Woman’s lost NASA internship is cautionary social media tale

You might think people don’t need yet another cautionary tale about social media use and how it can impact your career. Well, you would be wrong. This story about a Twitter user who recently lost out on a NASA internship after a remarkably stupid series of events illustrates this quite well.

The woman, who goes only by the name of Naomi H, had apparently just landed herself an internship spot with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, and decided to post about it on Twitter. She was clearly thrilled – and who wouldn’t be? – and she, unfortunately, decided to express her happiness by dropping the F-Bomb in the tweet, which read, “EVERYONE SHUT THE F— UP/I GOT ACCEPTED FOR A NASA INTERNSHIP”

Wel, Homer Hickam, a former NASA engineer, current member of the National Space Council, best-selling author, Vietnam Vet, and the inspiration for the movie October Sky, saw the tweet and responded with his own tweet that simply said: “Language.” Not because he was offended but, as he explained later in a blog post, as a warning.

In Hickam’s post, which has since been taken down, he wrote:

“I’m a Vietnam vet and not at all offended by the F-word. However, when I saw NASA and the word used together, it occurred to me that this young person might get in trouble if NASA saw it so I tweeted to her one word: “Language” and intended to leave it at that.”

Things probably would have been OK after that if Naomi had taken down the tweet, or even just left things as they were. But she decided to respond. What did she tweet back?

“Suck my d— and balls I’m working at NASA.”

I’m assuming she did this because she didn’t know who Homer Hickam is — which begs the question of how she landed a NASA internship without knowing who Homer Hickam is. But anyway…

Hickam replied, “And I am on the National Space Council that oversees NASA.”

Others then got involved in the conversation, which took on the hashtag #NASA. Hickam wrote that some of Naomi’s “friends took umbrage” and “said a lot of unkind things.” If they were trying to help, their efforts had the opposite effect, as it was the hashtag that brought the whole thing to NASA’s attention and ultimately cost Naomi her internship. These kids are clearly not geniuses — in case the fact that they’re spending their time sitting behind keyboards insulting someone as accomplished as Homer Hickam wasn’t your first clue.

Hickam deleted his comments and “blocked all concerned.” But it was too late for Naomi.

Hickam wrote that he only learned after the fact that she lost the internship, and says he had nothing to do with it since he doesn’t have any say in who gets hired or fired at the agency.  He wrote, “As it turned out, it was due to the NASA hashtag her friends used that called the agency’s attention to it long after my comments were gone.”

He goes on to say that Naomi reached out to him “with an unnecessary apology which I heartily accepted” and that he returned with his own. He also said that after talking to her, he believes she deserves a position in the aerospace industry and is doing all he can “to secure her one that will be better than she lost.” He also says he spoke with NASA to make absolutely certain that there will be no black mark on her record.

So, things might still work out. But still…that, my dears, is what can happen when you go off the rails on social media. Even after the fact, others can take the wheel and finish the job of ruining your life for you. Twenty years from now, these kids may realize how idiotic their behaviour was. Or not. Who knows? Maybe they just wanted to stir the pot and don’t actually care what happens to Naomi.

Be careful. Treat social media like real life, because it is real life. Don’t say anything to anyone that you wouldn’t say to their face. You never know who they might turn out to be. If you wouldn’t tell a random person to suck your this or that face to face, don’t do it on social media.

Think before you post. Ask yourself if it would be OK if your mom read it, your grandmother, and your boss – or potential boss. And if the answer is no, maybe you shouldn’t post it.

Anyone and everyone is listening out there.

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