The Simulated Me

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As I ponder the concept of a “Global Brand,” I can’t help but feel that becoming one is simply unavoidable. Whether we like it or not, our online presences are already packaged, branded versions of ourselves distributed to a mass
audience.Humphrey Blog Photo

Regardless of our real life actions, our online persona is exactly what we make it. In fact, we can even develop separate, carefully cultivated brands that portray different values under different names. This whole concept made me think back to an article I read nearly two years ago about effect of social media on how we perceive and evaluate our lives.

To quote the author :

We came to Facebook to see other real people, but everyone, even casual users, saw it could be gamed for personal benefit. Inflicting our groomed identities on each other soon became its own problem.

We have no choice but to create a curated, branded self online. Otherwise, how will we get clicks, likes, upvotes, retweets, favorites, saves, pins, reblogs and hearts? How will we prove our worth to our family, friends, coworkers and partners?

There is no choice to brand or not to brand. The choice is entirely in how we brand ourselves.

On Facebook, my brand is often reserved to avoid offending the sensibilities of family members or provide damaging fodder for future employers. On Reddit, where anonymity reigns, I become sardonic, crass, direct and open about my passions and feelings.

Twitter Travis is a man with few perceptible opinions, existing solely to make and communicate observations. On LinkedIn and About.Me, I swim in a sea of other young professionals, struggling to stand out. And I don’t even know what you could call my Flickr persona.

Each is an incomplete, twisted, simulated version of myself. Each is also a brand.

No matter where I am, in the back of my mind a little voice is constantly evaluating my actions in context of branding. Would I say this on Facebook? Do I want future employers to read this on Twitter? I need to push my content, advance my cause, build my following.

To succeed as a journalist in 2015, you need to hone your personal brand, that much is clear. But at what point does branding end and personality begin? How do you differentiate between the branded “self” and the person underneath? And if every professional is branded in the same manner, does the branding become meaningless?

And so, I simulate myself, crafting a persona cultivated for the moment, for the audience, for the future. But is my brand really me? Or is it just how I wished others perceived me?