Social Networking, Drunken Pirates and Success

Positive personal impact is one of the keys to personal and professional success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success, 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success and Your Success GPS.  If you want to create positive personal impact you need to do three things.  First, develop and nurture your unique personal brand.  Second, be impeccable in your presentation of self – in person and on line.   Third, know and follow the basic rules of etiquette.

The Stacy Snyder story provides a good example of what not to do in all three. 

In 2006, Stacy was a student at Millersville University in Pennsylvania.  She was studying education and doing her student teaching at Conestoga Valley High School.  She also had a MySpace page on which she posted a picture of herself in a pirate costume, drinking out of a plastic cup, wearing mouth grills.  The caption read “Crunken Pirate.”  Apparently she also posted a critical comment about the supervising teacher.

A parent of one the children in her student teaching class brought the photo to the attention of administrators at Conestoga Valley High School.  One thing led to another, and Millersville University refused to grant her a degree in education.  They said her photo and caption promoted underage drinking.  The university did grant her a BA in English.  However, this degree would not allow her to receive the teaching certificate required to teach in Pennsylvania.

Stacy sued the university charging that Millersville University violated her first amendment rights.  She lost. 

Writing in the, Brian Krebs said…

“I have long urged readers to exercise caution on social networking sites, which have established themselves as fertile breeding grounds for scams and malicious software attacks. Regardless of which side was in the right in this dispute, Snyder’s story is yet another reminder about the privacy impact of social networking sites: Be judicious and exercise restraint before posting details about your personal life online, because those details will in all likelihood remain online indefinitely.”

He’s right.

Now let’s consider how Stacy Snyder violated all three tenets of creating positive personal impact.

First, branding herself as a “drunken pirate” was not a good idea.  The picture, taken at a Halloween party, was not one Stacy should have posted on her MySpace page.  As the school charged, it demonstrated a lack of professionalism on her part.

Second, as Brian Krebs points out: “Be judicious and exercise restraint before posting details about your personal life online, because those details will in all likelihood remain online indefinitely.”  By posting the picture and the caption, Stacy was not presenting herself in a positive light.  Even if she won her lawsuit against Millersville University, she would have found it very difficult to find a teaching job.

Finally, Stacy violated basic rule of etiquette by posting negative comments about her supervising teacher.  Stacy should have heeded the advice most of our mothers have given us – “if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.”

In this situation, Stacy went 0 for 3 on creating positive personal impact.  1) She branded herself as a “drunken pirate” – not a good idea when job hunting.  2) She did a poor job of presenting herself as a professional.  3) She didn’t follow the rules of etiquette when she made disparaging remarks about her supervising teacher on her website.

Also, I have seen references to Stacy’s case in print and on line for three years now.  While some of the articles have been sympathetic to her plight, most agree that she should have been more judicious in what she posted on line.

The common sense point here is clear.  Successful people create positive personal impact.  You create positive personal impact by building a solid, professional personal brand; presenting yourself professionally – in person and on line; and knowing and following the basic rules of etiquette.  What you post on line – on MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or any number of places can help or hinder your attempts at creating positive personal impact.  Be smart.  Think before you hit that send button.

That’s my take on personal impact and your on line presence.  What’s yours?  Please take a few minutes to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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