Sometimes, going viral opens a world of opportunity that was previously beyond reach. Take Laina Morris (@laina622), famous for being the startling face of the popular Overly Attached Girlfriend meme. The aspiring comedian’s weekly YouTube videos receive hundreds of thousands of views and last year she was tapped by Samsung for a video promoting its line of memory products. All this thanks to her “stalker-ish” portrait going viral.
Other times, though, individuals become Internet stars for flaunting bad behavior to the world. Instead of receiving job opportunities and sponsorship deals, these viral stars are handed a pink slip from their employer as a result of their public display of off-putting antics. Here are a few sorry souls whose lives were turned upside down after becoming Internet famous for all the wrong reasons.
Justine Sacco’s offensive AIDS tweet
Fresh in the minds of Twitter users is the Justine Sacco fiasco. A senior PR specialist for American Internet giant IAC, whose network of 150+ sites includes Ask.com, Match.com, Vimeo, and Dictionary.com, posted this objectionable tweet earlier this month:
What took place shortly after is a testament to the power of social media. Twitter users beyond her 500 followers got wind of her tweet and the backlash began to pour in – unbeknownst to an airborne and offline Sacco, who was making her way over Africa on her 11-hour flight to Cape Town. By the time Sacco had landed and was able to get online, parody Twitter accounts had been created, #HasJustineLandedYet was trending worldwide, and IAC was just hours away from releasing a statement in which it announced Sacco’s termination. Check out BuzzFeed’s in-depth timeline of the Sacco debacle.
Adam M. Smith’s Chick-fil-A drive-thru rant
Adam M. Smith, then-CFO of Arizona-based manufacturing firm Vante, found himself without a job after a video he shot and uploaded to YouTube went viral. In the clip, Smith ambushes an innocuous Chick-fil-A employee who had the misfortune of working the drive-thru window when Smith’s car rolled in.
“I don’t know how you live with yourself,” is just one of the comments Smith lambasted Rachel (the server) with. Rachel, who deserves credit for remaining polite and neutral despite her obvious discomfort (she even tells Smith that she’s uncomfortable with him filming her). Smith, on the other hand, found out the hard way that berating an innocent employee who’s just trying to do her job is not a favorable form of activism, when Vante handed him his walking papers.
Australian miners’ Harlem Shake
Remember the Harlem Shake meme? It seems like so long ago now, but the bizarre convulsive dance craze reached its peak in popularity just last March. And though people all over the world had fun making their own Harlem Shake video, some individuals had a little too much fun, so thought some employers.
The above video shows workers at the Agnew Gold Mine in Australia rocking out for their take on the Harlem Shake. When management became aware of the video, 15 employees were let go due to safety violations. One terminated miner, however, claimed that all those involved were donning the required helmets, lamps, and safety glasses and oxygen was on hand. The only violation, he says, was removing their long-sleeved shirts. Though many may feel that termination was an overreaction by management (I’m no mining safety expert so I can’t tell), posting videos of yourself breaking even just one minor safety rule while on the job is not the wisest move.
The interesting phenomenon in the three cases mentioned above is that in each instance, the offending tweet or video was willingly posted by the offenders themselves. These individuals lost their jobs due to their own misjudgment. Let’s all take this as a reminder to pause and reflect before hitting the Post button as in today’s world, seemingly anything can go viral for all the wrong reasons.
Photo credit: slightly everything/Flickr