8 Shocking (and Hilarious) Social Media Gaffes


I am awestruck at the goofs I see people (supposedly smart and decent people) making online. I could summarize this entire post with this: There is no such thing as a private or personal profile and then a professional one. If it is on the Internet, it ALL better be professional, period. Save your crazy private/personal persona for behind closed doors, with the computer off and the webcam draped. I’m not joking either.

Don’t believe me, believe these folks:

1. What You SAY Can and Will Be Held Against You (forever)

Chicago woman tweets about her moldy apartment and gets sued for $50,000:
“Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon really thinks it’s okay.”
That’s about $575 per character.

Whatever you say online lives forever… sometimes in infamy.

Bonus tip: Careful what you tweet or post after a happy hour!
More to the point: Don’t drunk tweet.

2. You’re on Candid Camera (always)

While discussing budget cuts Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wields a 2-foot-long knife on Twitter. It didn’t go over so well. While he was making light of the situation (better not to try), people didn’t like the idea of getting their job or personal projects cut by his two-foot knife.

Ask Michael Phelps about this one. Just assume that anytime you are out in public (public being even your own friends in a private setting as Michael taught us) that the camera phones are on and rolling.

3. Don’t Make It So Easy for the Criminals

Arizona guy tweets about being on vacation far away from home and gets robbed.

You wouldn’t leave a message on your voice mail that says you are going to be away from your home. You even ask your neighbor to clear off any newspapers that might stack up on your front door so it’s not obvious that you are not home. Why in the heck would you broadcast to the World Wide Web that there is a free-for-all at your house? Just think people. Think.

Oh, and also, don’t lie about where you are. Senator Michael Bennet declined multiple interview requests and told the reporter he was busy, but his gal pal Senator Claire McCaskill tweeted about Bennet at lunch hobnobbing with other reporters, infuriating the reporter for catching him in a lie. That led to not so good press.

Social Media Boot Camp for CEOs:
If you live in or near Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA or Denver, CO:
This is a well-done and free seminar on best-practices of social media:
Check it out

4. No PDGs (Public Displays of Griping)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is slapped with a $25,000 fine for griping about the referees after his team was beat by the Denver Nuggets. Afterward he quipped, “can’t say no one makes money from twitter now. the nba does.” Funny, but still, that’s a costly quip.

If you must gripe, do it Abe Lincoln style—write them a scathing letter, then throw it away. Don’t tweet it.

5. Your Boss Is Watching

High school teacher is forced to resign for pictures on Facebook that showed her drinking alcohol during a European vacation.

17% of U.S. Companies with more than 1,000 workers reported problems with employees’ social media use.

8% have actually terminated employees because of their actions on social media sites.
(translation: A LOT of people are being fired for doing dumb stuff online).

Comparatively, only 4% reported terminating an employee for social media gaffes last year.
(curious: are people getting dumber or are more dumb people coming online?)


6. Your Future Boss, Client, Partner, Vendor, Date Are Watching

Girl gets a job and tweets: “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating my work,” Cisco finds out. Girl loses job.

This kind of idiocy is happening all day every day. Please don’t let it be you. You are smarter—hey, you read this blog, so you must be!

7. You Doh!(t) Know How It Works

New York Times columnist (tech columnist!) David Pogue means to DM someone his phone number, instead RTs it out to his 21,000 followers.
(If you don’t know what I just said, don’t use Twitter until you do)

8. Um, You’re Not Funny

Man is arrested after (dumb) joke about blowing up an airport on Twitter.

Rule #1: Don’t joke about bombing anything; it gives the terror police an itchy trigger finger. Rule #2: Make your joke funny. If you are unsure about #2, go to Rule #3: Leave the jokes to the professionals (comedians).

This is not to dissuade you from using social media and communicating online. But it is a post to enlighten (and warn) you about doing it correctly.

SUMMARY: Stick with these two golden rules of online behavior:

1) There is NOTHING personal or private online. Nothing. Your online life should be 100% professional as 100% of your professional relationships have 100% access to all that ever gets posted online. Do not be fooled by privacy controls or separate group access, etc. It’s all easily accessible, forwarded or found.

2) Filter through Mom. Imagine everything you tweet, post on Facebook or say while anyone has a iPhone or Flip camera nearby that your mother, your boss, your most important client, the IRS and the FBI will see it… because they WILL.

Friends don’t let friends do stupid things. Be a friend, pass these warnings and tips to everyone you know online: http://darrenhardy.success.com/2011/01/8-social-media-gaffs/

Any personal experience (witness or perpetrator) with social media gaffes? Share your story or tips with the rest of us in the comments below.



113 responses to “8 Shocking (and Hilarious) Social Media Gaffes”

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  28. Darren,
    Love Success magazine and listen to the cd multiple times every month. They are all saved as well as the Success book summaries. In fact, I quoted you, Success magazine and Success Book Summaries (with proper notation) in my new book Emotional Ice Water.

    In the most recent Success magazine cd you mentioned the article on making your business and website mobile friendly. Please help me locate that article.

    Thank you for all you do. You and Success are awesdome!

  29. Wow, this is great Darren! It should be common sense to most, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. We really appreciate you taking the time to share these stories with us and passing along your insight on the subject. Much success to you!

  30. Another great post, Mr. Hardy! Thanks for taking the time to address this and give some pointers in this area. I will share it with others as well.

  31. Hi Darren,
    I went the the CEO Bootcamp this morning, I am very happy I went. It really opened my eyes on how powerful social media can be to your business and that if you have a well define plan, you don’t need a lot of money to start getting clients to grow your business.
    The presentation was mind blowing. Looking from a customer’s point of view it helped me see that I am not crazy when somethings that businesses do out there I find to be bad customer service.
    Finally I am very happy to say that after talking to the host and telling him that I was a 1 woman, starting a small business, Flash Media representative was more than happy to sit down with me at a later date to give me some pointers to draw more clients.

    Thank you for the recommendation.
    Well worth the time, I highly recommend this to small and big business owners.

  32. Hey Darren!

    I hear that many employers are now using Social Media to determine a person’s character before hiring them. . .

    And, as made famous by Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother IS watching!

    Fanfully yours,
    Joanna :o)

  33. On the subject of people getting fired or not hired or promoted over photos of partying:

    Those of us in a position to make these decisions, let’s be careful about judging other people for legal conduct (such as having a glass of wine after our 21st birthday!)

    Remember that uncharacteristically crazy night partying with your friends at college in 1967 (or ’87, ’97, ’07)?

    Aren’t you glad your friends didn’t have camera phones and a Facebook page to expose YOU?

    If they had camera phones back then, would the photos justify your not having your dream job today?

    When you take action against another for (legal) partying, are you saying you have never had an indescretion in your entire life? Not once? If you said yes to my last 2 questions, do you seriously expect anyone to believe you?

    I agree we should all be careful about what we say online, I also think we should ask ourselves what we ourselves have done in the past and how we would want to be treated if it was broadcast for everyone to see. Let’s not give anyone the proverbial death penalty for jay walking!

  34. I loved your goal setting article on “why goal setting does not work.” We have to become before we do.

    I took your advice So I’m in the process of launching my video blog now. All my content and my voice on – goal setting, improving your energy, the power of discipline (the compound effect as you call it).

    I would love your feedback when the blog is launched next week Darren.. All videos are just 2 minutes long. The Call To Action from the video is a free e-book on “4 steps to winning” and a speaking engagement.

    After highlighting, clipping and filing all articles from your magazine, I have loads and loads of content.

    You make a difference Darren.


    Your friend in Dubai.

  35. Good reminder Darren!
    It’s so easy to get relaxed and comfortable with social media and then have a slip of the tongue (aka fingers). I had not heard about peple getting fined over things said on Twitter so thx for sharing.

  36. Darren,
    Thanks for this article. It’s an important reminder for people, but I fear the ones who need it most will not heed the advice. That being said, I DID post in Facebook. Think it’ll work?

  37. Hey Darren,

    Just to let you know that you are a major inspiration for me.

    I am a subscriber of SUCCESS magazine and I read it cover to cover. I love the interviews you conduct every month.

    I especially like your interview with Maria Shriver about finding your voice.

    You are awesome!

    Best regards,

    Anesh Jagtiani

  38. Hi Darren,
    I can’t say enough how I appreciate your passion to help others and all the free resources you throw at us. I just signed up for the free CEO bootcamp because first it’s free, second you can always learn something new, the networking will be a plus.
    So many people out there say they want to help but are not really making themselves available to do so. You have been very consistent with your mission and make yourself available. You may not remember but last year right after the earthquake in Haiti, I had just purchased your book design your best year ever and emailed you about not feeling like planning goals when my country was grieving. Not only you took the time to answer my email but you also gave me valuable insights. I still have the book and I have to admit that I wrote on it with a pencil and erased everything today to start the process again February 1. I will also listen to the compound effect on the stairmaster as a gear up to prepare for one of my fitness goals this year. I know it sounds silly but a good book is a good book.

  39. Hi Darren,

    Just to let you know that you are a major inspiration for me. I am a subscriber of SUCCESS magazine. I love all your interviews you conduct.

    I liked your interview with Maria Shriver about finding your voice.

    You are awesome!


    Anesh Jagtiani
    Dubai, UAE

  40. Great idea… everyone should send this to all the young people you know… what they are doing online today, will come to haunt them for a lifetime if they are not careful in how they are archiving their character online.

  41. Thanks Darren for writing this important and timely article. I’m sending this to my college age son and daughter and linking it on my website in my next newsletter DrRKG.com. Well done as usual!

  42. Dear mr. Hardy,

    Thank you for writing a clear overview, with IRL examples.
    I am also in agreement with @CoreyJahnke, however, and would like to add: life is for the living!
    If we cannot make mistakes, how can we live and learn?
    Greatly appreciate the “think of your mom, boss or most important client”- tip, as well.
    I guess it all depends on what you say, how and why. Your intention (bragging vs. honestly trying to share your thoughts and struggles, for example) will shine through.

    Mistakes can be forgiven, or even better, they may allow the human in you to shine through the bleak black and white type on a computerscreen.

    I’d also like to point to Kevin Kelly’s views on the disappearance of individual privacy and the emerging of group privacy. We were fortunate enough, here in the Netherlands, to have the opportunity to hear him speak in an interview.

    Best regards from Amsterdam!

  43. Hello Mr. Hardy,

    I have viewed your Compound effect program and believe that the Goals and Productivity part are one of the things that sparked a turning point in my life direction. I thought I was lazy or just didn’t have what it takes, instead of using the renewal disciplines and habits to make my days more tangible! I am young, male, in college, and am pursuing success in all aspects of my life – success, women, health, happiness.

    I believe in the philosophy of reading good books. I know that a good book can make a great change if applied regularly.
    I believe you are 5-10 years ahead of me in thinking and success actions, so I wanted to ask for your recommendations on what are your favorite books? Also seminars/audio/courses/systems/methods count too. They have great ideas too!

  44. I agree, Sean. These days one online mistake in your youth could cost everything you down the road. These kids need to be asked frequently, “is posting this [picture, status update, tweet, etc.] really worth your entire future?”

  45. This is very good. Over the years I have heard about many similar incidents. One I recall is someone calling in sick and then bragging to friends on facebook that he was “taking the day off.” Shortly after, he received an email from his boss telling him that he was fired.

  46. This is real stuff, no joke, it is going to get worse… to the point I don’t even know if Darren himself hired someone who can’t spell to write this …….. almost everything here is perception of how the reader feels at the moment.

    I believe we can not just watch out for these 2 golden rule above. We must take responsibility of the conversation that goes within our self and then the conversation that goes out.

    Let’s look at the two conversation below:
    If I did not read this in good mood, no matter what you wrote, I will not be nice. (look at this again)

    now let me write it this way:
    If I read this in bad mood, no matter what you wrote, I will be a jerk.

    I do not know if you can see it the top conversation is leading with good mood and the bottom conversation is leading with bad mood. either way I am designing my outcome by how I have conversation within me.

    Once I can master my own internal conversation, then sharing to others will be pleasant and helpful and clear.

    Not like G.Bush
    “When I said the word WAR, I mean PEACE”

    Thanks for sharing your 2 golden rules.

  47. This is great list to send to my mom. We all know new people to the internet. It’s a good start to Internetting. Right after my #1 rule: SPAM happens – Don’t send SPAM money.

  48. Great stories Darren. The real challenge is letting our young teenage kids realise how powerful the internet is and what goes on it is there forever. It could really do with being covered in every school now especially because some of those messages on the internet can often be not so nice comments about teachers!

    In our day it was just spoken about, now everyone has more power at their finger tips than newspapers did in very recent times.

    Of course it can also be used to spread great life enhancing messages too.

    Carpe Diem!
    The Irish Inspirational Blogger

  49. As always, I have shared this with my FB friends, posing the question “Are you any of these?” For me posting should be inspirational, if it doesn’t build someone up, why post it?

  50. Thank you Hardy for giving DOs and DON’Ts of social media. Violating these guidelines can ruin reputation, relationship, job or life. Giving real life scenarios make it clearer to understand the “side effects” of social media.

    I appreciate your caring and sharing :)

    Javed Iqbal
    Educator | Empowerer | Entrepreneur

  51. Good Evening Mr. Hardy,
    I think what happens is that people sabotage their efforts because they struggle between being cool and normal versus unpopular and abnormal. It seems abnormal to be completely and totally dedicated to a quest for success. It seems abnormal because it is abnormal. We know that 97% of the population has no plan for their lives. As a result the vast majority of the 97% are broke and live unfulfilling lives. On more than one occasion, you have talked about being unpopular on purpose. So, I say yes, keep your behavior (online or otherwise) completely packed with character, integrity, and intelligence at ALL times! Don’t give in to the 97% and do the “cool” thing. Shoot for unpopular and laugh all the way to the bank!!

    “I don’t want everyone to like me. I should think less of myself if some people did!” Henry James

    Have a magical (and extremely unpopular) week! :-)

  52. Great summary! Many companies will check your social media sites when applying for a job. Just think of the countless times companies have chosen not to hire someone because of what they posted online.

    A good saying is: “If it feels good to write then it is probably bad for business”

    The Internet is indeed forever.

  53. Excellent post! There are professional people whose posts we read and wonder if they know that others are really listening and watching. We’ve reposted it for others to read.

  54. Darren, I see what you mean clearly on page 80 and how will I apply it weekly on page 87. Thank you for creating the best goal-setting program that is solid, no hype and with an amazing weekly management system! You’ve taught me the most important personal growth lesson-to ask myself daily whether I am thinking, feeling and acting the kind of person I need to become to attract the results and success I desire.

    Thank you and abundance to you!

  55. Hi Darren, I’ve observed people posting many pics of them drinking or eating much unhealthy foods. I’ve a client whom I asked to have her partying pics removed from her FB since she wants to have a healthy and fit profile as fitness trainer. Even those who’s niche is wine and food must mix things up so they are seen as more than just food and wine person.

    BTW, on page 62 of Living, you asked top 3 modifications and how will implement that to my routine. Is this what you mean as an example?

    1. Wake up 5am, practice 20-min yoga, 20-min inspirational reading, 20-min instructional audio.
    2. Walk 15000 steps per day, walk around & stretch every hour for 3 minutes, no unproductive chats with coworkers.
    3. Work on biz for one solid hour per day on days I’m working and then 3 solid hours on days

    -So I must have 3 new habits for each of the 3 top goals?

    Thank you Darren! Enjoy sunny SD! I love Roy’s Hawaiian in La Jolla and Pacific Beach!

    Have an awesome day!

  56. A lot of people view it as not right that you can be fired etc. based on what you say on the web. It may not be fair but it is what happens.

    Josh Bulloc
    Kansas City, MO
    How can I help?

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