I bought into the idea of being a brand. I’d think, “I should really update my Twitter more often, write insightful, funny tweets about cultural trivia.” I shared my articles with Facebook friends to “raise my profile.” I started a blog, and then got too self-conscious to write anything on it.
I should point out that I’m a freelance journalist, but I’m sure this goes for a lot of people in creative jobs. We read books about networking and self-selling, and try to think of ourselves as businesspeople. And one Onion headline made me realise how ridiculous I was being.
It goes, “‘I Am A Brand,’ Pathetic Man Says.” Further down in the body of the article, it reads: “The pitiful man… who sees his worthless daily blog posts, endless Facebook status updates, and aggravating Foursquare check-ins as ‘extensions of his brand name,’ confirmed that he spends the majority of his miserable days attempting to leverage his 627 Twitter followers into a larger web network of ‘brand consumers.’” And so on. Ouch.
You get recognition by doing good work – that’s the conclusion I’ve come to after my volte-face. You do good work by focusing, and for me that happens when I switch on Antisocial (my social media-blocking app of choice) and stop pretending that procrastination is “maintaining an online presence”.
Thinking about how some nebulous readership are going to judge what I write generally doesn’t help me write anything worthwhile. I think I generally work best when I'm feeling least vain, and least self-conscious. And my friends are my friends. They’re not some kind of customer base, whom I can justifiably spam all day long.
The more I think about being a brand, the ickier I feel. Imagine Emily Dickinson taking time out from sonnet-writing to define her USP or Chekhov writing humblebraggy tweets. Surely we should just work on being better, and trust other people to pick up on that, rather than shoving our achievements in other people’s newsfeeds all the time.
But it’s a blurry line. I'm assuming that posting articles online to show potential employers is okay, and Instagramming selfies from swanky parties not so much. But how about linking to work on Twitter? At-replying to celebs in the hope of a retweet? Facebook-friending useful contacts?
Help me out of this quagmire – let me know how far you go to promote yourself, whether it’s worked, and if it’s ever made you hate yourself a tiny little bit.
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Image: by Julie K in Taiwan via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.