"I love Twitter," Rakesh "Rocky" Agrawal wrote in a VentureBeat blog a few months back. "It's the only social network that I can honestly say has had a huge impact on my life."
That's putting it mildly.
After joining PayPal less than two months ago as director of strategy, Agrawal is out the door, recipient of a humiliating comeuppance on the Internet Monday after a vitriolic rant on Twitter where he leveled an obscenity-laced tirade against some of his colleagues.
Agrawal, who insisted on Twitter that he quit before being fired, certainly isn't the first guy to step into the social-media muck through sloppy microblogging. Celebrities have stumbled countless times; and one bad keystroke by a US Airways social-media manager broadcast a pornographic image to the airline's more than 400,000 followers on Twitter.
"I know someone who seriously damaged their career by Instagramming all the cocktails they were drinking one night," said tech author Leander Kahney, editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. "That's just not a good message to be sending your boss."
The trouble for Agrawal, who goes by @rakeshlobster on Twitter and is also principal analyst at reDesign mobile and a television commentator, began early Saturday when he started tweet-trashing fellow employees.
Visiting New Orleans for a jazz festival, Agrawal's first target was Christina Smedley, PayPal's vice president of global communications, whom he called a "useless middle manager," followed up by an obscenity. Next, he tweeted "People who should be fire from paypal Don Christmas a pool a kick," although various news bloggers said no record of anyone named Don Christmas could be found at PayPal.
As the night dragged on, Agrawal's tweets seemed to soften and he eventually announced he was quitting his job ("Oh," he tweeted. "I quit pay a tonight.")
Agrawal did not respond to an email for comment. PayPal issued its own tweet on the matter: "Rakesh Agrawal is no longer with the company. Treat everyone with respect. No excuses. PayPal has zero tolerance."
The sort of high-profile humiliation that Agrawal is experiencing, says analyst Ben Bajarin with Creative Strategies, will become commonplace as people use social-media tools like Twitter and Facebook to vent, often without considering the possible fallout.
"We live in an era where you have this broadcast medium right at your fingertips," Bajarin said. "And while it's unlikely that the guy would have sat down and written a long blog post saying the same things, with Twitter and other microblogging tools this kind of thing is bound to happen over and over."
The embarrassment can also make things tough for the offender's family, friends and even employer, Bajarin said. "This puts the company between a rock and hard place because they have to deal with it. And because it's so public, they have to deal with it in a much more public way than if it were just some internal inappropriate behavior."
On Saturday, Agrawal apologized to David Marcus, PayPal's president, and Stan Chudnovsky, the company's vice president of growth and global strategy, posting a photo of himself with the words: "Day one of my next adventure? I am so ducking tired."
He also tweeted that the earlier messages were meant for a colleague and that he was using a new phone and thought the tweets had been private.
Some of his posts during the outburst and even as recently as Monday were hard to decipher, either because they were full of typos or because they were downright bizarre. "I've always wanted to get to necked island," he wrote Monday morning, prompting one of his followers to tweet back: "Dude, are you OK? Your tweets are worrisome."
While Agrawal has yet to explain his behavior, TUI, or tweeting under the influence, has gotten others into hot water, from Silicon Valley to Hollywood. Former baseball pro Jose Canseco famously proposed to Lady Gaga through Twitter, sloppily misspelling his own pitch, saying "I am her night in baseball armor." Actor Russell Crowe ensured himself an awkward legacy with his foul-mouthed rants.
Agrawal's faux pas crossed a line by attacking his work colleagues, said Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of Redwood City-based Reputation.com and a pioneer in online reputation management. Still, he said, there's hope.
"He has to own his mistake, and it'll take time, but he can recover," he said of Agrawal. "He might lay off the colorful commentary for a while and go with more substantive comments if he continues to use Twitter.
"This might be a good time to take a short vacation," Fertik said. "And he might send a card and flowers to the woman he tweeted about. Admit you screwed up, and you can make yourself lovable again."
Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689; follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc.
some of Rakesh 'Rocky'Agrawal's tweets
"Christina Smedley is a useless. Piece of s--t"
"Duck you Smedley you useless middle. manager."
"People who should be fire from paypal Don Christmas a pool a kick."
"Oh. I quit pay a tonight because of self at son and aortic and ah our and hill e a s th."