Subway employee fired for lauding cop-killing. Rise of incivility or just poor filters?

A Mississippi woman was fired from her job when she used the Internet to revel in the shooting deaths of two police officers.

Lee Celano/REUTERS
Policemen bow their heads in prayer under images of officers Liquori Tate and Benjamin Deen during a vigil service for the two officers who were killed during a traffic stop, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi May 11, 2015.

The case of a Subway sandwich shop worker – who used Facebook to celebrate the shooting deaths of two Hattiesburg, Miss., police officers – demonstrates the riskiness of uncivil or hateful communication, and the importance of thinking before posting comments online.

Sierra “C-Babi” McCurdy, of Laurel, Miss., was fired from her job at a Subway restaurant after she cheered the murders of Hattiesburg Police Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate who were killed in the line of duty during a routine traffic stop Saturday night, according to The Clarion Ledger.

Ms. McCurdy’s posts on Facebook read: “2 police officers was shot in hattiesburg tonight…GOT EM,” according to media. “We can turn this [expletive] into Baltimore real quick ... Police take away innocent people lives everyday now & get away w/ it, [expletive] them ... no mercy.” She appeared to be wearing a Subway employee uniform in an accompanying photo.

Subway was quick to respond, firing McCurdy immediately, a spokesperson told The Clarion Ledger. Ms. McCurdy’s social media accounts all appear to have been deleted or locked since the incident.

According to the 2014 Civility in America survey, “The overwhelming majority of each generation perceives a civility problem in America. More than nine in 10 of each adult generation — Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and the Silent Generation — believe that civility is a problem, with most leaning toward it being a major problem. The generations are also in agreement that incivility has reached crisis proportions in America.”

The annual survey is conduct among American adults by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, in partnership with KRC Research, since 2010.

The same survey found that a majority in each generation said that the Internet and social media were partially responsible for growing incivility. (Among other top factors cited were politicians, government officials, and "America's youth.")

And social media is an increasingly important platform for communication, as Americans spend up to 40 minutes per day on Facebook, and more and more companies gravitate to Facebook and Twitter for customer service. Many companies' Twitter and Facebook pages have taken on the role of complaint forums. According to a poll by Edison Research, 42 percent of consumers expect a 60-minute response time to social media complaints.

Social media expert Batya Maman, CEO of social-media consultancy firm Social Connect, says in an interview that people have lost their social filters.

Ms. Maman says that users need to take greater care with the content of their online postings.

“Today, people feel very comfortable talking about everything in every subject – what they eat, what they think, what they love, who are their neighbors, what they see in the bus, in the train, what’s going on in the airplane, everywhere on social media,” she says. “People really need to start thinking about what’s going on because if [McCurdy] was posting the same thing not wearing the uniform she wouldn’t get in trouble.”

Ms. Maman recommends that every business build a social media policy of “what to do and what not to do” for employees. She also recommends that employers pay more attention to the social media feeds of potential employees.

“Talking about a social media policy while interviewing people is one of the best ways to make sure you know who you are hiring,” she adds. “Because these days what you post on social media is who you really are. Five years ago or three years ago it was fake but now it’s becoming more real because people see everyone else posting everything and they follow them. It’s become a part of people’s reality that whatever you post online, that’s who you really are.”

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