It’s never been more advantageous than now to have an active online presence, as our online selves are ‘at the very least an important component of our presentation of ourselves to the world’ (Marshall, 2010). Its even argued that an ‘online presence is more important than your resume’ when looking for work and, at the very least, job seekers ‘should have a fully developed LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot’ (Garone, 2014). Trede goes on to explain that every ‘professional has a professional identity, the question is how conscious and purposefully chosen it is’ and hence are able to utilise the core of their identity (2014). This why we can no longer be passive consumers, but rather ‘produsers’ who collaborate and continuously build on existing content ‘in the pursuit of further improvement’ (Bruns, 2008). This made we wonder, are we all just minor celebrities trying to show off our best selves? Is it ok to show ourselves off and look self-important? But as we move into this new age of ‘being relatively anonymous and private to identifiable, interlinked and public’ (Bazarova, 2016), just how much should we be showing of ourselves on social media? As Van Nagel points out, it’s near impossible to achieve true anonymity online (Brown, 2016). This led me to reconsider my own online persona(s), in particular how I’ve been presenting myself to the online world. The most important thing I needed to know was ‘what can I change to be successful on social networking sites’?
It wasn’t until joining Facebook in 2009 that I became truly active on the internet. I chose to flaunt the real-name rule (as many of my friends did) and went with a moniker, which gave me ‘a sense’ of privacy. However my activities were soon to be interpreted in a negative way. As I gave the impression I was a low-grade comedian, my friends’ newsfeed soon were saturated with my trivial photos and statuses in my hope of positive feedback and reinforcement. This is reflective of how celebrity culture works, as ‘every like, every retweet, every follow, and every reply’ reflects how ‘celebrity culture has worked for over a century,’ and also ‘the behaviours of social media users’ in recent years’ (Brown, 2016). So why then do we need to be famous? This is because even though celebrities’ ‘production of self’ is dependent on highly mediated and ‘powerful media culture,’ the audience can still use this to build their sense of their ‘public and private worlds,’ and how that is related to the ‘production of the self’ (Marshall, 2013). I aimed to create an online persona of someone who was witty and edgy, and was mostly unconcerned of the impact on future work prospects. However, the utmost care should be taken these days as people have been sacked from jobs (and even jailed) due to tasteless Facebook and Twitter posts (Business Insider, 2013). Celebrities such as Adele even need to have their social media posts signed off by management before they are allowed to be published (Matyszczyk, 2015).
Its argued that Twitter has become more crucial to online success than Facebook. This isn’t just in regard to personal networking, but also with creating and maintaining professional connections too. This is because Facebook limits users to see only what friends post, while Twitter allows us to connect with people who we actually ‘need’ to know (Facility, 2015). On Twitter you don’t need to be ‘friends’ with someone to see what they’re writing about. Additionally, Twitter can be used to promote yourself (and products), while several profiles can be set up by the user to tailor communications to different audiences (Brown, 2016). Many celebrities have taken advantage of the platform connect with their fans, as many now have close to 100 million followers (Twitter Counter, 2016). As I joined Twitter develop connections for university purposes, I was much more aware of the audience I was communicating to. As Brown noted, if you’re aware of your intended audience you can develop ‘your persona(s) in a way that will work for what you want to get out of these sites’ (2016). Butler enforced the point that the real-self is hard to find as our social selves are ‘continually created as an illusion through language, gesture, and all manner of symbolic social sign’.
— Scott Enright (@ScottyRussell44) April 11, 2016
— Scott Enright (@ScottyRussell44) March 21, 2016
Are our privacy rights more important than catching crooks? https://t.co/pAaQu7joQh
— Scott Enright (@ScottyRussell44) September 8, 2015
In addition to Twitter, there are several networking sites you can use for purely professional reasons. While it’s advantageous to be more visible to (potential) employers on sites like about.me, professionals may be turned off if you use serious websites (like Linked In) in the same way you would Facebook (Brown, 2016). If you need to, unlink personal profiles from professional ones (or at least have them set to ‘private’). This can relate back to my profile picture on Google+ which is linked to my about.me profile, and should really be changed. While it’s not a ‘selfie,’ nor all that harmless, it is quite informal and should be changed to something more appropriate. This is why I now have a ‘multi-purpose’ profile picture that is suitable for both private and professional communication. The significance of profile pictures was reinforced by LinkedIn, who found that having a profile picture alone made ‘your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed’ (Ahmed, 2015).
In conclusion, if we wish to benefit from our online activities we must present our most positive identitie(s) online. And while we don’t need to constantly edit profiles in ‘up-to-the-minute performances of self’ (Marshall 2010), social networking has drastically altered the way in which we connect with the world. And as seen from celebrity and professional culture, you are invisible if you’re not active online. In a constantly changing landscape of ‘new media forms and possibilities’ and the ‘intercommunication of devices,’ we must adapt in order to stay connected to the real world.
My broader online activity and engagement
As for my future of social networking, I need to increase the level of engagement across all personal/professional platforms. I’m an active user of direct message applications (i.e. Messenger and WhatsApp), but should be more visible on ‘open’ forms of communication tools such as Linked In and About.me . I also should regularly consider how I’m portraying myself, particularly in relation to the images and words which may carry negative connotations. It will be interesting what the future holds for digital communications, and more importantly, how it’s going to continue to influence our day-to-day lives.