my Facebook and Twitter, but I also know that if it’s not carefully used it could be a liability that affects my personal and economic well-being.

I hope the majority of Millennials and other social media users recognize that responsible use of social media can mean the difference between a great career and a bad one. Use your social media wisely and you’ll be rewarded, but make a mistake and you’ll make life difficult for yourself and your professional future.