In a recent article in the Seattle Times, Jeanne-Sun Hannah Ahn, recently crowned Miss Seattle, was called out for the following negative Tweets:
Tweet No. 1 that Ahn wishes she had never written: "Ew I seriously am hating Seattle right now... " Tweet No. 2 that Ahn wishes she had never written: "Take me back to az!!! Ugh can't stand cold rainy Seattle and the annoying people."
Now, being only a three-year resident of Seattle, myself, I have to admit that most residents get grumpy with the chilly rain here from time to time. And most native Seattleites seem to have a selective memory when it comes to the weather: they insist that no, really, it's sunny a lot of the time!
Personally, I've invested in a light box to keep the gloom from affecting my mood and productivity too heavily. This town has gloomy weather; there's no denying it. So why are these Tweets so offensive?
- There is a difference between civilized venting of frustrations and insulting people. I don't believe that anyone, even those representing only their own personal brand, need to be 100% positive all the time. That's just creepy. We're human; we get grumpy. I've been known to post a grumptastic Tweet or two, and I stand by them. But there is a difference between saying "Seattle rain is driving me crazy. Where can I get some sun?" and "I can't stand cold rainy Seattle and the annoying people." It's kind of like that old therapist's trick of using "I" statements instead of directing your anger at others: instead of saying "You are annoying," you say, "I'm annoyed today." The first is an offensive Tweet; the second would be perfectly acceptable in my book.
- You are always representing yourself. Most of us simply represent ourselves, and until last week, that was true for Ahn as well. If she hadn't been crowned Miss Seattle, her grumpy Tweets might have lost her a few followers but wouldn't have resulted in any public outcry. I'm a fan of the personable without being too personal rule of social media sharing: be your own self online, but be your best self. Don't post anything you wouldn't want your grandmother or your next employer to see. It's okay to complain a little, as long as you're taking responsibility for it and posting more positive follow-ups when you feel better.
- You might one day represent another brand. This, I believe, is where Ahn lost insight. More troubling that a few spare disses to the hip town of Seattle is the fact that she uses the characterization "annoying" frequently in her Twitter presence; that is coming to define her own personal brand as, well, a bit of a whiner. Fine for Ahn on her own, but now she is representing Seattle, and that negativity doesn't align with the Miss Seattle brand.
Keeping your Twitter nose clean
There are tools such as Reputation.com that will clean up your online presence for those who come suddenly into the public eye or a high-profile job. But a better strategy is to think before you post to begin with. However, for those who do find themselves in the public eye or seeking a new position, a few tips:
- Review your last year of Facebook posts. How do you come across based on your status updates and photos? Did you make any negative references to past employers or specific people? Remove them.
- Review your last six months of Tweets. How do you come across based on this information alone? What is the ratio of positive, negative and neutral Tweets? How engaged and responsive are you to others?
- Google yourself. What is the top hit? Does it represent the aspect of you you want employers or the public to see?
Of course, the best advice is simply to be aware of your own personal brand to begin with. Post content that aligns with your own passions and those of your personal brand. Share personal tidbits, ask for advice, and keep the social media conversation going.