Thinking Out Loud: But I’m not a “personal brand!” I’m a person!*

I am pretty sure this post is navel-gazing. I don’t care.

I’ve been blogging for about 10 years. Holy crap. My life has changed both a lot and very little since I started. I don’t blog as often as I’d like, but when I do it, it always feels like home.

I’m a writer, even when I am not writing for money or even an audience. I blog to get things out, creatively, emotionally, whenever I need to. I’ve met great lifelong friends because of it, I’ve gotten a couple of jobs and numerous unpaid speaking gigs because of it. I fell into my current career in part because of it. So yeah, I owe blogging a lot, and I’ve never been ashamed to call myself a blogger, even back in the days when “real journalists” would sheepishly mutter the word “blogger” under their breath.

I attended the Blogalicious conference this past summer. Very cool , passionate people here and it was nice to take the time to recharge and remember why I am doing this in the first place. As my friend Maura says, it’s about community, and connecting and expression, that’s at least why I started blogging. I wanted to write and maybe have other people read it. When I come to a conference like this, though, and people ask “hey, what is your blog about” I usually answer: “I dunno. Stuff.” And then the “personal brand” discussion starts up and I tend to wig out a little.

I struggle daily with the gray area between my personal and professional life online. There is still quite a bit I don’t share regularly online, I do save such detailed information for my actual friends, and despite the fact that I blog, that I’m on Twitter, etc. I still consider myself to be a very private person and a bit of a wallflower, which I am OK with. So being in a position where I deliberately present a public presence, doesn’t come naturally to me.

I do things online to connect with my friends, and I am happy and excited to make new ones, but when I think about what I do personally being consumed by an “audience” and thinking of it as such, it still makes me uncomfortable. It freaks me out to think that present and future employers may be checking out the times when I live-tweet a Converge show or publicly ogle Dolph Lundgren or snark about the emo geek boys on OK Cupid or fret over my family or talk about bourbon.

Yet, here I am, doing it.

But (especially with Twitter) my personal use morphed and evolved into a professional use so quickly and so organically that there was never an opportunity for me to comfortably separate those two sides of my life. Also, I can’t really separate those sides of my life. Many of my professional colleagues are also trusted friends. For example, I started a “professional” Facebook account for the sole purpose of managing Facebook fan pages. Two of my friends found me in a half hour. D’OH!

Now I know some people may be reading this like “whatever social media so-and-so. Tough life, navel-gazer, Go check-in to Foursquare or something.”

Fine, fair enough. But the convergence of my professional/social life was not something that I thought I was getting into when I started getting into web design and blogging a zillion years ago. And that convergence is happening to us all, I think. For today’s babies and toddlers, an online persona is being created for them before they are even old enough to decide if they want one. But for those who work in the so-called “social media space” it is expected to be out there on some level. To be”genuine” and “real” and craft a specific “personal brand.” (Man, that’s a lot of quotation marks)

So, once again, just thinking out loud, but I’ve been continually struggling with this for awhile now and trying to figure out how to continue doing the work that I do, express myself creatively while still maintaining my sense of self for the real life people I care about.

*ironically, this was originally posted at my personal blog

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