This last week a pretty typical thing happened on the internet, but I still ended up wanting to talk about it. Someone got an internship at NASA and tweeted about it rather excitedly. One thing led to another and then we got the following conversation:
The end result is she lost her internship. It wasn’t due to Homer, just some other NASA people, but the end result is the same. There’s a whole lot of followup drama you could unpack here, and the rest of the internet has done a good enough job of it. I don’t want to talk about that at all though (and if you’re here, hopefully you don’t want to read it). What I am interested in talking about is why this even matters, and why the fuck1 someone can lose their job over it.
To start it off, there’s two distinct kinds of negative language in my book. There’s hateful language: your racism, your sexism, your homophobia, etc. Those are bad. If you act and talk like that, I probably won’t feel that bad for you if you lose your job. Context always matter, but I’m not going to be leaping to defend you. Then there’s rude language: expletives, not being deferential, trolling2, etc. This stuff just doesn’t matter to me. I just… don’t care. It’s
$CURRENT_YEAR, you’re on the internet. I probably would’ve done something really similar to Naomi if I’m being honest. Why? Let’s break it down…
I had no idea who tf Homer Hickham is. Some of my coworkers were shocked - “But Brady, you work in the space industry??”. The idea of the
burden of knowledge is one of my favorites concepts. I feel like it’s been addressed pretty well online, most famously in xkcd:
It’s also been addressed excellently somewhere else - the League of Legends design notes! Learning how to play one of those MOBA games is basically ludicrous. You have to memorize an entire textbook of information just to understand how to play, let alone be good, or heaven forbid, win. Back to the main point: expecting people to know and memorize things is absolutely ludicrous. Everytime you are shocked someone doesn’t know something, I guarantee they can turn it around and rattle off at least five seemingly obvious things back at you. For the record, I did end up looking up Homer Hickham - impressive person!
Next, there’s the idea of public social media. All my social media is public and almost always has been. Sure, I’ve dropped a few posts here or there into the private abyss but those are few and far between. My social media page is
Mark Zuckerberg’s mine! You are welcome to come onto it and talk and do whatever you like, but you are not promised anything. The opposite is also true! If I go stumbling around your social media page, I don’t deserve any special allowances. My favorite analogy is imagine we all lived in houses with no doors. Anyone can walk into any house at any time now. You can still get kicked out of a house, especially if it looks you like come into my house and start telling me how to live my life. Literally no one appreciates that, we just all put with it from our parents. But appreciate, let alone enjoy or welcome it? Hell no. This is still using the hateful vs rude distinction from before, by the way. If I go into a house that’s covered in Nazi memorabilia and it’s not a museum, I’m still going to call the cops and hope it gets torn down.
Alright, final point. There is no sentence more infuriating to me than:
opinions are my own
I feel like it’s some obligatory tag you’re expected to add once you get above a certain “popularity score” on social media. You have to be clear that you are not your job, and if you don’t (or really independent of it, but still) God help you. This is the most toxic work-life balance issue in the 21st century IMO. You are allowed to have your own life, and your day job doesn’t define that. Social media is social, not professional. To all the people who use it for professional reasons and have had some degrees of success: that’s cool, great even. You are the exception, not the rule. I really think this started with “professional social media” (what a goddamn oxymoron that is) services like LinkedIn. They forced all of this to our best faces on the Internet, where in this context “best” means “pls give job pls hire me”. It really started ruining social media and changing the scene from a sincere, honest place to a bunch of fake highlight reels. Shoutout to those who keep using it correctly for it’s original purpose. In my opinion, it’s why LinkedIn should be taken out back behind a shed and never seen again. Remember y’all:
┏┓ ┃┃╱╲ in this ┃╱╱╲╲ house ╱╱╭╮╲╲ we ▔▏┗┛▕▔ realize ╱▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔╲ you live here but don't work here ╱╱┏┳┓╭╮┏┳┓ ╲╲ ▔▏┗┻┛┃┃┗┻┛▕▔
Ok, sorry, one last point. This person lost their job because they were… excited. What stupid fucking [government] company would fire someone because they were so excited to work there. That’s the kind of stuff you have to actively work on normally: making your employees think they do cool work and making them care. If it was up to me, she’d have a job or ten already. It’s not, so I’m just complaining on the internet instead.