In a former life, castrating and branding the young bulls was spring-time ritual. The smell of singed hair & flesh is memorable. In another former life, I had a million dollar spread on Farm Town that I turned into a sub-division. In my current life, I don’t own a cell phone, an iPad or an e-Reader.
Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Klout that my “influence” has declined in the past 30 days by 2 points. Klout also informed me that I seem to have some expertise in “anxiety.” I reacted to this information as I have to the 401K statements I’ve received over the past few years…with mild amusement. It’s always been a tiny, supplemental account; I would have been better off to invest the money in a piggy bank.
In January, I deactivated my Facebook account for a variety of reasons. One was that the Missouri legislature was attempting to outlaw Facebook relationships between students and teachers. My college at the time did not have a social media policy, but I was assured that this state policy would not apply to college instructors. Mostly though, I did not want Facebook to “go public” with “my privacy.” It was Klout suicide—my score dropped 20 points. It might have been different had I had the foresight to set up different accounts for my professional life, my family life, and my blogging life. Nevertheless, it has taken some of my “friends” months to realize that I’m no longer there.
I have a Tumblr account that I update erratically (it’s full of experimental looks and funny outtakes from my photo sessions). I have maintained my Twitter account. I don’t offer much there and I’m not very good at promoting my friends’ blogs, but I like to think that I’m a thoughtful curator of articles related to topics that I’m interested in.
I joined Pinterest months before it fully caught on. Initially, I thought I would use it primarily as a “wish list” of things I admired, but could not afford. But, as it’s turned out, I pin mostly recipes of healthy dishes I’d like to try, cleaning tips using green materials I already have on hand, and DIY projects I’ll try when my grandson grows bored with his summer vacation.
I’ve mostly experimented with social media as a way to have some awareness of my students’ sensibilities. In short, I do not use any form of social media to promote myself as a “brand.”
In the two years I’ve been blogging at Rags, I’ve come across so many articles on SEO and building one’s brand. These things are on my mind because of an excellent article I read at n+1 magazine, which thoughtfully examined the intersection of fast fashion, Facebook, and branding. These excerpts are Rob Horning's words, with my emphasis:
“Much as fast-fashion companies are routinely accused of pirating designs, Facebook continually oversteps once sacrosanct norms of privacy, opting users in to data-divulging mechanisms by default and backpedaling only when confronted with public outcry. It offers a space akin to the fast-fashion retailer’s changing room for the ritual staging of the self, inviting users to seize upon ‘stylistic elements’ from wherever they can be grabbed. We become involuntary bricoleurs, scrambling to cobble together an ad hoc identity from whatever memes happen to be relevant at the time.”
“The personal brand, in its concatenation of fame hunger and dismal self-exploitation, is the evolutionary end point of a tendency implicit in fashion since the rise of consumerism. As fashion strayed from its pre-capitalist role of expressing established hierarchies, it helped usher in a reflexive sense of self, set in terms of constantly shifting social meanings. It reconciled people to the idea of an identity not foisted upon us by birth and circumstances, but one for which we must hold ourselves personally responsible….fashion has been a form of institutionalized insecurity.”
“We need a sympathetic community within which to realize our individuality. Social media tends to turn that effort to preserve that community into the pursuit of fame. And when we pursue fame, our behavior devolves into the familiar forms of self-commodification. We replace the pleasure of what we do with fantasies about the measurable notoriety we imagine we’ll reap.”
I’ve been paranoid about my online presence since 9/11, not out of anything I have to hide, but out of concern for my privacy. I recognize the value of carefully guarding one’s online presence and I do actively protect my reputation as an educator. But, I also do random searches on esoteric subjects to deliberately toy with advertising algorithms. My internet signal is shared with 12 other adults who share the building in which I live—one is training to be a minister, one is disabled, two are gamers, another is a young mother, and my husband is forever doing searches on “antique organs.” I can only imagine the search profile for my ISP.
I want to believe that my failure to fit into ANY neat “marketing” demographic is a bid for authenticity. And little by little, I’ve come to believe that bloggers of a certain age know something about authenticity that younger users of social media may never have known.
Now, I’m curious to know about the various ways my readers might use social media and if you ever think of yourself as a brand. And, is authenticity possible in the world of social media?