“To talk about oneself a great deal can also be a means of concealing oneself”Friedrich Nietzsche
In the age of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok (whatever the hell that is), and many other social media platforms, we have an overwhelming number of opportunities to brand ourselves. By branding, I mean showing the world (or your followers) who you are. Now, I have to ask…Is it really who you are? We have a ton of control over how we portray ourselves.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a close friend about how people frequently post sappy things about their romantic partners. While I am happy to see other people in positive romantic situations (I promise I’m not a Bitter Betty), sometimes I question why it is posted on Facebook instead of simply telling the partner directly? Why does Facebook need to know? My friend disagreed with me. She pointed out that it is okay for people to share the best parts of their lives online. I can agree with that. Instead of criticizing the sappy Facebook posters, I am more curious about why people want to share such things.
The same thing goes for world travelers. Why do they want to share their trip photos on social media and not just keep them for themselves?
From a young age, I’ve been hyper-aware of the idea that most people don’t care about my life. This is not a harsh truth for me. I know my close friends and family care about what I’m up to, but not the rest of my 707 Facebook friends. So, I post less frequently. When I do post, most of the time the content has nothing to do with me (unless it is one of my blog posts…duh). Most of the time it is a funny meme, a cute animal, or an inspirational quote. Something anyone on my Facebook friend list might appreciate. Maybe it’s an insecurity of mine because interest is measured in likes. Every time I post, I risk not getting any likes (or maybe just a single like from my mom — she always has my back). So, if the unliked content isn’t about me, I won’t take it personally.
Going back to the question about why people might share, the answer is simple. We think we are constantly being watched. I wrote a blog post about this a while ago. We act in ways certain to stay in line with societal rules and/or keep up appearances. We think people are watching and caring, but aren’t 100% sure. So, we feel it is best to brand ourselves, just in case. Who knows, maybe a future lover is stalking ya online at this very moment!
This got me thinking about my personal brand. I have one too! I’m not above this whole having a personal brand thing :). I take a look at myself and all I really care about posting these days is Awkward AF related. That’s it. That’s my personal brand. It’s the part of me that is not afraid to share my vulnerable thoughts and personal philosophies with anyone who cares to read. Yes, I have other things going on, but I hate taking photos. I truly believe my blog is an accurate depiction of how I want to be seen. I’ll admit there are topics I won’t discuss in my blog. Truths about myself that I conceal.
The downside of personal brands is that the overconsumption of information regarding the lives of your peers can often lead to insecurity. Many unintentionally compare their lives to others, and social media makes it all too easy. Maybe you think your life is not that interesting because you can’t afford to travel the world. Maybe you feel lame staying in on a Saturday night when you check Snapchat and everyone else seems to be having a wild time. Maybe you don’t feel great about your physical appearance because you don’t look like an Instagram model. Or maybe you get down and out about the fact that your peers are getting married or are in happy relationships and you are in a relationship with Netflix. Whatever it is, understand that the travelers aren’t going to post about their credit card debt. The Saturday night party people aren’t going to post about their hangover the next day. The Instagram models won’t post about the fact that it took 3 hours to get ready for the perfect photo. And the happy relationship people won’t post about their fights. (Disclaimer: not all travelers have credit card debt… but you get the point). People are not wrong for sharing the good stuff. Instead of criticizing the happy posters, I believe it is important to emphasize that the info on someone’s social media profile should not be confused with reality. The info is simply a controlled shadow that creates one’s personal brand.