Blog # 2 by Holly Clark, from the Introduction to Social Media (COM0011) class.
So all this talk about becoming a “brand” has really got me thinking.
Listen, I get it. I know if you want to gain influence, you have to walk the walk, talk the talk. Drink the koolaid – get online and start filling in the fields that describe who you are to the world.
My question is: what if you simply don’t know yet? Or what if you find yourself in one of life’s biggest limbos, where you’re in transition, or struggling, or say, battling with depression or addiction? Do we lie to the world and write down the brand that we wish we could be? The brand we one day aspire to be? Does our online brand become the measure to which we work towards? I once read that the definition of anxiety is the space between who you are, and who you want to be. Is that what people are talking about when they say social media evokes anxiety?
Maybe we simply are who we are, and our online personality is whom we want others to see; the version of ourselves that doesn’t yet exist. Does anxiety breed in the space in between?
I understand this is a really critical, nihilistic view of social media. If you haven’t guessed by now, I like to push buttons and ask difficult questions before jumping on bandwagons. But my question is: what should we choose to share, and what should we choose to hide?
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about social media consumption and addiction; how the rise of mental health awareness moves simultaneously with the growing popularity of social networking. I also wrote about mental health in my last blog – clearly there is a trend emerging here!
In Lesson 4, we read a lot about separating our personal and professional personas. We read about tips and tricks – how to be unique, yet still authentic. But I can’t help but feel the strain of contradiction there. How can we be a verified brand with a shiny blue check mark, and still be our authentic, imperfect selves?
I recently read this article in Adweek about how social media is changing the conversation around addiction, and it provided me with a bit of hope. I understand this is a sensitive topic. Not everyone wants to be overtly honest and candid about personal struggles online – that’s why philosophies like the AA anonymity still exist. But we can’t deny that with the advent of technology, we’ve also seen an incredible rise in mental health and addictions awareness. People don’t hide the way they used to. We’ve opened a discussion, a dialogue, around mental health, wherein people find solace relating to one another online. Major companies like Bell have capitalized on this trend, implementing game-changing hash tags like #BellLetsTalk into their social media campaigns. We’ve seen an influx of influential addiction memoirs, such as Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: a Love Story” and Sarah Heppola’s Blackout. There’s a bunch of new shows on Netflix that tackle addiction in creative, inclusive ways.
Gillian Jacobs plays Mickey in “Love.” (Suzanne Hanover/Netflix). Photo taken from https://bsun.md/2PQ7Sa9.
Addiction is undeniably on our minds, and it’s on our screens.
There’s evidence that this acknowledgement can be incredibly cathartic. As the article explains, “status updates and comments on Facebook are, in effect, fluid, open diaries written in real-time by those in the trenches of addiction, whether celebrating another day sober, dispatching a cry for help or grieving the loss of a friend to overdose”. They’re effective, because they are real. As Robb-Dover writes, “these real and personalized glimpses of the addiction epidemic have more compelling, mass appeal—akin to that of a social protest, for example—than what a celebrity talking head might generate in a public -service announcement.”
This movement, in my humble opinion, is combating the precise pain point of addiction – isolation. It’s reminding people that not only are they never alone, they’re actually part of an entire community of support standing together against the pain. In that sense, do we need to stay anonymous anymore? Should we? Do we need to mold our brands into these flawless, superhero versions of ourselves? Or is this hindering the very fire fueling this historic movement?
Maybe we should only be anonymous until we’ve improved ourselves, and then share our tales? Or do we keep everyone in the loop every step of the way?
It’s a big question, and I understand the answer may be different for everyone. Everyone has their own unique journey; both in their mental health, and subsequently “building their brand” whatever form that may take. But I think the important thing to remember is you’re not actually a “brand”, at least not in the commercial way. You’re not Kraft or Nike. You’re a human being, with a beating heart, and you’re a work in progress – we all are.
So before you go filling out online fields about who you are, be honest with yourself about who you are right now. Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither was your brand, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.