You have to be acutely self-aware to generate your own brand. Part of the major disconnect I feel with the youth of today, a section of society I am part of but watch from a distance like a intrusive neighbor, is how aptly and willingly they are able to throw themselves out into the world. Social media did not extend far beyond MySpace in high school with Facebook following soon after. Now there seems to be a new social media channel every week with the outdated mediums of the past fail to compete. We all understand as a society that these advancements in networking open up many doors and new opportunities yet all of it still scares the shit out of me.
The first selfie I ever took of myself late last year was a nightmare. All of the Kardashian, celebrity selfies that blow up my Instagram highlight beautifully the architecture of the human face. I had overheard somewhere tips to achieve the perfectly styled expression. I took forty pictures tilting and turning my head in all directions until I practically turned into Linda Blair, still looking half possessed instead of friendly and inviting. I couldn’t even send it to the friend who demanded that it was time to embrace this new culture. I deleted them all and vowed to never try that bull again. Instead my Instagram consists of pictures of inanimate objects while quoting feminist culture.
I thought I’d start small with my LinkedIn. I’m so behind the times that LinkedIn is probably yesterday’s news. There was a post I saw on our website actually that profiled the best way to improve your account’s visibility. Taking myself through the steps I outlined projects I had worked on, companies I had been employed for, accomplishments at University until I was jaded and felt like none of these points even probably mattered in the grand scheme of things. Then the dreaded about me section. What could be worse than writing about yourself as your own narrator? It’s been six months since I started this profile exercise and I still haven’t completed that bit.
A private life is a happy life. I love the simplicity of compartmentalizing different aspects of my life into tidy boxes kept far apart from one another. The first time that friends from the US visited me in the UK it felt completely jarring, like strange beings displaced on some space time continuum. Introducing them to my daily routine there made me feel like I had to constantly revert back to some semblance of the persona I had at a younger age. No one has come to visit me from the UK here (yet), but I already am thinking about how to rationalize my existence here. I measure up how my apartment compares to their houses, how my current job stacks up against my experience, and an explanation for living the life of a hermit I’m learning to embrace.
It all circles back to judgement. I judge my morning Facebook feed as I scroll through the lives of mild acquaintances that I used to know. Sometimes it helps me gain perspective that my life is not so bad when I see that in my hometown the most exciting thing to happen to a girl from my graduating class was she received a tractor on her birthday this year. Other times it makes me feel horrible as people announce new jobs they’ve been hired to take on or lofts they’ve settled into. I mark my own success against what I want of theirs-although I know that’s not fair or reasonable judgement I can’t help myself.
And I don’t want them to see what I’ve been up to. What will they think? I didn’t talk to a close friend for nearly a year as I struggled to acclimate to Michigan after realizing I had made a huge mistake. If I’m willing to share any information with the online public community I want it to tell a story of success. No one on social media (except those awful drains on society who throw themselves pity parties for the sympathy of strangers) is documenting their anxieties. The ones who are I find brave and inspiring. This goes entirely against my original plan of coming back to the US to become a rabble-rouser but I give pause when I think of who might see or read what I write and will hold it in contempt. I feel at times that I could care less what they think, yet I find moments where I falter and let the perceptions I’m imagining they’ll create about me rule the decisions I make. I still want though to be honest and share my experiences to help others who are struggling with similar problems. I still want to open up about social issues and injustices with how they’ve impacted me to make the personal political. I want to keep it real as much as I can, but I can’t find the middle ground between reality and making myself look attractive to those who don’t give a damn about what I want.
I don’t really want to update you all about my morning coffee and shower routine. I don’t want to take photos of mundane objects and fill up your feed with emojis (I’ve only just learned how to use them). It makes me feel disingenuous and like I’m putting on a face that’s not my own. I love seeing and knowing what the ones I love are up to and I wish that I could do the same thing. Take pics on a beach with a Margarita and let everyone know I’m #lovinglife. I’m going to try to make a better effort to be a part of the online community how it best serves me or how it serves the people on the Internet I really care about. Feminists, activist collectives, Young Democrats, and anyone else who is trying to find solace in those who they only might be able to meet through a Wifi connection. Crafting a brand for myself might have to come through just being openly me.