You’ve probably heard this disturbing story of Juli Briskman, who was fired after a photo of her giving President Trump’s motorcade the middle finger went viral. Her employer, a government contractor called Akima, LLC, justified terminating her employment on the grounds that she violated their “social media policy” by using the photo as her profile picture on Twitter and Facebook.
“Basically, you cannot have ‘lewd’ or ‘obscene’ things in your social media. So they were calling flipping him off ‘obscene,’” Briskman said. What a cheap excuse!
While it’s true Akima is a government contractor, and Briskman was clearly making a political statement, she did it on her own time, and posted the photo on her personal social media accounts. If this isn’t considered a direct attack on her freedom of expression, I don’t know what is.
In June, I argued that it was wrong for National Park Service employees to express their displeasure with the Trump administration because they were doing so on official government accounts.
It is inappropriate for Federal employees to engage in politics while at work, using government equipment, and in their official capacities, but I have no problem with them doing so on their own time, on their own social media accounts.
Likewise, if Briskman had been driving in a company vehicle, and the photo clearly showed Akima branding, I could see where they might have a case for reprimanding her, since it makes the company look bad. But not only was she riding her bicycle on her own time, you can’t even identify her in the photo.
There ought to be a separation between a person’s employment and his or her private life, and you shouldn’t have to fear reprisals at work for political opinions you express in your free time. Apparently Virginia is a state where an employer can fire an employee anytime, for any reason, but I still think this is ridiculous enough to open them up to a lawsuit.
How often have you pulled up your Twitter or Facebook feed and seen nothing but fake news or ridiculous headlines?
How often have you been drawn into worthless arguments that lead nowhere?
How often have you seen someone you used to respect post something completely stupid that changes your opinion of them entirely?
How often have you “unfriended” or “unfollowed” someone for any of the above reasons?
How much time do you spend repeatedly checking updates on social media?
I’ve had a Facebook account since 2005, when you still needed a .edu email address to sign up for an account and it was just about sharing pictures and organizing events with your college buddies.
Even back then social media was kinda worthless. Remember Myspace and the social manipulation of arranging your “top eight” friends?
Over the years, I’ve considered deactivating my accounts so many times, but the thought of losing touch with all my friends kept me hooked. Facebook even uses that fear to guilt-trip you into keeping your account when you try to leave.
I’ve also used Facebook in the past to successfully promote my books and articles, but here’s a secret: it doesn’t work anymore unless you pay for it.
Facebook allows you to create pages to stay in touch with your fans, but hardly any of them will ever see what you post unless you “pay to promote.” Twitter recently adopted this model as well.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter use your social connections and personal information to make money. I don’t have a problem with it–you voluntarily sign up and they have to stay profitable.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have begun censoring users, deleting or hiding posts they deem offensive and banning or suspending nonconformist accounts. Again, they are private companies and I support their right to decide what kind of content is shown on their platforms.
But does that mean I should continue to use those platforms? Not at all. Tech execs like to pretend these platforms have become an indispensable part of modern life. They’re wrong. I can live without ever seeing another funny cat photo.
At this point, the drawbacks to social media far outweigh the supposed benefits. I decided not to support it anymore, to focus on growing my website and finding other, healthier ways to connect with friends and family.
So if you really want to keep in touch, send me an email (the old fashioned way). I’d love to hear from you.
Dear readers, I recently began regularly updating my long-neglected personal website, MichaelKleen.com. I’ll be posting here more frequently now, with articles about interesting places, history, short stories, politics, book and movie reviews, pop culture, and much more. There’s a ton of places I’ve visited over the years that I never had a chance to write about, and I plan to include some video as well. Plus, keep up to date with my latest books and writing projects. I’m also on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. I’ll still be writing about strange and unusual places and stories, but this gives me a chance to explore my other interests as well. I hope you come along with me for the ride. Let’s explore this great country together!