I just saw a snippet of a TV programme where they were talking about people posting pictures of their boarding cards on Instagram.
The expert spoke about the hidden data that scammers can glean from these images and how in some cases, it leads to burglary.
What starts off as “Hey guys, look at me, I’m off on my hols” turns into having your house turned over while you’re sipping Daiquiris in Marbella.
This got me thinking.
We’re all at it. Through our social accounts and blogs, were exposing ourselves for the world to see. Dirty laundry and all. And if we think there are no possible negative outcomes, we’re fooling ourselves.
You need to get noticed
I’ve worked much of my career in advertising, so I’ve had it drummed into me that to get noticed, you need to get noticed.
Bold opinions and big ideas get talked about and help build brand presence.
I can’t argue with that.
The thing is, having a public profile only used to apply to products and brands, not individuals. The exception perhaps being politicians on the election trail or celebrities needing to be seen at the right events with the right people.
Joe public, like you and I, was just an observer.
In the late ’60s, Andy Warhol said that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”.
At the time, there was obviously no such thing as the Internet. So even if someone did make the headlines of the local paper for nicking traffic cones (not a real story), that 15 minutes would quickly fade into the mists of time.
Now everyone’s at it, wittingly or unwittingly, promoting ‘Brand Me’ and clamouring for their 15 minutes of global celebrity.
“Look at me. I’m eating tofu, I’m walking the dog, my baby just hiccuped, I’ve got a silly hat…”
All pretty innocent stuff, but there are potentially more dangerous undertones to be found if we dig deeper.
“Hey look at me. I’m pro foxhunting, I’m an atheist, I’m a Conservative, I’m depressed, I’m angry…”
We very quickly build up a picture of the online notoriety-seeker. His or her digital portrait may be totally out of kilter with their true persona, but unless we know them in the real world, this online version is all we have to go on.
There are people on LinkedIn and Twitter that feel I know intimately. If we passed each other in the street however, we’d have no idea that we were connected in data land.
One person on LinkedIn, let’s call him ‘Mad Bob’, constantly rants about politics and swears angrily about anything that’s the slightest bit PC.
He’s probably as nice as pie, takes his Mum to tea every Sunday and says his prayers. I don’t know; but the way he dumps his views online draws a very vivid picture, and not a pretty one.
Subconsciously, I’ve already decided I don’t like him.
Should you really expose your private bits in public?
There are certain things I feel maybe we should only share privately with our loved ones, or ought to be left swimming around in our own noddles.
Unless you’re an activist driven by an unrelenting passion to change the world, or at least have nothing to lose by publishing your innermost feelings and opinions, sometimes silence is the best option.
I’m on Twitter most days. Why? I learn stuff, I connect with other creatives and I gain exposure for my business.
To twit or not to twit?
Everyone knows that Twitter isn’t a great place to ram commercial messages down people’s throats, but it’s a perfect platform for selling your wares in much subtler ways.
On Twitter I don’t pedal anything other than my sense of humour and hopefully, in a roundabout way, my copywriting skills.
I keep it light; with silly jokes, gentle banter, links to stuff I like and signposts to my blog; that sort of thing.
I steer clear of politics, religion and negativity. I’ve gone into more detail about online negative criticism on my guest post on the Lucidity blog, but tweeting about politics and religion can also open up a can of very angry worms.
Going back to basics, sometimes we need to remember why we’re using social media.
Q. Why am I on Twitter?
A. To get exposure for myself as a Freelance Copywriter.
Q. Any other reasons?
A. To connect, amuse myself, learn stuff… but ultimately it’s a self promotion tool.
For me, social media isn’t a chance to furiously beat my chest, scare little children, troll the innocent, expose the guilty, promote bigotry or proselytise.
I want to make friends and influence people, not get my head kicked in behind the bins at the back of the sixth form block.
The point is, if you’re using social media, you are exposing yourself.
From an advertising point of view, this is really good, but if you’re also exposing your political, religious or sexual persuasions, it can be really, really bad.
At best, you might attract people who live in the shadow of the dark side. At worst, you could be hung out to dry with a potential audience of around 3 billion.
What about Mad Bob?
I’ve been seriously tempted to dis-connect, or whatever the term is, from Mad Bob on LinkedIn.
The only thing holding me back is that he might be notified by an uncaring algorythm, track me down and drink my blood.
So for now at least, I just ignore his posts and read stuff by people I’ve decided I like.