“Say the first thing that comes into your head when you see me. If it looks like it works, and it feels like it works, then it works.” – Snow Patrol
A few weeks ago, I was riding the PATH train from Manhattan to Jersey City with my friend. We had just finished a fun night in the city, and we were people-watching on the train, giggling at the interesting cast of characters.
Now, I admit that I sometimes lapse into “Valley Girl” mode, using the word “like” way too many times and talking enthusiastically. In my professional life, I’m articulate – I swear!
After a few minutes of my excited babble, a man standing near us interrupted me.
“Like, oh my gosh, you totally remind me of California. Like, it’s so cool,” he said.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
“But I’m from New Jersey,” I said. “Are you making fun of me?”
“Like, oh my gosh, totally not.”
I probably deserved this strange encounter; I mean, I was making up stories about other people on the train, but I will never forget the man’s bold statements.
And then it hit me: social media is like a crowded train, and everyone is presenting an image/making snap judgments.
My friend Tim says, “You’re obviously going to untag unflattering pictures. I don’t think a co-worker or a boss is going to be too pleased with a picture of you doing a beer bong through a two-story bong. Those pictures were fun and acceptable when you were irresponsible and not thinking about a job.”*
Want to know the hardest thing about developing a personal brand on the Internet? You must maintain a consistent image and monitor it so that it doesn’t become a caricature.
I am aware that I try to present an image of a young woman who is socially and technologically adept, very interested in arts and culture, fun-loving, passionate, and intelligent. Why? Because I like to believe that I am these things! I’m not an actress, and I don’t try to be something that I’m not.
In fact, I frequently reread things that I’ve written to remind myself which aspects of my personality I’ve already presented. That way, I can continue to be a certain way or show off something new.
A lot of people who have never met me in “real life” read this blog and follow me on Twitter. Even people that I’ve met (usually a requirement to be my Facebook friend) don’t know me very well but have access to my personal life on my Facebook wall. I sometimes wonder what they think (”glowing?“, “proficient“, and “adorable“).
I make a serious effort to be consistent with my presentation. If I step out of character, it’s only because I’m stepping off the metaphorical train. Most people are there for the ride, but a few may follow me to my destination.
*Tim wanted me to clarify that he doesn’t know from experience.