Last week I started Uni and one of my units this term is called ALM101 Making Social Media.
This week I have to read- google myself- and reflect on my online identity: what I want professionals in my field to know and find out about me, and what I don't want them to know.
In many areas it's easy to separate professional and private lives, as a writer living in the 21st century, not so much. People want to know what I'm doing on a Sunday morning as much as what I'm working on during the week. Maybe it's to get a glimpse into the creative process to be sure that I don't have superpowers and that if they wanted to they too could try to write for a living.
As much as I don't want to share my daily life, I have to in some extent if I want my readers/you to relate to me. I'm not Stephen King, not yet, and people don't just buy my books or follow me on my name. Many creatives and other businesses brand themselves. It's something I'm incapable of doing in the long run as I don't find that authentic. This isn't who I am.
But I have to be careful of what I share. I don't want the entire world to know everything about me. I want to be social but still private.
Let's use Lola as an example of well managed online identity.
When you look at her, Lola is the cutest dog ever. She's a sucker for attention and a puppy eyes world champion. She wraps everyone at home - and on internet around her finger. There are a few things Lola hides very well from the world though.
The most secret one being that she's not a dog. You read that well. Lola was raised in a house full of cats and apart from the occasional barking and constant tail wagging, Lola is a cat. She doesn't want the outside world to find out. I've spent the last few years drawing my camera every time she groomed herself like a cat, licking her front paws and then cleaning her face with them, or licking her chest the way only cats do; every time she stopped, waiting for me to put the camera away before carrying on. Every time but today, when I had a glimpse of it on video before she realised I was filming.
I'm posting this screenshot - and the following photos - without her consent and she could sue me for that . I guess we'll learn about this in class in the next few weeks.
I'm about to ruin her reputation and the online identity she spent years to build will be shattered after this post, but it's to make my point.
On the left Winter Lola, with her cute Teddy bear look.
On the right Summer Lola aka Dobby. She doesn't like it, she tries to hide under coats too big for her even during heat waves because she's somehow ashamed of her poodle heritage. You know how sometimes we don't feel ready to show our beach body...Lola prefers her winter body.
She can't stay inside the house all summer avoiding paparazzi so sometimes those photos are published.
For the moment, there's not much damage done to her online identity, because I focused on her looks.
The real damage appears when our bad behaviour is documented online. How many celebrities have ruined their career after a drunken night photos were leaked in the tabloids, or when an insider revealed their bad temper/behaviour/habits?
Would you guess by the look of her angelic face that you could lose a finger if not your whole hand trying to pick up a piece of food you dropped on the floor, or taking something out of her mouth - the sock she stole for example? (We keep on buying socks, after seven years we still don't know where she hides them).
Can you picture this tiny little angel bullying Luna our thirty kilo American Staffy and that she bites Luna to blood?
Now tell me that this particular photo or knowing how aggressive she can be won't affect the perception you have about Lola. That's why you must be very careful about what you post online and towards which audience; if it's private or public, if you target your gym buddies, you high school friends or your co-workers.
You also must take with caution what you find online. It's not because someone brands themselves as a qualified professional in any field that's it's obligatory true. Do some digging before stopping the treatment your specialist gave you.
What's YOUR online identity? Do you need to build one or are you happy with yours?
It's time to reflect about it.