There's been some great stuff going down recently about brand awareness. I was at a dinner last night (hence the lack of post) where the topic rolled round to brand awareness, mission and promotion (as it would naturally do in a room full of PR people and journalists). My good cyber-buddy Sister Wolf has just written a post on the subject of creating a brand for yourself online, in which she references an article by Zadie Smith about how we are censoring ourselves on Facebook.
It's something I've given a lot of thought to in preparation for my next role, and also as a graduate jobseeker. A friend of mine from uni once wrote in her Facebook profile that she wore lots of hats - student-hat, yoga-bunny-hat, friend-hat, girlfriend-hat - and it's a good metaphor for those of us with an active social presence, online or otherwise. Sister brings up her old rival Sea as a great example of how certain media presences have censored out the parts of themselves that they don't like or don't think are appealing in order to draw in a specific audience. Sister then claims that she does no such thing. And one of the commentors on the post (it would make way more sense if you just hopped over to my blogroll and read it for yourself) says that only the most calculating of people can lie about themselves in print.
I have to disagree with that. As someone who has studied journalism (purely as an amateur, you have to understand) I think that a person is most easily able to lie about themselves in print, because it can be edited, censored, carefully controlled. Sure, some people open up completely in their own private writing, but not everyone. I used to keep a diary, which provided a fascinating read for me when I dug it out a few years ago, but nowadays I get so sick of the sound of my own voice (she says, while upchucking online with wild abandon) that the idea of having to tell myself my innermost secrets is nauseating. And a tad scary.
You see, I think where Zadie and Sister have it right is that the influx of social media tools has allowed us to censor out parts of ourselves. That's not a dangerous thing. People have been concealing parts of themselves for years. That's why we have therapists. If everyone told the truth on Facebook, and in life, we'd have far fewer friends and far fewer problems, but we'd be bored. Part of the great game of trying to understand other people is those mysteries. A truly forthcoming person with an online presence doesn't exist. Or if they do, they are more calculating than the rest of us who censor ourselves, because they've made the conscious decision to not hold anything back, and have relaxed control so completely that they are in total control of every aspect of their persona. Online.
Because you have to be pretty bloody careful about what you put out there on the internet. The magazines that I read have been awash with cases of cyber bullying (something encountered recently by my good friend over at Dead Stylish - see the second of my bloggers vs. journalists posts, except we deduced that she wasn't actually a journalist at all), with innocent girls finding themselves the victims of malicious taunts, threats and bile. But, because people can say what they like on the 'net, often a simple comment made that, if you said it to someone's face, would be taken in jest, is blown out of proportion. Someone apparently wrote 'die Katie Waissel' on Facebook (re. the X Factor's baboon-faced media cannon fodder and sometime contestant) and is being investigated by the police. All sorts of legal mumbo-jumbo gets battered around from a simple looksie at Wikipedia.
But if we're looking at other peoples' profiles, we always have to worry about who's looking at ours. And that's where the censorship comes in. Because as competition for jobs has become tougher, I don't doubt that employers are snooping around Facebook for good evidence not to hire people, or to get a bit of a feel for an individual who censors themselves silly in an interview. In the current series of The Apprentice, a foolish young candidate has had the foresight to dub himself 'Stuart Baggs The Brand'. Obviously the only thing this brands him as is a massive tool, as he clearly has very little clue about how to present himself. He could take a lesson from 'The Real Estate King' from American Beauty, who maintains that 'in order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times'. We never see said King uncomposed, uncontrolled (yes, even during the slightly disturbing sex scene) but at the same time we get the feeling that as a result, the King isn't quite human.
Because that's what people are able to censor out online, and in person if they have boundless concentration. Their humanity. Presenting an idealised version of yourself dependant on the situation is often what is called for, and often what we are forced to do. In less than twelve hours' time, I'll have done just that. I should really be trying to get into the mindset right now, because if my concentration on that image I'm trying to project wavers, like a Patronus it will disappear. But I'm only human.
I don't think there's anything with people censoring parts of themselves out. It's how I've been getting by for years. The real me is odious, at least I'm pretty sure she is. We haven't spoken in a while. Unless I've become so absorbed in RedHead The Brand I've become her. Brand Assimilation...wait, let me write that one down.
Ok, if you made it this far, I'll reward you with some pictures to show my flippant, whimsical, easy-going side.
You can look, there are two. I'm slightly superstitious.
That's my reflection in the doors of the lift at work. My hair is like a small bonfire. That really needs dealing with. Maybe I'll squeeze in a haircut on my day off.