People are asking for Personal Branding workshops a lot at the moment. And every time a request comes in, this image momentarily flies into mind:


I’ve puzzled why this demand is so current, and think it may be do with this idea from Mark Schaefer author of ‘The Tao of Twitter’.

‘The social web tends to amplify personal characteristics’.

We might add ‘reduce’ personal characteristics here too, as when we sign up for social networking, we fit content about ourselves into the architecture of the application: likes and dislikes on Facebook, short announcements on Twitter and what groups we join on Linked-In.

We are fitting definition of ourselves to a format and I suspect many of us are asking:

‘Online, how do I make who I am simpler but louder?’

And the aim of many of us will be to depict ourselves in as vivid and appealing a way to people we share common ground with – who can help us, or who we can help – and to reach as many of these folk as we can…

So to an extent we are impersonalizing ourselves, reducing ourselves to characteristics we hope others will recognize and like: being open, opinionated, warm and helpful maybe…

Now there is a denial of complexity here, which is usually present in television, and frequent during the news: ‘Whoa, here comes the President/Prime Minister giving us 3 minutes on the global banking crisis’

And when we reduce ourselves to what we think the outside world judges to be attractive, we can lose confidence about qualities we possess which are outside the norm. We won’t dare to mention that we are going deaf, have reached size 20 and don’t give a fig about hair removal.

Human = Interest

Which is why I urge any of you who like a provocative read to tackle You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Landier, computer scientist. Profound and revelatory, it examines the links between the web and such qualities as humanism, empathy and the spiritual. A manifesto, it includes guidelines for staying human – and therefore, interesting – online.

These include :

-creating content online about yourself outside of what can be created through established social networking sites
-not posting anonymously… unless you really are in danger in doing so
-making videos and blog posts occasionally that take much longer to ferment, than digest
-avoiding the idea that you are the news. Your internal state may be much more interesting.

And finally, a quote from the start of the book:

‘You have to be somebody before you can share yourself’.

Somebody then – and not a sheep.

ps. Here a bit of sharing I’ve meant to do for ages: if you want just the exercises from Interview to Compel and Talk To Compel they are now housed here.

By szcz

6 thoughts on “Is Social Media Making You Less Interesting?”
  1. Surely all media does this and has always done this? You can extend the same idea to all interactions too can’t you?

    from the best foot forward of the job interview, to the well honed romantic techniques we might employ (or not!)

    there are VERY few people that are aware of our innermost thoughts feelings and fobiles?

    I suspect those that have shone in our public perceptions over the cneturies, those capable of humantiy on stage or in the literary field in film or even TV latterly, are being supplemented by those able who appear to be able to do so ‘on line’ in blogs or even through 140 characters.

    when are we ever, or when have we ever been genuine?

    everyone is someone, its just that some people are more able to ‘broadcast’ it?

    love this as always! thank you

  2. Ha! So thought-provoking and complex, so true, and yet…

    To “fit-in” and follow the prevailing social norms is, as anthropoligists remind us, satisfies a primal instinct for survival. Meerkats and penguins have even been observed in the wild to follow sophisticated structures, and for humans, politics and religion have embedded these ideas into our psyches long before the advent of the glossy magazine and tv shows (argh! the curse of the likes of TOWIE and so many U.S. dramas). Thank goodness then, for creators such as Mrsmotivator, for films like the original “Stepford Wives”, seminal literary works, which remind us that it is ok to be “Us”, to be able to choose, not to succumb to extrinsic social dictums.

    Still fighting the encroaching deafness / hirsutism and flab. It fools no-one in the flesh, but on-line, the world may yet be my oyster ;p

  3. Goodness, this comments page is turning into something of an intellectual salon…thank you both..
    Big themes, eh, group psychology online, identity and creativity… depiction of the self…

    I don’t think traditional media does allow for individual expression in the way that new media does. You need to be invited on a radio or tv show, whereas online an individual can blog, podcast, make videos, start/join in/interrupt/kill conversation, publish books single-handedly etc etc…

    Whether others want to receive/endorse/reject this content of course, is another matter.

    So who’s up for starting the ‘I can make you rich, sexy and give you eternal youth’ portal then?

  4. the precise point here might well be the difference between the guaranteed audience of trad media (like trad jazz?) and the eternally optimistic blogger trying to publish their ‘difference’

    the trad media path certainly requires permission to broadcast, however isnt it as driven by the current need to fit in, the current fashion, as the meerkats are? therefore, adherence to the TV companys agenda is simpy a desire to (commercially) survive?

    the question is perhaps whether the out crowd blogging away (or maybe the in crowd?) are redundant and will sink into an evolutionary cul de sac, or will they begin to influence this agenda?

    its certainly a question for social media – should i be pinning my pictures? or liking people’s updates or adding them to circles?

    whos going to win the battle for critical mass?

    and indeed, does anyone care!

    1. And this brings into play issues like government support/control, centrality of advertising in commercial trad media and online, and the ‘lords of the clouds’ as Jaron Landier calls them in his amazing book…

      This started as me puzzling a little about online formatting and individual self-expression – it’s certainly generated loads more ideas for future posts…thanks mostly to your comments

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