Your Online Image. Your Real Life Image.
Jun 27 2010

Human Statues on the Ramblas in Barcelona

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Yesterday after I checked out facebook and updated my profile picture to one of my daughter wearing a flamenco dress that I bought her during my recent trip to Barcelona where I got to explore a little bit of my poetic side, I began thinking about people’s images.  I like facebook because I can see what is going on with friends & family who are all over the world.  I check it once every couple of weeks…sometimes once per week depending on the notifications I get.  I set all my privacy settings so that only the people in my network can see my pictures, comments, etc.  I used to use twitter almost daily but in the last year, my usage has decreased drastically.  Most of my tweets are just my automatic tweets when I publish a blog post.  Even the frequency of my blog posting has decreased mostly because of lack of time, I haven’t been inspired to write, and I’m writing more offline.   LinkedIn is another site that I’ve checked out periodically.

The reason I started using twitter was first because I had wanted everyone to know I had gone to a Duran Duran concert, and then more importantly to see what it could do for my business Babble Soft, that is now run by Nicole Johnson, who was my business partner and who thankfully was able to take over the company and run with it.  Twitter is a valuable tool to meet people and get the word out about your business.  Most of what I tweeted was pretty upbeat or business related.

As I was looking at some facebook pages (mine included), it’s clear that what we show online and often what we show people even in “real” life isn’t really what’s going on with us.  We often show a rosy picture with glamorous photos of us or our kids/family smiling, and we tweet about events or fun things.  There are a few crazies out there who let it all hang out, but soon they are ostracized even online.  Sometimes even those closest to us in real life don’t really know what’s going on with us because we’ve been told it’s not good to share too much of the hard, ‘real’ stuff.  So we stuff it inside or say to ourselves ‘who cares’ or ‘I’ll get over it.’  I agree in one sense that we should keep some stuff to ourselves if we can (but sometimes as crazy as it sounds we just can’t), but I’ve also discovered that not sharing at all, which is what I used to do, meant that people didn’t really know me and after I started sharing things like others shared with me, I realized how strange things sometimes sounded.   When I started talking and writing, I and others started to hear and see me differently.  Even the greatest writers of all time couldn’t tell us explicitly through their writing what they were processing because of social pressures, which is part of what makes their writing so provocative!

Social networks enabled millions of people to share things about themselves…their daily lives that in some ways validated the mundane lives we often live.  I used to share things about where I was going or notes on events, etc.  Thankfully not things like people joked about (i.e., going to the bathroom)!  But people shared, continue to share, and make connections to individuals they might not have otherwise in a mostly safe environment.  twitter is a fire hose, or as I like to describe it a river, of information sharing.

Social networks have given people a medium to be heard and you cannot argue with the fact that it has fundamentally changed the way many people interact with each other and think of each other.  Tools like twitter, facebook, and LinkedIn have brought customers, job seekers, stay-at-home parents, entrepreneurs, and companies closer together and it has shown a very large side of humanity that craves attention & connection that they apparently weren’t/aren’t getting in their real, offline lives.

I think we will see and are seeing an auto-correction on the use of these tools, but I believe these kinds of human connection tools are here to stay.  When you tap into an aspect of someone or a group of people that needs/wants to be heard, they can often overdo it, spin out of control and then just like in the financial and political markets there will eventually be an auto correction that when it happens seems huge and out of control in a different way.  Although markets are supposed to behave rationally, just like people who drive them, they often don’t.

I still remember this guy I knew at a Southern Baptist church I went to during junior high and high school.  He was older (i.e. in college), wiser, and I think he was one of our Sunday school teachers.  I looked up to him and adored him.  There was so much going on in my life that I wanted to share with him pieces of it and get his advice, yet I couldn’t because I felt if I did he would think differently of me.  Like most teenagers, I already felt I was different enough.  I remember sitting with him somewhere alone trying to tell him something that seemed so ominous at the time and now is just a fact of my life, and I think because he could sense my angst he said ‘some things are better off left unsaid.’  I suddenly felt relieved because it took off the pressure, and gave me a sense that he understood, but it still left me feeling the same, different person.

So, yes some things are better off left unsaid except for when they aren’t.  If by saying them online, offline, to people you trust, to people you don’t know if you can trust, you find a kindred soul, someone who can help you figure it out, or someone who changes you or your path for the better, or even realize that you really aren’t that different because there are other people out there kind of like you, then it’s better to say it and take the risk.  Unless of course you are saying & texting things like Tiger Woods. :-)  You certainly learn who you can and can’t trust when you are at your most vulnerable.

But when you consciously or unconsciously take that risk, it will have an affect on your online image and/or your real life image.  The type of affect (positive or negative) will depend on what’s going on around you and how you deal with the aftermath.  It’s important to manage your online and real life image/reputation but if you over manage it, no one really knows the real person like Bernie Madoff, who everyone thought was a great guy…until they didn’t.

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One Comment on “Your Online Image. Your Real Life Image.”

  1. 1 Tweets that mention entrepreMusings » Your Online Image. Your Real Life Image. -- Topsy.com said at 2:16 PM on June 27th, 2010:

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