These days, your kids' lemonade stand has a website with proper SEO customisation and a fully-integrated shopping cart. The monetisation of the net ~ massively increased when the money that never did trickle down ran out further in the 3D world with the GFC ~ made all of our website pages slick. Sometimes, when I'm tired and thinking cold and Boston isn't helping, I look at all of the shiny online personas and so many of them feel marketed, packaged, lopped off. I feel like people online have lost their levels of complexity, because of fear of whose eyes will be watching and judging. I may be sentimentalising the past a little strongly here, because really the net never felt completely safe, but these days, with so many more people on it and with what's happened politically and economically in the intervening period, we know it's not safe in a way we didn't then.
Our internet cherries were long ago popped and money is getting tighter. Those two aspects are reflected, I think, in the way we've all started 'sticking to message' more. Now we've all Googled ourselves and seen, despite our carefulness, how easily accessed we are, how the web is becoming more and more interlinked, how what we do in one place online can reflect back onto us in another place online, and right down into Monday morning at the water cooler. I don't really have a great deal of professional persona at stake, to be honest, but even I feel the pressure, the self-consciousness, even while it chafes and constrains. This blog, where I have talked so much about my malfunctions, is linked back to from Weekend Notes, with my full name, as does my Twitter account (and as would my Facebook account if I didn't find it so alternately overwhelming and irritating that I've removed myself now ~ again ~ for over half a year). How do I know that something here won't bite my bum in the future?
I don't. But I have consciously decided to refuse to be limited by that fear. The other part of me cringes.
It's understandable and sensible that now we know how far-reaching the internet's tentacles are that we will have cleaned up our online personas to prevent any harm to the selves that walk around in the world and earn our livings. Not so much for us now yearning, open-hearted keening into blog posts about our inner worlds, our struggles, our fears, our complexities, our contradictions. At least, not in our own names and with our own avatars. Or not without giving a thought to how it will appear if the boss happens to read it. Even if we have been greatly careful to ensure that our online confessional presences are shielded from our bosses, present and future, from affecting our careers, our shininess, we cannot be so ... ourselves, unselfconscious, online in the shiny new net.
I was doing some research a few weeks ago for a piece I was writing about professionalism, about how what is constituted as professional changes like our fashions. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when people came off their farms and from their cottage industries and into the factories, the concept of gearing the beginning of your workday to when the big hand was on the 12 and the little hand on the 6 was anathemic. The newly-powerful mill owners had to start spinning the idea of punctuality as akin to professionalism for the workers to conform. Now, with the net so new but so much a part of our lives, I can't help wonder if it's not the new way that those with the bucks who pay us keep us held in line. Constraining us with our own selves, rather than with the clock.
These days, slick with marketing, we understand that all of our words are a shingle, that too much openness may affect our clients', our coworkers', our line managers' perceptions of our professionalism. It is still really not considered professional to be too human, no matter how many programs the HR department implements.
Well, fuck all that shit. The mark of professionalism, in its creepy constraining fashion, is so often the mark of a robot. You can perform your actual work as professionally as you like, but if your humanity happens to seep slightly out the sides of your costume, the perception of you will diminish automatically. These days, in the corporatocracy, you are only as professional as your bland brand. And unless you find yourself in some field where it's acceptable for you to be a Trump brat, or a rock star, or a literary bohemian, if you're not in one of the professions where your personality traits are allowed to be a part of your own personal brand, then you better lock yourself in and stop any of the seepage and get on with being that bland little robot.
Whether you're a marketing consultant or a bohemian rock star, you're still locked into your brand though. And while the latter has a far wider and more colourful turning circle, they would still feel the pressure of conforming to spec, of not causing confusion by going outside of what is expected of them by what has come before. Your brand must be clearly delineated from the other brands. Uncluttered in its message. You gotta stay on message. The worst thing you can do for your brand is to go off message, to contradict yourself, to vacillate, to change your mind, to hold two conflicting opinions at once, to say you don't know. That kind of mess harms your platform. It makes you more mistrusted. Your brand must be something that people can trust or they will switch off.
Despite the over-reach of the professional brand tentacles, you are not that. You are That. Your brand is your shingle and it's also your protection. It hides your soft guts and your fluttering heart from the trolls and the NSA eye. It both promotes you and hides you. It is your vehicle for moving around in the world.
But you are 16,356 times bigger than that vehicle. You are a person. You are messy. You are contradictory. And that's alright. You never could fit into a brand, even if you try. Even if you have the loveliest and shiniest brand and we all love you (hi Nigella) you still have messy relationships and foibles. You'll likely shit your pants once or twice before you're gone out of this world and you will feel ashamed. You will feel and perceive beautiful things and your heart will skip when you see the unity amongst everything. You will grasp at varying degrees your right to experience your life as you experience it without an expert validating your experience. You will be real, like Pinocchio or the Velveteen Rabbit and at times you will look upon your brand with some disdain or some despair because you will know that you are legion and you are one and there is no brand in the world big enough to be able to contain your crazy, beautiful, messy, sad, special complexities. And you will be right.
|Thought by Tostofs (creative commons 3.0 - noncommercial, no derivs)|