Miss New Jersey gets a pass! But the lessons of Facebook are getting bigger each day

Last year it was a partying, under-aged Miss USA who caused the media fuss, only to be rescued by Donald Trump and sent to rehab. I love fairy tales, don’t you?

amy_polumbo.jpgNow the story centers on Miss New Jersey and some “unladylike” pictures once posted on Facebook — pictures that, for a day or two, threatened to end the career of another beauty queen.

In the scheme of things, Amy’s PR problems were pretty mild. The board of the Miss America pageant is giving her a pass and letting her move on to compete in Atlantic City. Rightfully so, as the photos were pretty tame stuff by today’s standards.

So here it is again — one more example of social network content biting someone in the ass — or in Amy’s case, the breast. The pictures in question were posted on someone else’s Facebook page. But no matter. They showed her in “unladylike” poses that sound more funny than risque.

For two years I’ve preached to students about the reputation damage Facebook photos and messages can inflict. I’ve written about it here and here as well.

Some of those students have cleaned up their online profiles, but others continue to act as though the online world of social networks is a separate reality. Every student I know has cranked up his or her privacy settings to keep out the voyeurs, but if you have a large network of “friends,” those privacy settings are easily compromised. Copies of photos are easily passed along, then passed along again.

The hazards of Facebook have now spread beyond the college campus. Now that FB is open to the masses, working stiffs — including a lot of PR professionals — are flocking to the site. And that carries with it a new set of concerns.

The issue came to my attention last week when a feed from one of my young FB friends (a former student) announced a new “friend” who happens to be the CEO of her company. Cool, I thought. One of our social-media-savvy grads is bringing senior professionals into the loop — spreading the “conversation” as it were.

Then I came across this item from Monday’s WSJ. It displays the downside of office relationships on Facebook.

It’s the story of 24-year-old Paul Dyer and his angst over a “friend” invitation from his boss. What’s a subordinate to do? Do you reject the boss and risk on-the-job reprisal? Or do you accept the invitation and risk exposing your online persona to a superior and maybe others.

Of course, you could clean up your act and turn your online profile vanilla. But then you’d be boring, and what fun is that?

In the story, WSJ columnist Jared Sandberg suggests that social networks should remain social. It seems the old axiom — don’t mix business with pleasure — might still be good advice. But in a Web 2.0 world is that separation realistic or even possible?

A successful presence in social media, such as Facebook or even this blog, requires that you be a bit of an exhibitionist. Modesty in an online profile is boring. Staid blog posts are even worse. If you want to stand out in the online world, you have to be little outrageous.

There’s no better example of this online exhibitionism than Steve Crescenzo’s Corporate Hallucinations blog. Steve let’s it all hang out there, sometimes even literally, but it works. His blog is funny, and it’s well read.

So how do we strike the balance between our professional and personal lives in Web 2.0? Or can we?

3 Responses to Miss New Jersey gets a pass! But the lessons of Facebook are getting bigger each day

  1. Brian Wooley says:

    Hot damn, I knew you could do it, Bill–a whole post without a fawning mention of Strumpette!

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    And I expect my dear Amanda is deeply hurt by this oversight.

  3. Andy Curran says:

    Play it close to the vest with online profiles and blogs unless you’ve got nothing to lose by being outrageous. College students really need to watch it if they are being scrutinized by potential employers. You don’t have to be boring, but you do have to be judicious when it comes to your words and photos. Example: if someone has an interesting hobby (say, mountain climbing), posting photos of a recent climb is OK. That is certainly not boring. However, if some of those photos show the person looking drunk in the middle of a pile of empty beer cans at the base camp…well…that could be a problem.

    A lot of people who have online profiles and blogs think they have to be funny, edgy, etc. Most of them come off looking and sounding like complete idiots.

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