Facebook Post Leads to Firing… Again

You’ve heard it again and again— “be careful what you post on social media”. Or at least that’s what I thought everyone knew.

In another social media disaster, an employee of Atlanta-based Polaris Marketing Group was recently fired for a post on Facebook. What’s interesting about this situation, however, is that the post itself was not technically the issue at hand. A seemingly harmless selfie of a young, white male employee with a coworker’s black toddler led to multiple racist comments on the post insinuating that the employee, Gerod Roth, was the boy’s slave owner or that the photo was an ad to help feed a “poor child today”. While originally the photo would not have been controversial, Gerod’s friends’ comments in combination with his response led to the public outrage over the photo.

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The comments themselves are disgusting and extremely inappropriate but in theory, Gerod could have been completely unattached to these hateful words. Instead, when someone commented “Dude where the hell did you get a black kid??” Gerod decided to respond, “He was feral.” Gerod ended up being fired two weeks after the incident and although a statement from the company said the dismissal was unrelated to the social media post, this is hardly believable.

In today’s age of going viral, Gerod and his friends were another example of the lack of respect and thought put into social media posts. Although Gerod deleted the post, all it took was one screen shot for his entire life to be exposed to everyone. There is never an excuse for racism and to exhibit it so blatantly on social media is frankly asinine.

While this was far from the first time I heard about a social media post gone incredibly wrong, I was especially enraged by this event because of how young the child in the photo was. A completely innocent three-year-old child became the target of racist and utterly false comments. Gerod’s suggestion that the child was “feral” insinuated that he did not in fact have a loving caretaker who watched after him, fed him, and protected him. In reality, the young boy has a wonderful and caring mother. Raising a child and holding a job, the boy’s hardworking mother was viciously implicated in this ordeal. In addition, the truth is that the boy is a beloved visitor of the office and often spends his afternoons in PMG’s President’s office after attending daycare in the morning.

In yet another lesson for both employers and employees, social media posts really do matter. Gerod Roth has effectively ruined his employment prospects for the near future and now unfortunately Polaris Marketing Group has a stain on its reputation as well. While the President’s harsh statement against Roth and its lack of association with him was helpful, they will still always be that company associated with this story. I, for one, had never heard of the marketing firm prior to this story but now if I ever do hear news about Polaris Marketing Group I will immediately think back to this event.

Another big takeaway from this story, which relates to social media but also to life in general, is to be careful with the type of people you associate yourself with. Clearly Gerod Roth did not associate himself with good people and ultimately their actions are what caused this social media event to blow up. Had Gerod only posted the photo and there were no comments, everyone would have taken the photo for exactly what it was—a goofy selfie with an adorable little boy. Ultimately Gerod’s comments revealed that the photo was not so innocent after all, but this would never have been such a big event without all of the comments from his friends. Gerod’s friends shouldn’t even be involved with his professional life let alone with his company, yet now they have effectively hurt both.

As frequent as these unfortunate events are, I am still appalled each time I come across another. Word to the wise, THINK before you post on social media… and while we’re at it, racism sucks too.

11 comments

  1. Hi Rebecca, very cool post with a clear, strong and important take-home message. You’d really think that after all the horror stories already having made it through the press and the social media sphere people would have learned a lesson or too. But nope, plenty still haven’t learned to think first, post second, and to add a bit of commonsense to your online behavior. What makes this story especially tragic, as you point out, is that it’s not even exactly Gerod’s fault, but that of the people he surrounded himself with. Although, I suppose he is at fault for not monitoring he feed and the comments, since FB allows you to remove posts from content you posted. Also interesting here is the negative implication for Polaris, showing how far-reaching simple, mindless actions on SM can be.

  2. Great post, Rebecca. I think there are a lot of issues with Gerod’s post and I completely agree that his friends acted in an inappropriate manner. A lot can be said about the company we keep and although we can’t control the actions of our friends, their behavior online is a reflection of who we are. Your blog also raises another issue that people rarely think about – posting pictures of other people’s children without their permission.

    @christinebcmba hit the nail ont he head – think first, post second, and always have common sense!!

  3. Hey, Rebecca! I really like the points you make regarding this tragic story!

    Social media is a powerful tool to communicate and convey messages, but what’s more, it’s a double-edge sword held in our hands. You post actually reminds me of one post I saw last week. It talked about how a picture shared on social media showing a McDonald’s employee assisting a disabled customer with his meal allowed costumers to take control of branding messaging. And of course, McDonald’s benefited from it by rebuilding up its healthy image that takes good care of costumers. However, in this case, Gerod Roth’s inappropriate words damaged not only his own image and career but also the company in which he’s employed.

    As a matter of fact, Gerod has completely ruined his employment prospect in the near future by posting only a few words on social media. His tragedy makes me think further that what we should do to protect our career on the social media level. Besides never posting inappropriate words, I take the tip from others that make sure you’ve properly managed all your social media accounts before applying for any positions in a company or communicating any prospective employers. Some people may argue that they’ve already owned professional social accounts, such as LinkedIn’s, and they’re willing to separate their career from the life. However, the fact is that you may have capability of separating one from another, but social media just mix them up.

  4. I’m not sure what’s more amazing, the fact that Gerod’s friends are such a–es or that the best three-letter reply to them he could come up with was inappropriate enough to get him fired over a picture that in reality is utterly harmless. Either way, Gerod did not choose wisely.

  5. A very insightful post! It’s very interesting to see the impact of those that you decided to network with could have on your personal or professional life. Some of the individuals who decided to comment on the picture could not even have been close friends of Gerod or even friends at all, but once he decided to accept their friend request on the platform they were granted a slight control over how he is perceived by others. More likely than not, they actually are good friends of his and they all share a racist mindset, but I think it is super interesting to consider the ramifications of “friends” you don’t actually know commenting things like this on your page. It’s also a shame that racism is still prominent in 2015.

  6. We see these issues come up again and again so it is hard not to wonder why people are still making the same mistakes. Oftentimes I think people believe that their behavior on social media will just slip through the cracks due to the massive amounts of content online. I am sure that many times employees do get away with it. However, with the amount of people who do get reprimanded, you would think stories of this would be a lot less commonplace.

  7. I totally agree with @allisonridge. None of the angry feedback as reaction to a racist post on social media is a surprise anymore. Even being fired for something said on one’s facebook page isn’t surprising anymore. What’s surprising is that people still haven’t realized how ubiquitous social media is, and how easily inappropriate comments can go viral.

    Takeaway message here, which I think everyone nailed in the comments (and in the blog itself), use common sense. And if you don’t have any, don’t add your colleagues on your social media sites.

  8. This shows why people need to be responsible on social media and even monitor their friend’s activity. Although this man’s post was not racist, his friends created an issue on his page. While companies are investigating the social media presence of their employees, people need to monitor their online footprint. I think it is good for companies to monitor their employees online activity, because Gerod’s situation can bring negative press to companies.

  9. I actually just saw this picture today when I was online and had no idea it led to this guy’s firing. It still amazes me that people believe they can post whatever they want on social media without realizing that it can influence their offline lives. Jobs are lost, relationships become destroyed, and people get hurt from what is seemingly “innocent” online in many cases. What happened as a result of the picture was unacceptable and I hope that people who read the story can learn to use social media smarter.

  10. I read about this. What’s interesting (although I don’t quite believe) is that the worker claims to have been fired as a result of what his friends wrote on his FB page. I think one still does harbor a certain amount of responsibility for what one’s friends post, as he could have just deleted the offending image.

  11. This was a very thoughtful blog post. My new mantra is double check text and triple check pictures. It is one thing to post the picture but Gerod’s comment “he was feral,” was very inappropriate. I don’t think Gerod had any control of his friends’ response and he was better of in deleting the picture. His action of responding surely brought some negative publicity to the company by association. I am of the opinion that folks should not take and post selfies at work simply because it is a distraction that takes away from work performance. Gerod’s firing is another example of why we must be careful of what we post. Check this story out http://news.yahoo.com/couple-release-a-bit-too-much-information-on-their-140027199.html?soc_src=mediacontentstory&soc_trk=tw
    This is another example of being careful of what you post online.

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