It’s important to realize that while sharing secrets to a faceless screen might seem easier, the real-life consequences are still the same as they always have been. In fact in our super-google-powered world, these consequences have never been higher.
I often think about how terrifying it must be to be a teenager in this digital world. I was bullied so badly that my parents moved me to a different school for 8th grade. That move brought instant relief and I started anew as a totally different person. I remember how terrified I was when the following year in high school a girl from my original middle school showed up. I was sure that she was going to blow my entire cover and somehow get all my new friends to turn against me. Of course she didn’t and everything was fine. But I remember those moments of pure terror- a feeling like my escape had been a cruel dream. That I was destined to be bullied forever. Trust me- it’s a horribly dark place to be.
I can’t imagine what it’s like now- where school communities must bleed into others. Escape for the bullied takes much more than moving districts. There’s no ability to hide. No anonymity. It was this experience that led me to write this blog post a few years ago when some geniuses decided to make a burnbook app (yes it was as bad as it sounds). Eliminating privacy is not the same as “authenticity” regardless of how many misguided posts out there on personal branding proclaim the contrary. We do not live in an episode of Black Mirror.
Being “authentic” online is not about sharing your deepest, darkest secrets. It’s not about erasing the barrier between the personal and the public. Rather it’s about figuring out how you want to present yourself online in a way that is consistent with your offline persona. Your online personal brand should support who you are offline not undermine it. And remember- we all show different facets of ourselves to different groups of people. And that’s perfectly acceptable. Just remember that anything that goes online should be the lowest common denominator as far as what you’re willing to personally share. Because even if you have privacy settings in place all it takes is one ill-willed screenshot and your private views become very publicly shared.
That’s the point of a personal brand. You put out there what works for you. You figure out how to be authentically you- and no one can tell you how to do that but you. I encourage you to sit down with a glass of wine, some soft music on and a sheet of paper. Start writing and see what comes out. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Then think about what type of content goes along with that persona and give it a whirl.
Honestly if you’re thinking of spending money on creating a personal brand you might consider spending some of that into a good therapist as opposed to a marketing professional (and I speak as one!). Because helping you to think through your personal narrative is something that they are uniquely suited to. And you might learn a lot about yourself in the process!
Like yesterday’s post, this is the point where I’d probably want to go back through an add some more links, perhaps do some editing to make it flow better. BUT I’m resisting the urge- so I apologize that it’s a bit stream of consciousness 🙂
Words have power. Enormous incredible power. The right words in the right tone at the right moment can make all the difference. Something that I’ve been increasingly fascinated by is how this power gets translated into the online medium.
In this 31 day writing blitz I’ve said that I’ll reveal various bits of backstory about the Girl with the Red Hair. Well one of the things that many of you might not know about me is that my second language is American Sign Language. I went to a public high school that had a special program to teach sign language and integrated deaf students and interpreters into our classes.
Learning ASL made me think about all of the aspects of communication that I take for granted. So much goes into auditory signals- from tone of voice to pattern of speech- there’s so much additional context that gets added. In ASL all of this must be replaced by body language and visual cues- and that can lead some some gaps in translation.
My third year of sign, I started feeling like my teacher had something against me and I asked her if everything was ok. She said that it was nothing personal but she felt like I was constantly yelling at her because of the intensity with which I was signing. She said that she knew that I was a passionate and expressive person but that I needed to figure out how to moderate that when I signed. For the digital age the equivalent was as if I was typing in all caps constantly. I think back to that occasion often. I had no way of knowing that the words I was communicating were being perceived in such a different manner.
In ASL the auditory context has been replaced by body language. Training to become an interpreter includes how to translate auditory context such as tone of voice. But there’s no such analogue for the digital age- and what we’re trying to replace is much larger. Sure there are emojis 🙁 , CAPSLOCK, underlining for emphasis, but still much is lost in translation. And this can have major consequences. I’ve been at several organizations now that have encouraged collaboration via text or chat tools, the problem is that when you have high stress situations you really need that tone of voice or knowing grin to mitigate harsh words.
ASL has rules and I think we need some for the digital age of communication. We need to be aware that long conversations occurring only via chat are at serious risk of misinterpretation. So care must be given to the word we choose to use in these communiques. The irony of course is that chat tools are there to increase productivity at organizations- designed to replace the need for long phone calls or even emails. They are meant to be short-form. But in the desire to streamline you risk loosing a whole lot of context- and really the humanity is all in the context. That’s what separates us from a chatbot.
Okay so that was the post for Day 1. I think I said what I meant to say but it seems a bit preachy at the end. Doesn’t help that I’m finishing it up from the back of a car en route to a minor league Cyclones Game with my in-laws! But that’s the point of this exercise- to get myself writing out my thoughts with as little filter as is possible. So… I’m going to hit publish.
It’s how all good announcements begin right? And the listener of course knows that, much as the speaker claims to the contrary, what they are listening to is in fact a well-formulated and thought out plan- not something that they were just thinking about.
Except in this case. I literally woke up and started typing this post. Actually it started as a Facebook post but then I realized that rather than talk about this idea I wanted to actually DO it so it’s now an official Day 0 blog post announcing–>
I’m going to be publishing a daily blog post throughout the month of July.
I’ve never done anything like this before but I REALLY need to get back into writing and, knowing myself, the only way that’s going to happen is if I make myself do it daily AND involve my community.
I have no idea what I’ll write all 31 posts about- and that’s part of the reason I want to do this. As a strategist and recovering academic I think about what I write ad infinitum. But I’ve found that my best performing posts are always those that I put together in 30 minutes because they come from the heart.
I’ve been out of touch with that side of me for nearly a year and it shows. I’m frustrated. So VERY frustrated. I don’t want to blog when I’m like this because I want to create posts that are well put together- but the fact is I am a creature of passion. I FEEL social strategy- that’s why I’m good at it. My first foray into social strategy came when I built the online movement to reinstate UVA President Theresa Sullivan back in 2012. That translated into my first social strategy position working with UVA’s development team to try to understand what their alums wanted from them on social media.
The attraction of social media for me is not the tech part nor the marketing potential. It’s the ability to unify people online into into action offline. It’s inspiring each other to do bigger and better. It’s about taking risks. It’s about helping each other. I dealt with depression and social anxiety when I was an undergrad and I know that college would have been much scarier if I hadn’t been able to feel a semblance of belonging via Facebook.
I post on various social platforms because it’s where I interact with my community. So consider the next 31 blog posts an extension of that: I’m going to be sharing with you the backstory of the Girl with the Red Hair, about why I do what I do how it all came to be and what’s coming next.
You can also expect to get an assortment of cat stories, complaints about the humidity in NYC in the summer, stories about teaching and no doubt the occasional rant. Warning: There will be little proof reading involved because the point is to write- not to strategize- not to edit. This is me. Unfiltered. Well mostly unfiltered- some secrets are good in any relationship 😉
Well then I’ll see you tomorrow….
(and if you’re not interested well… sorry about that- but this is happening so… not really sure what to tell ya.)