Mixed Feelings About Personal Branding

“Be careful what you put up on social media….Protect your personal brand.” [Russell Tooley, Tyson]

I have mixed feelings about this type of protective stance. Not because it is bad advice – quite the contrary. Overall, it is probably what you should do. Mostly, I hate to see it because I’ve never once checked behind someone who is preaching it that didn’t have some crazy stuff already out there. Business leaders, lawyers, teachers, doctors, ditch-diggers, poultry workers – everyone in any occupation has been guilty of doing the opposite. Which is also okay. I’m not the hypocrisy police, especially given my life choices.

Because I observe how people behave, once I note that someone is closely guarding their image, I default to the assumption that the person is deflecting attention, usually away from a less than stellar past. At a minimum, their content is stale, aloof, and smacks of falsity. I assume they are hiding their character. If not their character, at least some missteps in life.

There’s a huge difference between showing yourself upside down on a keg when you were at a college party and concealing your true interests, beliefs and background. In many ways, I trust someone more implicitly who in fact shares the drinking picture. That person trusts our humanity and knows that we’ve all also done some stupid things. They don’t define us and shirking from them in horror is what perpetuates the myth of ‘normal.’

If I were an employer and noted that all of a person’s content was ‘safe’ or curated, all I would assume is that they had cleaned it prior to coming forward for a job. If you’ve said nothing controversial or done nothing stupid, I don’t want you on my team. I want flesh and bones, smart and creative, and while not dwelling on past indiscretions, not afraid to reveal them to me. My view might go against conventional wisdom, of course but I reach this conclusion repeatedly as I go around social media, reading, watching, and listening.

‘Protecting your personal brand,’ in my opinion, is usually another means to conceal your true self for an illusory chance to control how people perceive you. It doesn’t work, we know who you are. And if does work, it works against you in regards to people like me.

For most people, it is safer to play it safe and curate everything you share with social media. Just know that people like me play with a different set of rules and if you’re in the game assuming everyone honors the same rules, you have to be prepared.





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