Last week, yet another Atlantan got caught up in a social media minefield…and lost a job as a result.
Christine McMullen Lindgren, an Atlanta-based personal banker who posted racist comments on Facebook, was fired from Bank of America after the post went viral on Facebook and Twitter.
While businesses or celebrities may employ online reputation recovery firms to pull them out of a social media morass, everyday individuals attempting to bounce back from an online faux pas may not have the same resources.
“If someone were to call us with this type of issue, we would tell them that we couldn’t help them,” said Wally Halicki of Arizona-based Reputation Maxx, which helps businesses of all sizes manage their online reputations.
In most cases, individual offenders simply delete their accounts or posts and disappear underground hoping it will all blow over. Eventually it may, but between screen shots, reposts and media reports of incidents gone viral, nothing negative that appears online ever really dies.
In her Facebook rant, Lindgren used the n-word twice, opined about slavery and welfare and expressed her support for black people going back to Africa.
Less than 24 hours later, and after many comments had been directed to her employer, Bank of America fired her.
Lindgren reportedly deleted her account, which appears to have been re-activated on June 6, without the offensive post (or any posts from 2016) and with only three friends.
She is just the latest Georgian to lose a job after a social media mistake. In January, a Georgia education official was fired after posting about race, religion and partisan politics.
And who can forget Gerod Roth, the Atlanta man who was fired from Polaris Marketing Group after posting a selfie of himself and a black co-worker’s toddler son?
Roth, who is white, may have avoided an issue had he not offered comments about his own photo. In response to friends, he wrote that the child was a deaf-mute who could not communicate and was in and out of a shelter after having been abandoned in the Atlanta projects.
The child’s mother, who had considered Roth a friend, was not amused by her co-worker’s fictional characterization.
“Unfortunately on social media, things get spun a lot of different ways,” said Halicki. “Sometimes the comments are more negative than the initial post.”
In either case, Halicki suggests individuals take a cut and run approach.
“They can apologize, but it doesn’t do anything at that point other than add more fuel to the fire. People will continue to attack from behind the keyboard,” he said.
Deleting the account and slowly trying to show people you are not an evil person is the best option, he said, but it takes time.
“Trying to make yourself look good on social media is harder (for an individual) than the damage they did initially to make themselves look bad,” he said.
But Sean Standberry, co-founder of Atlanta-based Lyfe Marketing said individuals can take a page from businesses by following three keys to recovery: sincerity, transparency and consistency.
“I think the best thing to do is confront the problem at hand,” he said. “Say, ‘I went on Twitter, I said this bad thing and I’m going to face the consequences of it.'”
Then you have to hope your friends, followers and possibly your employer, will see you as a whole person and forgive what is hopefully one stupid moment instead of a major character flaw.
You may continue to be attacked by maintaining an online presence, but once you’ve come clean, it’s best to ignore any subsequent comments, Standberry said.
“It takes time,” he said, “but more than anything you want to show you are moving forward and going on with your life and showing who you really are.”