I have enrolled in a social media unit within my communications degree probably too many times than should be allowed. However, I regret that I put it off. Coming to terms with the fact that I have safely tiptoed around an active online identity for far too long means that I am starting to realise that I have been a slave to my fears which are in fact not worth being fearful of.
I have travelled extensively and created a lot of content however I never shared it for fear of appearing self-absorbed, vapid, grandiose to others, and even questioning my motives for sharing. The construction of personal webpages and social media profiles means that I as a user am ‘imagining that they are revealing their “real” or “true” essence, a person or “me” who is unique, singular, and outside social constructions and constraints (Smith and Watson 2014, p.75). This means that I am digitally vulnerable and susceptible to fear. And I often over analysed if I was sharing for attention? Was I sharing for likes or to show off where I had been? What is it exactly that has stopped me from being connecting with the world virtually?
- Fear of being judged by others?
- Judged for creating content when potentially missing a moment?
- People thinking my content is rubbish?
- Being viewed as ‘shallow’ and ‘narcissistic’
- Body image
- Fear of sharing for myself, not for others?
- Fear of my own voice, thoughts, views, expressions?
- Fear of the permanency of which I am sharing a part of myself?
- Fear of being seen?
- Fear of having to truly get to know myself and be somebody before I share it (Lainer 2010, p.1)?
For me, the culmination of these things.
What has changed?
Once the perspective on how to approach ‘media as triggers for experiences and for making things happen’ (Gauntlett 2015, p7), sunk in, I noticed a change in my thinking. Perhaps sharing on digital platforms isn’t all about me, but it took some time to figure out how to make my personal brand serve others. And the development of that identity ‘is a product and process (Poletti & Rak 2014, p8).
As a person who has spent so much time making things but not sharing, frozen into ‘inaction’ instead of letting my creativity express my individuality, where am I at? I am able to post on social media without overthinking, overanalysing, over editing and pay attention to any of my fears.
Pressing publish didn’t end my life, or cause me any harm. I may not have gotten any ‘attention’ but I no longer validate that as a success. The pressure to have an ‘attention marker’ has been taken off. Especially if you view Gauntlett’s point of: ‘we make and share things because we want to do something, we want to bring about a change in the world. This doesn’t need to be a big thing – it would often be on a tiny scale; the intended change might just be, for example, to make one friend smile for a moment… We have moved away from the era of big things which are meant to have big impacts.’ (Gauntlett 2015, pp. 8-9)
Which leads me to wishing I had been exposed to this thinking some time ago. However, the times where I have said ‘I should have,’ been detrimental to my mental health, I am working hard to avoid saying this as Gary Vaynerchuk in his podcast ‘Nobody Can Slow You Down More Than Yourself‘ says ‘don’t allow yourself to say ‘I should have’ as it leads to deep anxiety, sadness and over-judging of yourself (Vaynerchuk 2021). I also wonder how this regret of historically not engaging in the digital world, and consuming without sharing, will benefit me in the future?
Simple answer is that it won’t. So the biggest hurdle I need to jump over is to stop being my own biggest critic, ignore the fears that have slowed me down in the past, and full steam ahead with future content development
Where to now?
With my new found understanding of digital engagement, community building, communication and creating media to ‘trigger experiences,’ I hope to build my personal brand online and share content that communicates with purpose (Brown 2020) to:
- And acknowledge
I have recently been following a bodybuilding athlete through her training program to a big show where she hoped to achieve her pro status. Her followers were able to follow along day by day as she trained in the gym to create her goal physique and struggled mentally with the death of her mum. She used her digital platforms to share her journey, inform others that they were not alone in their hard times, connect with people who maybe going through or going to go through similar experiences, whilst educating them on the process should they decided to compete in body building.
Watching her experience and learning from her made me think about what value I had to share with others and whether I had a voice that others might find useful. The only way I can grow this potential is to continue to learn by doing and to do it consistently. And basically just creating to say ‘hello’ (Gauntlett 2018).
Lanier, J 2010, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, Allen Lane, London. [Accessed 16 April 2021].
Gauntlett, D 2015, Making Media Studies: The Creativity Turn in Media and Communication Studies, Peter Lang, New York, pp. 1-12. [Accessed 16 April 2021].
Smith, S and Watson, 2015, ‘Virtually Me: A toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J (eds.), Identity Technologies: Construction the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95. [Accessed 16 April 2021].
Vaynerchuck, G. (2021). Nobody Can Slow You Down More Than Yourself. [podcast] The GaryVee Audio Experience. [Accessed 16 April 2021].
Brown, A (2020) On Privacy [Blog Post] [Accessed 16 April 2021]
Gauntlett, D (2018) From the archives: Media as triggers, as sparks, and the ‘push’ model of making Art [Blog Post] [Accessed 16 April 2021]