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SMACSS

While the IT geeks may call it Scaleable Model Architecture for CSS, Dave Statter refers to it as Social Media-Assisted Career Suicide Syndrome.

And I gotta tell ya, there are  lot of EMS folks on the Internet who, if not actively trying to commit career suicide, are definitely sending out cries for help.

There was Captain Greg Not So Smart engaging in a pointless dick-measuring contest which wound up on YouTube, giving Miami Dade Fire Rescue a black eye in the process.

There was FDNY EMS Lieutenant Timothy Dluhos engaging in racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and a whole lot of other -isms on Twitter, doubtless convinced that no one would ever discover he was the Bad Lieutenant. When he was found out, he collapsed in a blubbering heap, moaning that his life was over.

Yep, at least as far as his career with FDNY is concerned.

We had Joseph Cassano of FDNY doing pretty much the same thing, putting his father, FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, in the awkward position of either  firing his own son or defending his freedom to behave like a douche while representing himself as an FDNY EMT. The junior Cassano expressed remorse and resigned soon after the story went public, saving his daddy the trouble.

Last week, the New York Post featured a story about FDNY EMS personnel posting scene and patient photos online:

In addition to uploading racist rants and Nazi nonsense, EMS Lt. Timothy Dluhos also posted pictures of patients, including one of a heavy-set woman with a snarky caption Photoshopped over her wheelchair: “Wide Load.”

Publicizing photos of the ill, injured or dead without permission is a violation of city rules and federal privacy laws, but some first responders can’t resist snapping shots of people they’re supposed to be helping.

The photos of grisly corpses, gruesome wounds or humiliating circumstances provide fodder for mocking and gawking.

Some responders splash the images on social-media pages or collect them in “gore books,” a twisted hobby of voyeurism that has been part of the emergency-worker culture for years.

On Wednesday, a Facebook user identifying himself as FDNY EMT Anthony Palmigiano posted a snapshot of a man with a gaping neck wound on a Facebook group page called EMT/Paramedic, calling it a “table saw injury."

First of all, not every EMS internet forum condones such behavior. The EMT/Paramedic page on Facebook mentioned in the Post story is run by Kenya Nixon, one of my former EMT students. I follow that page and several others on Facebook in addition to the usual complement of blogs, discussion boards and Twitter feeds.

They post photos on those pages. They tell war stories. They bitch, moan and complain. They share educational scenarios. They engage in raucous EMS humor, which isn't for the faint of heart. They discuss current EMS issues. They link to all sorts of industry news and commentary.

But what they don't do is post stuff that violates patient confidentiality, and they enforce a code of conduct on their pages.

That's important. We'll come back to that later.

Virtually all of the administrators of those forums have dealt with people who object to their content. Sometimes it's an EMT who has appointed himself Internet Hall Monitor and Arbiter of Good Taste and Decorum, but more often it's a non-EMS person who has seen one of their posts in a friend's feed, and objected to the content. Most of these administrators has spent a night or two in "Facebook jail," due to Facebook's "suspend first, investigate later" policies, even though the page admins pro-actively remove fan photos and content that are deemed inappropriate.

Personally, I don't mind the photos, provided they're not derogatory and don't compromise patient confidentiality. Most of the page admins post those photos and direct the discussion toward appropriate medical care. It's not gore simply for the sake of gore.

But a great many people who are not in the healthcare professions do not understand that. Whenever you post something, keep that in mind.

When participating in social media, have a care what you post, and who you follow. Social media decorum for EMS and public safety personnel can be summed up in three rules:

  1. There is no such thing as anonymity on the Internet.
  2. Don't be a douche.
  3. If you ignore #2 and think that you are safe because you use a pseudonym or blog anonymously, refer to #1.

It's really just that simple. If what you say on the Internet would earn you a punch in the nose if you said it in person, don't say it. And if you persist in saying things other people may find offensive, you had damned well better take care to assure that none of what you write can be associated with your employer.

The First Amendment only protects you from government infringement on your right to free speech. It doesn't do beans to shield you when your employer decides your online shenanigans reflect poorly on their department.

I get daily requests for "Likes" from various Facebook EMS page admins. Some I like, and actively follow. Others I avoid like the plague.*

The best way you can tell which ones to avoid is how they handle complaints and dissent. If the page administrators are rude, obscene and insulting, it's a virtual certainty that most of the fans are as well, and people with whom it would be unwise to associate. I was appalled at reading a recent EMS forum on Facebook, and seeing the response by page administrators to those who objected to the mean-spirited tenor of the discussions.

Among those insulted were a state EMS director, a hiring manager for a large EMS staffing firm, and the operations director for the largest EMS system in a certain state.

And those are just the people who publicly objected, not the ones who lurked, made a mental note, and moved on.

Here's a helpful hint: If you call an agency hiring manager a "cunt," or a state EMS director a "fucking wannabe douchebag" and accuse him of being "butt buddies" with the operations manager who also objected, or condone such comments from your readers or fans…

… they're not the only ones reading, nor are they the only ones offended.

I guarantee you, your managers or future managers are reading as well. Right now, you are in the "cry for help" stage of Social Media-Assisted Career Suicide Syndrome.

Do yourself a favor, and stop being a douche before you stick that keyboard in your mouth and pull the trigger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*And for God's sake, don't ever confuse me with those other "Ambulance Driver" sites out there. I was here first. I am not them, nor will I ever behave in such a fashion.

 

 

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Comments - Add Yours

  • DStatter

    Sounds like you are setting the bar on a minimum standard of care for EMS on social media and the web. Good post.

  • totwtytr

    People wonder why I limit myself to six friends on Facebook. One of them is a dog. I’m not sure which has destroyed more careers, Facebook or Twitter. Not just in EMS, but in all walks of life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/animelmaguire Mel Maguire

    I never post anything about work. I accidentally checked in to my station on my cell phone once, but the post was removed. Years ago, when Facebook was still in its infancy, I posted something not related to work on a public page and it was completely misconstrued. I ended up in my boss’s office indignantly proclaiming that my innocuous comment – it really was innocuous, I was making a joke about one of the guys in my band and the joke wasn’t even remotely dirty – had nothing to do with work. And that was back when I worked in an office. I didn’t get fired – in fact, they ended up apologizing to me, but I know how badly it could have turned.

    Everything you say, no matter what the subject matter or how clean it is, can be taken out of context by someone you work with who either gets offended by every twitch, giggle and fart or just flat-out hates your guts. Even though I take precautions to try to make sure nobody can tell who I am in real life I also avoid saying anything that would likely garner unwanted attention in real life if I said it in person. If I wouldn’t say it while in uniform, it isn’t made public. Period.

  • Old_NFO

    And if you post as a fire dept/EMS person, you’re also committing a HIPAA violation if I remember correctly…

  • gonzoboy

    If you read this post and thought to yourself, “I need to be extra careful so as not to be a douche”. You were probably not in danger of becoming one. A douche thinks there is no way they could be a douche.The only reason I like social media is because it makes it very hard for idiots in EMS,LE,politics etc. to remain anonymous for very long.

  • Joe Medix

    What is really disturbing are the comments that support this guy – look at the comments below the article:

    http://www.ems1.com/fire-ems/articles/1423050-Photo-FDNY-Lt-breaks-down-after-racist-tweets-exposed/