This article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune November 7, 2017
The Twitterverse, indeed the entire online community, was abuzz last week with news that a still unidentified rogue Twitter employee, on his or her last day of employment at the social networking giant, briefly shut down President Donald Trump’s account.
For 11 minutes, an eternity for Trump’s 41 million Twitter followers and the news media, @realDonaldTrump was offline. That meant no kneejerk musings from the commander in chief on “crooked” Hillary, “sad” Democrats and the “joke” that is the U.S. Justice Department. No self-congratulatory chest thumping following another record day on Wall Street. And no gushing praise of Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and anyone affiliated with Fox and Friends.
Reaction ranged from shock — what if, instead of silencing the account, the employee started tweeting AS Trump? — to praise. One Twitter user in my feed commended the employee for, “briefly, making America great again.” Others compared the employee to Steven Slater, the former JetBlue flight attendant who, in 2010, activated his last flight’s emergency chute upon landing, delivered a profanity-fueled rant about the airline via the plane’s microphone, grabbed a few beers from the galley and slid into infamy.
Both incidents revived fantasies harbored by every worker who toils daily in an office cubicle, drafty warehouse, sterile medical facility or whatever environment requires daily presence for 40 hours a week, to earn a paycheck:
What have I always wanted to do on my last day, and do I have the guts to follow through?
Face it, how many employees behave normally on their final day of work, arriving and leaving at the designated time, dutifully answering emails, participating in conference calls and tidying up the break room if it’s their assigned day to do so? Zero, that’s who.
On my final workday at the Palm Beach Post in 1987, one of my last jobs before entering the self-employed ranks, I entered the newsroom with no evil or vengeful thoughts. I was, however, planning to exert minimal effort to produce the next day’s newspaper. My editor thought otherwise. Perhaps sensing my complacency, I was immediately assigned a story requiring a comment from the late Florida congressman Tom Lewis. I left a message with Lewis’ assistant; then, rather than practice due reporter diligence by waiting at my desk for a return call, I accepted a fellow employee’s invitation for a “liquid lunch” at a, thankfully, walkable tavern.
Upon returning two hours later, my phone rang. As I recall, the conversation went something like this:
CALLER: Greg, Congressman Lewis will speak to you now.
ME: About what, exactly?
Bob, a Facebook friend who formerly worked for a “horrible, horrible human being,” up and quit one day after realizing his boss was monetarily shorting data entry workers for tasks they completed. Bob’s resignation included a slice of high-tech revenge.
“I went into the system that I had built and wrote some code that created $300 of extra bogus transactions for every single data entry person for the next six months. It never got caught, and he paid it all out. Probably something around $15K,” he said.
Search #onmylastdayofwork on Twitter, and you’ll read tweets from employees vowing to change company passwords or use paintball guns on fellow employees. But the Twitter employee’s cord-cutting antics were even timelier given that general counsels for Google, Facebook and Twitter were summoned to Washington that same week and chided by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee for not properly monitoring the Wild West that has become social media and online news sites. Their oversight, critics charge, allowed Russia to plant political ads prior to the 2016 presidential election, possibly tipping the outcome in Trump’s favor.
“You created these platforms, and now they are being misused,” Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA) told the three. “And you have to be the ones to do something about it — or we will.”
The lawyers stuttered, stammered and sheepishly vowed to do better. But based on her look of disgust, one can only wonder what Feinstein was pondering doing to the three if it were her last day representing California.