In October 2006, the New York Times ran the article “A Student’s Video Résumé Gets Attention (Some of It Unwanted)” which told the story of Yale senior Aleksey Vayner’s self-promotional video which eventually leaked to YouTube. According to the article:

Mr. Vayner’s experience shows the not-so-friendly side of the social-networking phenomenon. While sites such as YouTube allow aspiring comedians or filmmakers to share their creations with millions of others, they also provide the ideal forum for embarrassing someone on a global scale. Materials can quickly make the rounds on blogs, via e-mail and through online hangouts like MySpace, becoming all but impossible to contain.

Several things are highlighted by this story. First, high-profile attention like this naturally lead to spoofs, like the New Yorker article “ALEKSEY THE GREAT”:

Acquaintances report hearing that he [Aleksey Vayner] is one of four people licensed to handle nuclear waste in the state of Connecticut, that he must register his hands as lethal weapons at airports, and even that he has killed two dozen men in Tibetan gladiatorial contests.

In our age of viral video, of course these spoofs include more web videos. In some if not all of these takeoffs, my guess is that aspiring videobloggers use a viral video event like Vayner’s to grab the attention of others. That’s an interesting formula for online videographic attention, and apparently a fairly successful one.

The current WikiPedia entry for Vayner indicates that in addition to global mainstream media attention, this viral video situation led to a lawsuit against the Swiss bank to which Vayner originally sent the video as part of a job application. Interesting events, to be sure, but also instructive in several other respects.

First, although the spoofs make fun of his self-help and personal success ideas, those taken from Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” book are actually right on target. Belief and focused conceptions of personal goals ARE very important in attaining “success” as it is defined in different ways.

Secondly, aside from those philosophical issues, there are important lessons to draw from Vayner’s meteoric rise to international fame (although I admit until today I hadn’t ever heard of him) via viral video. First, people of any age should carefully consider whether or not it is prudent or safe to share their direct contact information online. For young people under age 18, I don’t think they should share their email, phone number, IM addresses or physical mailing address online. In fact, it is a good idea for those under 18 to use aliases for all their digital social networking sites and web-posts.

This world of digital social networking really is a new environment without any clear rules that people can turn to and follow. I’m glad some of the things I might have written about and publicly blogged about (if that had been possible) in middle school, high school, and even college are not now part of my “permanent record” online. I definitely think carefully about the ideas and opinions I share online, because there is tremendous potential for a negative virtual tsunami of feedback to come your way. I am not sure if Vayner deserved all the negative feedback he received because of this, but my suspicion is he did not and became an unwitting object of derision and spite for many. The tallest blade of grass is often the first to be cut by the mower, and when someone stands out (for positive or negative reasons) they naturally attract potshots. Virtual potshots are very easy to take now thanks to digital social networking, and I doubt Vayner had any idea when he created this video that it would have the effect it did.

The production quality of Vayner’s video is actually very good. I think people may have attacked the video and its author because it seems like it should be a spoof, but it was apparently made with a serious attitude. (It was, after all, made as part of an application for a banking job.) It’s sad to see how mean and cruel people can be to each other. That has been especially brought to my attention lately through the recent statewide panel on cyberbullying I participated on, as well as the preparation I’ve been doing with my wife for our upcoming parenting class on “digital dialog.”

We all need to be careful what we say and publish online, and teach those around us (of all ages) to do the same. This doesn’t mean we should stay off the Internet entirely and refrain from any publishing or digital social networking, but it does mean we should carefully consider the potential impact of our words before we hit the send button.

Fame, for better or for worse, can be only a mouse click away.

fame

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4 Responses to Self-promotional video is instructive on different levels

  1. Thanks for sharing your Wiki on Internet Safety/Social Networks. There are some great resources there. I had not heard about the safe social networks you listed. It makes me think…We currently block social networking sites at our District. I have felt there is not a need for those at school, but that we need to teach students to be safe and smart about using those site outside of school. (We know they are using them.) But those safety lessons are best learned in practice. So, should we be using one of these safe social network sites to put into practice the lessons we teach about on-life safety? I will have to see if the Imbee and Club Penguin sites are blocked at school. If we did use these sites, I would like to include some curriculum content in what the students were submitting.

    Virtual Tatoo: a term I heard on a Women of the Web 2.0 (womenofweb2.podomatic.com/) podcast to describe how today’s students are creating a virtual image of themselves that can/is inspected by scholarship programs, college admission boards, etc.

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    You are most welcome, Janetta. I think you are onto the message about digital social networking we need to share with more people: There ARE better/safer and adult-moderated spaces for students to PRACTICE safe DSN, compared to the wild west of MySpace and other locations. Thanks for sharing the “virtual tatoo” term, I hadn’t heard of that. I need to listen to more WOW 2.0 podcasts! 🙂

  3. Ross Cornwell says:

    The version of “Think and Grow Rich” you mention on your web page

    (http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2007/02/24/self-promotional-video-is-instructive-on-different-levels/)

    is actually an abridged version of Dr. Hill’s original book (first published in 1937) that has been available since the early 1960s.

    Instead of this abridged version (or in addition to it), I hope you will consider referring your readers and linking to a new edition published by Aventine Press. It is “Think and Grow Rich!” (subtitled) “The Original Version, Restored and Revised” (ISBN 1593302002), edited by Ross Cornwell (me).

    This new 412-page trade paperback edition (versus 250+ pages for other editions) has an appendix, extensive endnotes (more than 50 pages), and an index — features no other version of the book has ever had. The book has been restored to its complete original (1937) content, then “gently” edited and revised to eliminate errors, outdated terminology, and to change a few statements that today would be considered racially and otherwise offensive to most readers. The book retails for $19.95 but can be purchased online for under $13.

    The book is available on all the Amazon websites and most other online booksellers, can be ordered by any bookstore, and will soon appear in bookstores throughout the world.

    If you would like to learn more about this project, a brief visit to http://www.tgr-restored-revised.com will give you some details. The “Editor’s Foreword” provides more complete information, and the “Testimonials” page will demonstrate how well-received this new book is around the world. Here is the book’s Amazon.com page:

    http://www.amazon.com/Think-Grow-Rich-Original-Restored/dp/1593302002/sr=1-1/qid=1172004763/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-1493475-7148634?ie=UTF8&s=books

    Our new edition of TGR! is superior in every way to other versions on the market. It looks better, feels better, reads better. If you examine “Think and Grow Rich!: The Original Version, Restored and Revised,” I think you will see why we believe it will soon become the favorite version among Napoleon Hill devotees, entrepreneurs, and other students of success and high achievement.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Sincerely yours,

    Ross Cornwell, Editor

  4. Another Day, Another Post…

    […] If you’re interested in learning more about this stuff, I suggest you go to this site: […]…

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