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

July 13, 2007

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. Read the rest of this entry »