How One Football Star Exposed the Workplace Hazard that is Twitter

It’s startling to think that a six-foot one-inch, 230-pound football star can be undone by 140 little characters, but that’s exactly what happened to Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson. Upset by his team’s poor performance, Johnson lashed out against his coach in a hate-filled Twitter post that got him suspended and then released by the team. It’s the most high-profile instance of something people have been murmuring about for a few months, being fired for tweeting.

To be fair, no one came to Johnson’s defense after he used a homophobic slur on Twitter to refer to his coach. But it’s just the latest example of how a little discretion should be considered online, especially if your workplace is involved in any way.

Prior to Johnson, the most widely-publicized example of online expression bringing an unceremonious end to someone’s employment was a Beverly Hills waiter named Jon-Barrett Ingels. Apparently Ingels took to the internet to tell everyone about some of the actors he had served, leading to his untimely dismissal. But Twitter-related firings have been surprisingly common in the political realm as well.

 A senior official in the Florida GOP was canned for using Twitter with a more malicious intent. Tim Nungesser, director of the party’s field operations in the state, started a fake Twitter account to discredit  Jason Steele, chairman of the Brevard County GOP and a vocal critic of Florida’s Republican leadership. He was quickly canned by the party.

This past summer, the DC Department of Employment Services fired David Le after reading his uncouth tweets. A contractor hired to work with city youth in a summer jobs program, Le used his Twitter account to refer to the areas he worked in as “ghetto.” “If I get scared, I will just yell Chinese carry-out,” he tweeted. “They will not shoot me.”

These other stories made some waves in local news, but Johnson’s fall from grace could be the first national warning that buyer beware when looking to express yourself online. No first amendment arguments here, Twitter can hurt your career if used irresponsibly.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Saying no is hard. These communication tips make it easy.

You can say 'no' to things, and you should. Do it like this.

  • Give yourself permission to say "no" to things. Saying yes to everything is a fast way to burn out.
  • Learn to say no in a way that keeps the door of opportunity open: No should never be a one-word answer. Say "No, but I could do this instead," or, "No, but let me connect you to someone who can help."
  • If you really want to say yes but can't manage another commitment, try qualifiers like "yes, if," or "yes, after."
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less