I signed up to Twitter in 2008. The now-defunct handle I used was @nadiatweets. I used this account as a personal (not private) chat room and news feed for friends that I had left behind in Singapore (born and bred), and people that I had met while I was travelling. I started out as a fairly passive user, but started gaining momentum as time passed, realising how good Twitter at being a training tool for myself as a writer. I wrote about my life, my friends, and people on the 86 tram. @nadiatweets was personal, engaging, and potentially humorous (debatable).
In late 2009, I signed up for another Twitter account, @ElliotOwl. This account was to be, in contrast, my ‘professional identity’. Alongside this account, I also set up a blog, delicious stacks, Vimeo and so on. I was very careful with what I posted across these different networks, as I wanted to be ‘professional’. I wrote about work, and only about work, and made no effort to inject any hint of my personality at all. I used Twitter to ‘engage’ with thought leaders in the digital communications space. By which, I mean that I did a lot of retweeting. A lot. I wanted future employers to see @ElliotOwl and be impressed by the depth and breadth of knowledge that I hoped I demonstrated in my writing and my research. @ElliotOwl was dry, boring, and robotic.
Fast forward a few months: I reviewed my stats. I had 30 followers on @nadiatweets, and 200 followers on @ElliotOwl. In spite of that, I had dozens of @ replies and DMs on @nadiatweets, but hardly the same could be said for @ElliotOwl. The total number of @s, DMs and RTs that I had collected in those few months could be counted on two, sad, lonely, poorly moisturised hands.
The conclusion? As much as we try to exist and co-exist in the online space and use it increasingly as a communication tool, people still want to know people. People want to interact with people. Employers still want to hire people. Not robots.
It doesn’t matter how much you know, how much you read, and how many Seth Godinand Clay Shirky quotes you’ve retweeted. Learning is easy. Reading is easier. Anyone can do a Google search, read a blog and claim to be an expert/guru/ninja of their chosen discipline. How do you make yourself stand out?
One crucial thing that we sometimes forget, given the incredible speed of which technology grows and develops, is that we are not, in actual fact, an astoundingly complex species. We all crave human interaction, on multiple levels. Even more so, I feel, in this present day where we sometimes prefer to send a text message than speak on the phone, or choose to ‘like’ a status update than meet an old friend for a coffee. We are losing ourselves in a sea of boring, soulless, robots.
The irony is that we try so hard to make ourselves more present by hiding behind a keyboard and a computer screen.
Go back to basics. Talk to somebody. Start a conversation. Make a friend.
I have since deleted @nadiatweets, and made @ElliotOwl my main channel of communication online. I still tweet about my life, my friends, and people on the 86 tram, but I no longer make a distinction between my personal life and my professional life. I connect to many friends, people that I work with, have worked with, and will potentially work with on a far more personal level than I ever have before. I now know their likes, dislikes, whether they are a dog person or cat person, their choice cafes and restaurants, and whether they are looking to hire. I am not ‘networking’ any more. I am making friends.
The result? An uncountable number of connections made with some very clever and interesting people, and a very satisfactory number of work and collaboration opportunities.
I have not written this blog post with the intention of encouraging you to make your personal lives more public. Certainly not. Instead, take a look at the content that you’re putting out there in your name. What does it say about you? What input have you given. Are these your thoughts, and your opinions? Are you putting yourself out there as a person, or a robot?
We’ve gone through the benefits of positioning yourself as a media practitioner in the online space time and time again; opens multiple doors, allows you to connect with anyone and everyone, breaking physical/geographical boundaries etc. Now it’s time to think about how we can put that in practice, in the best way that we can.
Cross posted HERE