It’s no secret that you have to be careful on the internet. One or two seemingly minor mistakes, and then you’re on the phone trying to explain that no, you are NOT making major purchases in a former Soviet state.
The amount of personal protection or publicity that the Internet provides can go wrong, though. You can’t reveal everything about yourself, because then that information is readily available to anyone and everyone, and that’s TERRIFYING. On the other side of that, it’s really easy to hide and never reveal yourself. It’s very easy to be fake in the process. And to an extent that’s fine, but also to an extent, that’s not cool.
Between all of the talk of building a platform and finding a niche, it’s really easy to become something different. To become what you really aren’t. Instead of building a brand, you’re building a persona.
If you’re a part of a community, you should know other people in the community and let them know you as well, right? You wouldn’t hang out with your friends while wearing a fake beard and speaking in a British accent, only to come home, remove the beard, and speak like a red blooded AMERICAN.
You wouldn’t do that, because that’s a lie. Yet within the internet, that power is yours. The power to hide behind an opinion you wouldn’t typically promote, or perhaps appear more insightful and poetic than you actually are. It’s already easy enough to put on appearances. On the internet, it’s significantly easier to keep them.
Relationships themselves can be manipulated in entirely new ways on the web. One must be intentional with relationships in order for them to grow. To be a friend, you have to actually try to be a friend. Sometimes, it’s honestly hard. In our day to day lives, if we aren’t intentional with our relationships, we suffer. Online? If we aren’t intentional, we will live. It’s the others who suffer.
The point it, it would be incredibly easy for me to put on a face through my writing that appears much more thoughtful than I actually am. I could try to hide behind buzzwords like “being a creative” or “being a writer” in order to make people look at such an absurdly named website and nod in approval.
It would be easy for me to deny online that I care about what you think of me.
But ultimately, what happens here online, happens in our day to day lives, and happens in our hearts and minds. I can’t use terms like “building a brand” because I wouldn’t go down to my local coffee shop, find my friend Byron, and then monologue to him about how I’m all about “being a writer” and referring to myself as “a creative”.
It’s just not me. I am much more interested in Byron as a friend and a person than I am as Byron as an audience. I hope you don’t think this is an attack on the blogging world. I hope each and every one of you grow your audiences. All I’m saying is that it’s not what I’m passionate about when I hang out with my friends, so why in the world should it be something I’m passionate about on a blog or in a podcast?
It’s just not me. So why should it be me in one area of life but not another?
There is an odd dichotomy between blogging and the world that we seem to instinctively refer to as “real life”. I feel weird when people mention my blog to me in person. I feel weird when people on the internet talk about my relationship with my girlfriend. We’ve reached a point in our society where we can divide ourselves into two parts, then make one of them a private figure and the other a public figure.
We have created a perfect disguise. It’s infinitely easier now to hide behind an opinion or a gimmick. It’s perfectly acceptable to create a persona.
But we aren’t limited to that. We can be real, even in this day and age. I feel weird when people mention my blog to my face, but primarily because I feel weird when people praise me for something like that. I feel weird when internet people talk about my relationship with my girlfriend, because that’s not really something I like my “real life” friends to try and dig into sometimes. Simply put, that dichotomy between day to day and internet life isn’t so heavy that they don’t overlap.
I pray to be genuine. My stupid blog essays are genuine observations on the absurdity of life, just as much as the serious questions I want to ask are things I sit around talking about to a circle of friends over cigars and scotch. I shouldn’t be fake to my friends I ask serious questions to, just as much as I shouldn’t be fake to the people who stop by weekly to read dumb essays. If I fail in one, I fail in both.
I am not a blogger, I just throw letters and pictures on a website. I am not a writer, I just hope you sometimes laugh. I am not a Twitter handle, I am a man who sometimes has 140 character quips to share.
And I am not a gimmick, a brand, a platform, or a persona. I am a person.