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Another Firing Over Facebook Post; Shouldn’t We Know Better?

COMMENTARY | The Internet is not a private place. Let’s say that again. No matter how cozy it can feel, how much it can become like a small community, the Internet is not a private place.

Jessica Bibbs learned that when, she says, she was fired over a post on Facebook.

Bibbs, upset that she had not received a promotion she was wanting, wrote a rant on her Facebook page. She was subsequently fired, reports AZFamily.com, though her employer denies that the post, alone, was the cause.

So the Internet isn’t all that new anymore. Even Facebook has been around long enough for people to realize that, just because your settings are “private,” it doesn’t mean word won’t get back. It appears that several of Bibbs’ coworkers were Facebook friends of hers, so news of her rage didn’t have far to go.

All corners of our lives are becoming increasingly less private, but no life is quite as public as the life you live in public. Now, that might sound obvious, but people seem to forget that the Internet, as whole, is a public place.

Here, on Yahoo! Voices, for example, we are out in the street. Absolutely anyone who could come across this block can see what I say, and see your response to it. Most people recognize the openly public nature of a page like this one.

But the problem comes when we think of a site like Facebook as a corner of our living rooms, with admission by invitation only. It’s not.

It’s more like a restaurant. You can limit who is at your table, sure, but you can’t really control what happens at the next table over, and it’s awfully easy to overhear.

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You also can’t discount the human compulsion to gossip. Though our connections on Facebook are called “friends,” for many, particularly those people who have friend counts in the high hundreds, they are acquaintances at best; strangers for the non-discerning.

Which takes you right out of the restaurant and back onto the public street.

Even in a restaurant, though, most people would be careful about what they say. You never know who is in the booth behind you, or who they know.

Which brings us back to where we came in. Yes, your Facebook connections can feel as though they’re your own private Internet grotto, where the echo is heard by no one else but the sea, but it is not so. To make matters worse, statements, which, if made in conversation over dinner, could be dismissed at angry ramblings, are now committed to writing.

I can’t say if Bibbs deserved to be fired. I also can’t say, with certainty, that it was only her post on Facebook that led to her dismissal. What I can say is that we should all be careful what we throw out there on the interwebs, because we never know when we’ll catch ourselves in it.