Life Branding, Social Media, and Blogs

By in social media on April 3, 2013

I asked a question yesterday on twitter. It was a serious question with no real responses. “How honest and open are we allowed to be on twitter again? I forgot.”

The pattern I am seeing is that on Social Network Sites there is a limit to how open and honest you should be, and it is based on a slippage. Social Network Sites, especially open ones like twitter, are constructed as spaces that belong to both personal and professional networks. While technically it is possible to have both professional and personal profiles on these sites, just like in real life there is always slippage. We become friends with people we work with, and we refer friends to places where we work. So… managing a Social Network Sites as a personal brand extension just seems like more work than most of us can manage. We still have to police ourselves though.

Even if these spaces are personal because we are broadcasting to so many people, we might not want to share so many personal somewhat private details. It seems that since every interaction on social media has the potential to lead to some type of material gain, we err on the side of making it more professional. As an example, it was tweeted out that I would be joining Microsoft Research over the summer as a Summer Intern. I purposely end my twitter profile description with “mom” so that people know parenting is an okay topic for discussion. That didn’t stop it from feeling like an awkward exchange on twitter. Amongst the congratulations I had a question about organizing family life around this, specifically, what was I going to do with my kids. It was immediately followed by an apology. This made me sad because personally and professionally, these are the types of questions that help us determine what we are capable of doing. Despite the need to deal with family planning, being “academic” online is seen as somehow separate from being a parent, child, aunt, uncle, etc of people who might need you in one capacity or another. I’m not so sure that I would go as far as to call it a failure, but it was disheartening.

Blogs are different than twitter and other social media sites.

I see so many blogs with taglines that have the word “musings” in them. Unless we have a large blog following we know that what we write here is speaking into the air. We know it is a reflection space where we can say things that are too big for social media. We often use them for things that are more immediate.

Wherein I take advantage of the ability to be overly personal on a blog. AKA the backstory.

I asked the question yesterday about what is too much to share on twitter from a hospital room. Wednesday I called my grandmother and an hour later I’d purchased a ticket to her house for 6 days and 5 nights. On day 4 I took her to the hospital for an outpatient exam and then they had to keep her. My grandmother isn’t what you would call “comforting”, so instead of freaking out about the probable diagnosis and prognosis we sat around and talked about the normal stuff we talk about. I was freaking out a bit but couldn’t express this. I wanted to tweet some of the things I couldn’t speak out loud. I see tweets as stream of consciousness/inner thoughts. But it seems like sharing of the types of things I was thinking/feeling would have probably been very weird, maybe even bad. So I didn’t. I can write what happened here though. I think part of it is because the design of blogs and blog rituals assume:

1. Though there is a social component to blogs that is not their primary purpose
2. Most people who read a blog post will not leave a comment
3. What we write on blogs is not as likely to be re-broadcasted
4. If things get out of hand they can be deleted/moderated/hidden
5. The identity of a blog is easier to manage than social media.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say the blogs are safe spaces. They do seem like a space where it is safer to be the “you” you are or want to be in a way that is meaningful. Because of the limited audience many of blogs have, we are free to experiment, overshare, and test in these environments in a way that does not have to be super polished. Likewise, if a blog needs to be super professional, it is easy enough to make sure that everything posted falls within the intended purpose of the blog. The advance control over the presentation (in terms of theme, layout, domain, etc) makes me feel that blogs are unlimited structured possibility. They kind of roll into that “create your own adventure” mode. If it isn’t clear yet, that’s my favorite place to play.

So this is my musing on life branding, and life branding failure, and social media, and blogs.

Two Articles I found on the topic of managing social media:

So Much Noise: Are Academics being Over-Branded? –
Being Negative in Social Media is Plain Old Bad Social Business –

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