5 ways to destroy your firefighting career on social media
If you're on the hunt for creative way to toss away that great career in firefighting, here the answer: Be irresponsible and reckless on social media
By Dr. Richard Weinblatt
You've survived years of schooling and training, along with a few good years in the fire service.
If you're on the hunt for creative way to toss away that great career in firefighting, I've got the answer for you: Be irresponsible and reckless in your use of social media.
Yes, you too can flush all that prestige and honor — not to mention the little issue of being able to afford to shelter and feed you and your family — just by a few well-placed posts on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn or other social media account.
If you want out of that fire department job, I can almost guarantee that following the below steps will ensure that you can enjoy a life of leisure as a gainfully unemployed former firefighter.
This is also good advice for those pre-service individuals seeking to destroy their career before it even gets off the ground. Quite conveniently for you, many hiring fire departments look closely at prospective hires’ social media sites in a bid to ascertain character and suitability for a judgment-oriented career in public safety.
The below examples will certainly make your need to exercise good judgment abundantly clear.
1. Contravene Confidentiality
As a firefighting professional, you are trusted by your employer and have a duty to protect the confidentiality of information you obtain while serving your community. If you are bent on destroying that confidentiality, then by all means, do post pictures of victims of gruesome vehicle crashes on Instagram and release that detailed confidential source information in 140 descriptive characters on Twitters.
2. Bash your Boss
Be a die-hard First Amendment Free Speecher and air your feelings about your fire chief or lieutenant on your zero-privacy-settings Facebook page. Bash your boss by name. Use a picture. That’s sure to win him or her over to your point of view. Go even further and draw obscene objects on their posted picture.
3. Pornographic Pictures
While you’re on your combustible career crash, be sure to ride the wave of pornographic pictures that are all the rage on Instagram and Tumblr. Better yet, be sure to have parts of your official uniform visible hanging off of you with special attention to your department’s insignia (patch or badge – your choice) or your marked unit clearly visible in the photo. Throw in a departmentally owned weapon or two to get more bang for your buck.
4. Drugs and Alcohol
So, maybe you’re not the type to flaunt your nude or semi-naked body on social media. Another variation would be the open use of your favorite illicit drug in Facebook pictures. Be sure your face is visible as you use your chosen method of ingesting that drug and go that extra mile of identifying yourself as a firefighter.
If drugs aren’t your thing, take heart as drinking can also leave your career in ruins. Drunken behavior is always noticed by fire officials, so be outrageous in your actions. Heck, have some underage folks drinking with you in the picture for some real impact. For the icing on the cake, leave that evidence tag attached from when you swiped it with the department's tag clearly displayed in the photo.
5. Racist Rants
Tired of being politically correct? Then go to the opposite end of the spectrum and put all sorts of racist, sexist and homophobic rants on your Twitter. Let your inner misogynist be public. Defense attorneys particularly appreciate when they discover any prejudicial or sexist attitudes that you have on display on social media and use them in court and publicly to impeach your credibility.
Make It Count
Whatever method or methods above that you pursue in the destruction of your career, be sure to do it while on duty. Use the department’s smartphone or computer, and have all of your social media privacy settings on open to the public. You should at least have the maligning missives go through the agency’s server. That will certainly give the administration some good grounds upon which to go after you.
In all seriousness though, contrary to the above examples of what NOT to do, responsible use of your social media is the route to go in the public safety field, as well as all other careers. Eschewing these websites altogether is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I don’t advocate going without social media — I favor controlled usage of them.
Social media can be used to further your firefighting career, as well as investigative and community relations duties. It can also be used to destroy your chosen career path. You control its use and a professional approach is a win for you, your employer, and the community you represent and serve.
About the Author
Richard B. Weinblatt has a vast background in media relations and in law enforcement. His column will help you understand how to deal with the media, how to communicate with them so they feel comfortable dealing you and your agency, and how to tell your story so it plays well on TV or in your local newspaper.
This article, originally published in October 2014, has been updated.