During the last couple of months, I started thinking more critically about my online persona and the way I use the internet and various social media. I also stumbled upon this great TED talk that I want to share here:
The author argues that our online identities can be seen as an extension of our mental selves.
Since social media is a new way of connecting us, a lot of people notice that we behave in a totally different way online as opposed to offline. I personally realised I am curating my online identity very cautiously. Plus, our online self stays there for the others to interact with even while we are not online (quote from the TED talk). So mainaining our digital self is now an integral part of how we are perceived as individuals, both in the online and the ‘real’ life.
The social networks I most use are Twitter, Flickr and Last.fm. I use Last.fm to discover new music and keep track of what I am listening to, plus to meet people with interesting music taste. I also occasionally send out recommendations and write in musicians’ shoutboxes. I have met a couple of interesting musicians thanks to Last.fm, for example Tristan Feldbauer – which resulted in a chain of email messages about what he does as an independent musician, what his workflow is, etc. I also got his permission to use his tracks for non-commercial projects, and he sent me an exclusive digital copy of his new album for Christmas. There are other musicians I am following on Last.fm simply because I like the way they use social media to connect to their fans and keep their music careers running without big labels.
At the moment, I am simply using Flickr to upload and showcase my photos. I have a Daily uploads set, where I have been posting one photo a day since New Year (and I haven’t missed a single day for almost three months). I also occasionally comment on other people’s photos, but I am not yet using it properly as a social network. I use Vimeo for hosting my online videos – as opposed to YouTube – because it has a more focused community of filmmakers and visual artists. I had the chance to chat with Pahnl – a street artist that presented his work a few months ago at The Herbert – just because he is on Vimeo and uploading his work there.
I don’t like Facebook and I only use it for group based projects. I tried to use it a couple of years ago, but due to privacy concerns and my common sense, I deleted it. I do keep an account, but I mainly use it for organisational stuff (for example for university projects).
Even privacy aside, I don’t like Facebook because it is mixing contexts. In real life, we usually behave in a different way depending on the social context we are in: you communicate with one group of people using one type of language when at work, but in a totally different way when with your friends. A third context is family, fourth – school, fifth – if you are a creative trying to showcase your work. Facebook doesn’t allow this type of differenciation, and simply assumes you communicate the same way with everyone.
One thing I always try to do with my online presence is to be consistent. I am using the same avatar everywhere, I link to either my blog or personal website, try to use the same ‘about’ text, etc. I am using either Rumena or Rumena Zlatkova as a user name, and where possible, keep the same layout, colours and fonts. This makes it easier for people interested in me to find me, as well as is much easier to maintain – I am in control of what information there is about me online, and I am in charge of my online identity. It also helps build my personal brand – which is something I have been aware of since I first went online more than 10 years ago.
The social network I use the most is Twitter. This is where I find links to interesting news and articles, funny quotes and pictures, and where I engage in real time conversations and discussions. Twitter is a way to connect to anyone without going in their way too much – you send an @reply to the person, but it is up to them to either react or ignore it. That helps exchange ideas and short updates, plus talking publicly about a topic sometimes results in more people joining the conversation and enriching the discussion. So a simple tweet can have a lot of impact, while still staying non-intrusive for the people not particularly interested.
The way I use Twitter is to source and/or share information and ideas, plus simple day to day updates. I don’t often tweet about what I eat – what people outside Twitter normally think is going on here – but if my breakfast helps my mind calm down, feel more happy, or gives me an idea, I would tweet about it 🙂
Another way I use Twitter is to follow real time events and topics – for example, I haven’t been watching TV for years, but I know which film received the most Oscars this year simply because I have a Twitter account. I am currently following the events happening in Japan primarily via Twitter.
I am also following some local arts and media organisations, so I can keep informed of what is happening in the area I live. The other type of accounts I am following are people I rarely see, but am interested in what they are up to, plus people I only know because of Twitter, that share information worth knowing. I am following various people into photography design, filmmaking and technology, because they often share inspiring insights or ideas from their daily workflow.
Some time ago, I read that radio was the fastest way to report the news – because you can simply start talking to a microphone and lots of people can tune in and listen. I think that Twitter is our new personalised radio – it only takes 140 (or less) characters to share a piece of information, and it can reach millions of people within minutes. Even if you are only following a very close circle of accounts, the information they are retweeting or the Trending Topics you see can give you a glimpse into what is happening right now.
I personally tweet updates with blogposts and photographs I publish that I think might be interesting for someone following me. In a way, I am broadcasting a curated version of my creative self, and am ‘marketing’ myself and my work. Of course, I also share links to things I find worth sharing, plus I engage in conversations. I retweet lots of other people’s updates, too – it’s almost the same as sharing a link, but keeping the source.
When I wrote the article about Provocative vs. Structured art, because I linked it properly to monochrom’s website, the original author of the TEDx talk Johannes Grenzfurthner found out about it and tweeted:
It even got retweeted. That is quite an impact, I think, and was only made possible because of the way social media works.
I try to keep my Twitter feed relevant to what I am trying to be as a media professional, while still having a bit of personality. So I avoid swearwords, rants, and general negativity. I do post my worries sometimes:
I also occasionally DJ for my followers:
Of course, there are a lot of downsides to social media. Even I have written something about it: Social media is like TV. Here is another more in-depth article about what Twitter and the likes of it can cause: Life After Twitter. The article begins with:
Never did I think that 140-character messages could have addictive qualities, much less, teach us a lesson or two about life itself. #neversaynever
(read the whole article: Life After Twitter)
There is indeed an addictive element in social media. I am guilty of checking my phone in the morning before saying Good Morning – and not just checking the time, but checking my email and twitter. It is a bit disturbing to see a group of people between lectures that are not talking to each other, but everyone (including me) is interacting with someone else using their phones. It’s like the present situation is not worth our time, and there are far more fascinating things happening online – or maybe they are just presented in a more interesting way, and the way to interact is different to the ‘boring’ way of talking to people in person. This results in alienation to what is really happening in the physical world around you, being passive, and desocialising. You can easily find yourself in a situation where you put more value in how your newest mobile app is working instead of paying attention to what your close friend is saying to you.