Whilst the personal branding industry has been around for some time now, it has really taken off as the web has grown. With several major social networks vying for our attention, coupled with blogs and other such things, there are numerous ways that we can ensure the image of us online is a positive one.
Suffice to say of course, the bulk of stories on this issue over the past few years have involved people screwing this up and doing all manner of seemingly ridiculous things online that have cost them their jobs.
Whilst these kind of stories suggest there are still many out there that have little appreciation for the branding issues surrounding our web use, a new study suggests that most web users are far from ignorant of such issues.
The study, written by Victoria Mappleback and published by Royal Holloway university, goes as far as to say that we are increasingly becoming our own spin doctors, using social networks to cast ourselves in as positive a hue as possible.
“How do we curate our lives online? How honest are we about our lives on social media? Facebook profiles and postings often seem relentlessly upbeat. We create an avatar of our lives, an avatar who is slimmer, has more friends, a better love life and a better job than we do,” she says.
“We have become our own spin doctors and constantly want people to find out what is going on in our lives, from the incredibly mundane to personal decisions and choices that would have otherwise been private.”
Her findings came after she began exploring how the constant spotlight of social media was influencing what we shared online, and how we portray ourselves.
“There is only a ‘like’ button on Facebook, there is no place to describe our deficiencies, only space to paint a rather superficial and idealised portrait of our digital lives,” she says.
She suggests it creates a rather superficial facade to our lives, where only positive things are shared, with interactions via Facebook taking the place of deeper relationships conducted offline.
All of which, whilst no doubt interesting, isn’t really that new is it? I suspect we have tried to create a positive image of ourselves forever, and that our social networking habits are simply making these behaviours more visible and pronounced, thus placing the spotlight on both the best and worst of human behaviour.