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Are you putting your best ‘face’ forward? August 26, 2009

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.
Partyin' Paul represents what students should guard against when creating their Facebook 'brand.'

Partyin' Paul represents what students need to guard against when creating their Facebook 'brand.'

I could be wrong, but I don’t think a single person failed to raise a hand. I certainly wasn’t surprised. I knew a large majority of the 150 or so RIT students seated in front of me would offer an affirmative response when asked, “Do you have a Facebook account?”

With some 250 million users, Facebook has become a lifestyle for Americans of every demographic, but its use was pioneered more than five years ago by college students. Clearly today’s young adults are no less inclined to forsake this social networking tool than they were in those ‘early’ days. But I often have concerns about how they use it.

Nerdy Paul is so not where it's at either.

Nerdy Paul is so not where it's at either.

Facebook was a significant part of a presentation I made yesterday concerning “personal branding.” My audience, this year’s batch of Orientation Assistants, commonly known as OAs, represents the amazing potential of RIT’s student body. They’re great kids, and their willingness to give up the last two weeks of their summer vacation to take part in the New Student Orientation program, designed to help first-year RIT students and their families make a successful transition, so impresses me. I consider it an honor to be included in their training—share some insights but also hear what’s on their minds. More on that in my latest post to The Tiger Beat, the official blog of RIT University News.

One thing that’s long bothered me about some Facebook users is what I consider a “stream-of-consciousness mentality.” Adult users are just as guilty of this, but I worry about students who post content (status updates, photos, etc.) without more thoughtful consideration about how it may reflect in the eyes of fellow users. I felt compelled to discuss the potential that creates for sabotaging one’s overall personal brand, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have some fun doing it.

Just be yourself.

Just be yourself.

To help illustrate my point, I recently paid a visit to my coworker Sue Weisler, manager of photography. Dressed in a polo shirt, I asked Sue to snap a few standard-issue portraits of me—professionally casual and, of course, accompanied by a smile. “Okay, Sue, be right back,” I said as I went off for a wardrobe change. Minutes later, “Partyin’ Paul” arrived, rowdy and reckless in a sleeveless shirt, cap on sideways and a beer bottle in hand. Sue loved it, but there was one more guest waiting backstage. Enter “Nerdy Paul,” buttoned up and mellowed down, with wire-rimmed glasses to boot. The contrast, I hoped, appeared obvious.

Inserted within Facebook profile templates for my presentation, my photos succeeded in generating some chuckles from the audience. But these extreme portraits were simply my way to emphasize a need for balance. Facebook content should reflect the complete portrait of an individual. Yes, employers or other influential contacts who explore a person’s online persona want to see some fun—as long as it’s not overdone. On the other hand, no need for students to overly sanitize their profiles. Nobody’s interested in associating with a stuffed shirt.

Facebook, and other social media resources, are powerful tools for anyone looking to create or enhance their personal brand. But I realize that, above all, it’s about having fun. Just keep it clean, or I’m sending Partyin’ Paul to kick your butt. 🙂



1. Joanna - August 26, 2009

Paul, I love that you’ve embraced social media. I enjoy your blog – you come across authentically. I got a chuckle out of your Partyin’ Paul pic (I recognized the chair in Sue’s studio) – he does look like he’s having fun.

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