Justine Sacco was a young PR exec that seemed to be going places. New to Twitter, she had around 70 followers. She was constantly tweeting. Informing her followers of pretty much whatever she was getting up to. Even small things like grabbing a cup of coffee.
One day, while at the airport about to fly to South Africa, she was updating her followers with her goings on. Letting them know that she had boarded the flight and tweeting about some of the passengers. Her final tweet just before switching off her phone was
“Going to Africa, hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding, I’m WHITE!!”
Justine turned off her phone, and had no idea what chaos would ensue. One of her followers that took offence to the post re-tweeted it to a friend that had 12000 followers. That day, her post was the top trending tweet. Her post was re-tweeted over 3000 times.
While she was oblivious to this all, still on her flight with no access to the internet, the company that she worked for tweeted “We take this issue very seriously, and we have parted ways with the employee in question.”
That’s right, Justine lost her job before she could even explain herself. She was sentenced and found guilty without a trial. When Justine finally landed and turned her phone on, she immediately got a call from an old school friend that she hadn’t heard from in years. When she answered, the friend said, “I am so sorry for what’s happening to you”.
Justine was completely shocked and devastated by what faced her as she landed and had no idea of how to put things right. She suffered from depression and went into hiding. She couldn’t get work easily after that as most companies looked her up on social media. Justine’s career was over before it had even begun.
Photo of Justine at the airport after her flight
People often forget the reach they have from their mobile devices these days. It’s easy to feel as though you’re in a bubble sometimes and your posts are just a way of expressing your thoughts to your friends. Yet it doesn’t take much for one of those thoughts to be misinterpreted and for it to send your entire life spiraling out of control.