For the current generation, social media throws a unique challenge. While it was developed on the basis that it could provide people a platform to voice their opinions, the very factor of personal views has become a problem. Now, even though you put up a line saying views expressed are personal, it may not be perceived as one and could force your employer to fire you from your workplace.
Such instances have become very common nowadays, especially after the Capitol riots on January 6 when many pro-Trump protesters lost their jobs for posting pictures from the rally, even if they had not broken into the Capitol building. Now, a New York Times editor has lost her job for a pro-Biden tweet that attracted widespread criticism from the conservatives.
Lauren Wolfe, an editor of the Live section of the NYT, tweeted on January 19, "Biden's plane landing at Joint Field Andrews. I have chills." She followed it up with a tweet that criticized the outgoing Trump administration for not providing a military plane for Biden to come to Washington DC. While she deleted the second one after many pointed out that it was President Joe Biden who chose to fly private, it was enough for pro-Trump supporters to accuse her and the newspaper of bias.
"What about Lauren Wolfe's 'chills'? Is that 'scrutiny' or just more Pom-Pom waving?" one tweeted. That was followed by a barrage of tweets that highlighted Wolfe's bias and therefore NYT's. While Wolfe clarified that she was merely excited about the transfer of power, NYT attracted enough criticism to cancel her contract. The news outlet might have washed its hands on the matter by firing Wolfe, but for her it is ongoing.
Death Threats and Abuse
Since then, Wolfe has been stalked by journalists, followed by cameramen and photographers from other outlets and has been receiving abusive messages including death threats for a tweet that was not even insinuatory.
"Hard to fathom all the talk of "cancel culture" on my timeline while I'm left without an income during a pandemic. I'm not an ideology, I'm a hard-working person who can no longer pay her bills," she said in a tweet.
However, amid abuses and death threats, the journalist, known for her work on the proliferation of sexual violence against women in war-torn Syria and child sexual abuse in Congo, received support from many fellow journalists and netizens. By January 23 night, #rehireLauren was one of the trending topics on Twitter as people poured in their support. Many even went on to cancel their NYT subscription in solidarity.
Personal vs Professional
Wolfe, although, is not the only one suffering from the problem. Hundreds of people have been fired by their employers for expressing personal opinions, sometimes for right reasons, many a time for wrong ones. This once again brings to the question, is expressing a personal opinion on social media platforms wrong? Where should one draw the line in expressing a personal opinion?
Even the former US President Donald Trump could not draw a line, forcing Twitter to delete his tweets from the POTUS account. But for people, not as powerful as the President, they always represent the employer even when expressing personal opinions. Hence, if you are not a celebrity, the chance is that you will end up on the wrong side, without any support from peers.
"Always remember you are representing your employer. You must practice self-policing. Things that interest you personally may not be something you should share on a professional account. Social media is a powerful tool, but one tweet, even when deleted, can undercut your message and credibility pretty quickly. Maintaining your professional appearance may mean ignoring the most recent celebrity scandal that shows up on your news feed," explained Elizabeth Rock, a social media and member engagement manager for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).