Week 2 of 23 Things for Research. If you’re following this blog category and wondering how we went from straight from Thing 1 to Things 4 & 5, don’t worry you didn’t miss Things 2 & 3. Not everything is a blog.
‘Consider your personal brand’
This week we’ve been asked to consider our online presence. To be honest, I’m really not comfortable seeing myself as a brand.
I am a human being, not a tin of tomato soup.
As instructed I Googled my name to see what came up. I have two websites, two YouTube channels, Facebook (personal and a page), Twitter, LinkedIn, Sound Cloud and Instagram. I also use Gumroad and PayHip for selling my ukulele ebooks. My name came up a lot. I was pleased to see my website came up first. I was surprised to learn, however, that as well as being a musician I am also a gymnast, a painter, a geologist and a Head of Finance. Apparently I’m married and in 2011, aged 17, was Model of the Week. OK. I jest. But social media does give us the opportunity to create a fantasy image of ourself.
In Portuguese the word fantasia means costume.
My approach to social media has always been to try and create a realistic picture of myself. I mentioned in the #Thing 1 blog how I often use a kitchen setting for my videos. My desk is in the kitchen. It’s the place where I do most of my guitar and ukulele practise. I like to be close to the kettle, the coffee machine and a stash of chocolate. I want people to be comfortable and see a real person behind the guitar or the ukulele.
But how do other people really see me?
A while ago I met, for the first time, someone I’d been ‘friends’ with on Facebook for a couple of years. During the course of the conversation he said he was glad I was in England and we were able to meet. I said, “But I live here.” He said, “No! Really? But you’re always in such exotic places. You’re such a jet setter.” At first I thought he must have mistaken me for someone else. But it turned out my jet setter image was the result of photos taken on a holiday to Australia in 2014. My mum just happens to live on a tropical island in North Queensland. Nice! And exotic. We’d stopped en route in Singapore. Also exotic. Interesting how photos from a four week holiday in Australia had come to represent a ‘jet set way of life.’ That was a good lesson in how social media can create an unrealistic image of yourself. Not that I thought being seen as jet setter was such a bad image!
One of the potential dangers of the social media fantasia is how self-absorbing it could all become. What if the cyber fantasia becomes more attractive than real life…
A couple of months ago I saw this meme going around on Facebook:
May your life be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook.
While I quite like the jet setter image it demonstrated how easy it is to create a fantasia. In the words of TS Eliot: appearances can be deceptive.
As a musician I see my social media as a balance between the professional and the personal. Although I’ve often had doubts about being too casual, my approach has worked for me professionally. My ‘boss’ found me, and initially contacted me, through my website. He’d watched my YouTube videos. I guess he liked what he saw.
Facebook was also the way I ‘met’ my PhD supervisors. By the time I applied to do a PhD they already knew my work. Getting to know their work helped me make the decision about where I wanted to do a PhD and who I wanted as my supervisors.
I regard my social media as part self-marketing, part self-expression and part communication. It enables me to network with guitarists and ukulele players all over the world.
At first I wasn’t particularly inspired by this task. But as the week has progressed it has been a good time to reflect on my online presence. I’m also beginning to appreciate the importance of blogging. Pictures can be deceptive. Words are more substantial. I can post a photo in a few seconds, writing a blog takes several hours.
Over to Desmond…
(Please note: If you work with children you have to particularly careful about using social media. Make sure you read and understand the safeguarding children guidelines. Not just to protect the child but to protect yourself.)
I would hazard a guess that most of us don’t intend through social media to offer inaccurate presentations of ourselves (not saying you’re saying that). It’s an unfortunate result of sharing what we feel are the interesting aspects of our lives and not sharing the mundane or the hard-to-express things.. So we share photos of our vacations and parties and so on. And we don’t share the dish washing, or reminding our child to do their chores, or paying utility bills. And maybe we don’t share our deeper thoughts about life, because that’s much harder to do than tossing onto Facebook a photo with brief caption.
That’s why we all need (and should VALUE) our real-world relationships.
Thanks for sharing!
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I understand the resistance to branding, but since it is going to happen anyway, why not control it? You can either be branded by the haphazard and unthinking things you write. Or you can write with an eye on your ethos. The trick is to be sincere. People can sniff out insincerity. So branding involves not so much fantasy but presenting the true facet of yourself that you want to be shown.
This must be a PhD thing. When I was going through the process, there was no social media to speak of. However, I was pointedly asked who was my model. I replied, I wanted to be me. Wrong answer! I was supposed to consciously keep a writer I admired in my mind’s eye and follow that person’s methodology whilst, of course, putting my own personality into the mix. Different medium, same concept.
I think it is a good lesson to assimilate into your life. I don’t have social media accounts, but I still use the concept a lot. For example, the place I work at has an extremely liberal attendance policy, but I have never missed a minute of work because I want to be seen (branded) as the punctual person. Similarly, I don’t give in to the temptation of profanity which seems to be the fashion. Nor do I gossip, even when prompted by a co-worker. I do these things consciously to promote the ethos I want to share with the world.
Dear Dr Ronald, I like your ethos! Thanks for this very thoughtful response. I find it very useful! Sam
Thanks for your thoughts Martin!
I have never heard of people meeting their PhD supervisors on facebook first, what an interesting way of doing things. I am also firmly in your camp of having an ensuite kitchen with coffee and chocolate whilst working.
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