An obscure young Calgary woman became relatively higher-profile as one of 54 NDP MLAs elected to office in that party’s stunning May 5 Alberta provincial election win.
Now, everyone who follows news in Alberta has likely been exposed to Deborah Drever’s name — but for the most trivial of reasons, namely, a social media stumble.
The 26-year-old was suspended Friday from the NDP caucus over an online image that predates her election. She will still be sworn in on June 1 and sit as an independent for Calgary-Bow.
The one that got her punted was an Instagram image of then-Tory cabinet minister Rick McIver and then-Tory leader Jim Prentice. “Sexy Mo-fo, me-ow, yummy,” are words inscribed as though they were said by Prentice. And a comment below from user “drevfever” said, “Gay boyz,” reported the Globe and Mail.
“The comments in this photo directly contradict what the NDP and the incoming government stand for,” party spokesperson Cheryl Oates told CBC News.
More to the point, they embarrassed the boss, NDP Leader Rachel Notley, who had said only Wednesday that she was prepared to cut Drever some slack for earlier photos that had come into the public eye.
One such photo had Drever appearing on the cover of a heavy-metal band’s album. She is lying down, apparently about to be assaulted by a bottle. Notley said Drever had apologized for the image and promised to fight violence against women.
“Reach out to groups that deal with vulnerable young women in an effort to find ways to expand and grow education on this issue, to ensure her commitment to fight violence against women and our government’s commitment to fight violence against women,” said Notley.
“She’s agreed to do that and I am looking forward to hearing that plan.”
After suspending Drever, Notley did suggest there was a path back into caucus if Drever cleaned up her act and seriously addressed issues of homophobia and violence against women.
But in the meantime, Drever hasn’t lost her job, which pays just north of $127,000 per year.
She’s lucky she’s not in the private sector. The pinhead involved in the #FHRITP taunting of a CityTV reporter in Toronto at a soccer game lost his $100,000-plus job with Hydro One after being identified.
As an elected MLA, Drever can’t easily be fired. You, one the other hand, very likely can be dismissed. If there’s no cause, you must get reasonable severance. If cause is alleged, you might not get anything.
If you’re making $127,000 per year in the private sector, that’s a pretty senior job.
“As I have previously written in this column, every employee – especially senior ones – should consider that what they do on their own personal time, rightly or wrongly, can be exposed to their employers,” wrote lawyer Daniel Lublin in the Globe and Mail on May15.
This is one part of corporate work that I gnash my teeth over, because it’s my belief that what I do on my own time outside of work (like blogging, to pull one out of the air) should not be any of my employer’s business.
But the rule remains: Don’t do anything that embarrasses your employer (goes double if your boss is the premier).
The difficulty: In a crisis, almost anything can be seen as embarrassing your employer. And the advice of the spin doctors is usually to fire first and then sort the legalities out later. That might work for the company, but it could end up as being very disruptive for you.
My suggestion: When you graduate from university or college, cull all the goofy photos and videos from your various social feeds. Need some examples? If you are mugging with a pro-marijuana t-shirt, that might have to go. Your favourite picture, with a middle finger extended over the Maple Leaf? Sorry, but delete.
I would note that the photos causing trouble for Drever were published between one and seven years before her election.
If you can’t find anything to cull but then get in trouble later over your archive, this raises serious questions about whether your judgment is up to the level required by an adult job.
Now that we’ve talked briefly about images, now a few words about writing.
As a long-time journalist, I would hope that writing something fresh, exciting and intellectually vigorous on one’s blog makes one more employable, not less.
Unfortunately, I can’t be sure that it does.
The approach I’ve taken, for better or worse, is that if a company doesn’t want you because they don’t like your thought pattern (or suit pattern, for that matter), then one has to to just accept and move on. Ideally, you end up with a job where you’re valued for your mind, not punished because of it.
One problem in Canadian recruitment is you’ll never get a straight answer from the hiring company as to why you didn’t get a gig (interestingly, U.S. companies are much more forthcoming on the “why not me” question). But remember this: a city editor once told me he was happy with the candidate he hired, but the next 12 were just as good. So at the end of the day, you can only be your best ‘you,’ and just hope you enjoy good chemistry with the hiring editor.
There aren’t that many Deborah Drevers in this world, but the fact remains that we live in a culture of fairly shallow, instantaneous judgments.
Allison Dube, a Mount Royal University professor who taught Drever, told the Calgary Herald her social media mishaps aren’t reflective of the personality of his former student, who he calls bright, thoughtful and witty.
“The caricature that has formed of her is a picture that doesn’t exist anymore,” said Dube.
That may be true, for for all practical purposes, it’s irrelevant.
Don’t let your social media profile be used as a weapon against you by either external or internal enemies. It’s not worth it, so think before you post and if you’re preparing to move up in your professional life, go through it and take out the examples of irresponsible living that you may have posted.
You can still try to present as an interesting person, but that picture of you guzzling tequila while blind drunk in Oaxaca? It’s got to go.
Before the “gay boyz” shit hit the fan, Ben Morris penned an op-ed for Digital Journal (“The ridiculous attack on Deborah Drever“) calling the controversy a farce:
The controversies surrounding the newly elected MLA is so far beyond ridiculous you can’t find a word in the dictionary to describe it. Any criticism of Drever should be based on her age, and lack of political experience, but even then she should be judged on what she does in the next four years.
Now; if you plan on running for office in a few years and have a picture of yourself smoking a joint, or acting like a drunk idiot, remove them now, and hope no one has screenshot them. We now live in an age where menial social media pictures and album covers can turn your life upside down before you have a chance to do your job.