The past couple of weeks there have been a lot of posts on my Facebook account about a gal named Lindsey Stone. This is the gal who had a picture posted of herself acting like she was yelling in Arlington Cemetery while flipping the bird. She was doing this" in front of a sign that said "Silence and Respect". Apparently, it raised such an outcry on Facebook but she lost her job over it.
I have a couple of thoughts about this.
The first, and possibly the most important, is also the least popular, at least as far as my Facebook friends are concerned. Having served in the military decades ago, I was appalled at the picture, and had several less than kind things to say about Lindsay's disrespect and belligerence. She is clearly not the sort of woman that I would care to know personally. However, she is an American citizen, and has every right to her opinions, as well as the freedom to express them; this is only one of the rights and freedoms that I served to protect. I never saw combat, but that doesn't make much difference. Many prior military servicemen feel exactly the same way, and some have gone public to say so. That is to say, they believe she has the right to express herself however she chooses, and even though the expression she chose to post on Facebook is generally offensive. We file it in the same shoe box with Westboro Baptist Church's protests against the military by picketing military funerals.
The second thought is that if she was working for me or my company, I would most likely have fired her myself. All of the information I have found about the photo indicates that Lindsey was in Washington, DC on business. It is not clear whether or not she took the picture while she was on the clock, but the fact is she was there on her employers dime, and what she did the reflected poorly on the company.
But this isn't what happened. Living Independently Forever, Inc. suspended her from work when they found out about the photo. They didn't fire her. At least, not for those reasons. Instead, she was fired a week later, apparently because her post on Facebook drew such attention and criticism.
In other words, Lindsey Stone was fired the same way the next American Idol will be picked – the so-called vox populi.
This is perhaps the most troubling aspect of Lindsey's story. Her bosses fired her because of what was said on Facebook. Not by her, but by everybody else. Not only was her employer watching her Facebook account (obviously) but they made a firing decision based on the feedback Lindsey got on her photo.
Hand in hand with this lesson comes something equally important to keep in mind. There is less and less privacy on your Facebook these days. Anything that you post can leave you open to any number of problems. Before taking a picture and putting it on your wall to share with your friends, think about who else might see it. This is probably the best rule of thumb for anything you put on the Internet, period.
Interviews with Lindsey report that she was only joking around. The worst she could really be accused of is poor taste, and perhaps indiscretion. The posts that I have seen on Facebook share a sort of mixed message; on the one hand people seem to be outraged that she shows such disrespect for the brave souls who have given up their lives to ensure we keep our freedoms. On the other hand, these same people seem to be upset that she exercised her freedom in a way that they did not approve of. Lindsey doesn't seem to care one way are the other about that, the photo releases of all. This is a gal who is not overly burdened with concern about what other people think of her.
Lindsey learned a tough lesson here, one that cost her job at a time when jobs are difficult to find. But the more important lesson that we should take from this is that someone is always looking, so if you don't want the world to see it, don't go posting it on Facebook. There is no longer any expectation of privacy.