Every-me must go!
I should probably warn you: this is an advertisement.
No, this is not a sponsored post, or some ad masquerading as an opinion, this is an honest article – but can such a thing truly exist? Make no mistake, this is a commercial, and right now, as you read these words, I am selling you something – I’m selling you, me. While my thoughts and ideas may be my sales pitch, my merchandise will always be myself.
I’m not alone on the shelves. This is what we do, whether it be through social media, individual blogs, or personal websites, we, who have an online presence are constantly selling ourselves. We upload our best photos, impart our most potent quotes, and reveal our finest triumphs – few of us ever willingly expose our worst.
This isn’t news, I’m sure you’re saying, people have been selling themselves forever. It’s true, they have, and no doubt they always will. Yet our times are unique among others, as every innovation in communication, every development in connectivity, manages to squeeze out evermore of our true self from our online persona.
When I started this blog, the greatest concern I had was the shameless self-solicitation I would have to employ. This wasn’t simply a case of selling something online – this was the selling of self. Where once I might have owned a business, now I would be the business – I would be the product, and the marketing manager as well, and I’d always be on sale.
I made myself a commodity and it instantly altered my thinking. All my thoughts – those I publish online – will now have direct consequences, not only personal (as they always have), but professional too. These consequences will be linked to my passion, to my goals, and my dreams – one false step, or ill measured decision, and everything I’ve hoped for might easily disappear.
This feeling is strange to me, and of deep concern. You see, my goal – as it is for most who contribute online – is to gain a following, and although nothing I have to say is overtly or purposefully inflammatory, and yet I am still struck by the requisite end to my once, carefree liberty. Now, every time I share a post, post a comment, or comment on a share, there comes a cloud of creeping questions: How will this be received? Will this be read as I intend? Is this the right time to make this point? And, ultimately, how might this affect my future?
Before I released my first words online, I sought guidance from friends, some of who use this medium for their own purposes, and others who consume it, purely for recreation. Both ends of advice were unanimous – self-promotion is key. You must show people your pictures, you must personalise your statements, you must grab the people’s attention – you must shock, amaze, astound, and incite, or you’ll never stand out. Yet, above all, you must consider what you write. You must consider what you write because you, like everyone else out there, is now a business – and you are a commodity. They all understood this concept implicitly, and drummed their message into my head – they were under no illusion of the times they are living.
If I am now, indeed, a business, then there are things to consider that all businesses must consider. If my objective is to appeal to the most people possible, then my output must reflect this purpose. I think of big conglomerates – those online and off – which dedicate entire departments to these kinds of concerns, and what great piles of money and time they must invest in such considerations.
I’ve heard it called impression management, where they judge risk, gauge public opinion and calculate the impact and implications of their marketing strategies. Is what I now had to do for myself, like I’m some new flavoured biscuit or latest model sedan? But what I’m selling is inside my head, it’s what makes who I am. I always be on display and the sale may never end. I can never close the front doors, go home and take my pants off at five, there’ll be no diffusion between work and home.
Every choice I make online is now a measured and deliberate deed, even those that are wholeheartedly honest and authentically true, simply because they are now linked to my “brand”. The entire process seems so cheap, so narcissistic, and so tragically shallow, (I say, writing an entire article about myself) but amid these new considerations, one question raises paramount above all others: where does the truth lie?
While I can assure you I am always honest, and have nothing to hide, I find myself grappling with this question, and given that all I am selling is my thoughts, such a contemplation seems like a blatant contradiction.
No doubt some who were reading this have clicked away, considering it an admission of unreliability – that I’m actually full of shit. But once I became my own product, and my own marketing team, how much of what you see, can truly be who I am? Is the evaluations of my opinions, and the smoothing of my expressions in order to be palatable for all, the most honest I can be? In fact, is this an act of dishonesty or is it simply a marketing ploy? I’ll never selling you a clear falsehood, but rather a rose tinted account of truth, I’ll give you the most guarded and wisest form of me, like the version of myself at the annual work Christmas party.
How much of anything said online is truthfully true? I don’t mean necessarily a downright lie, just not an outright honesty, and how can anyone be wholly true when the objective is to sell? Does the desire for greater reach, and a wider audience devour the integrity? Are those we read every day, be it a business or friend, who may spout the sensationalist awe, or the outrage through egregious click baiting, true harbingers of their stated emotions? Are all those denunciations and exaltations, really reflections of the authors who wrote them? Even if one is sincerely affected by something, how much of their response has been moderated – and is a moderated response an honest reaction – and how accurate can any sentiment be, when one’s livelihood may hinge upon it?
But in this golden age of self-commoditisation, admitting there is any lack of truth to oneself is akin to taking your product off the shelf. Yet, if one believes in what they sell is that, in essence, still a lie? Self-belief is not always the same as being honest to others, is it? At what point does honesty and self-promotion intersect? You can easily be false to yourself, and still appear true to your audience, and vice versa, right? Of course, there will always be those who will exploit “truth” for personal gain, but in world of the perpetual self-sale, simply knowing these concerns must cast a shade of distrust over every interaction?
Honesty is the audience’s only reason to buy. It is the most valuable part of the product. But is anyone truly getting their money’s worth? Honesty is difficult to distinguish without direct connection, difficult to establish without direct experience. How can any audience truly know truth when it is the salesperson who dictates it? There is no firm measure of honesty, and no test to remove all doubt. There are no guarantees, all you can do is shop for the most believable narrative. But the audience will only buy as much as they believe.
Trust is the only warranty we can offer. Trust is earned, and trust is built – so allow me to start a foundation with you now. If I am truly honest, I must tell you: I’m a liar – but only as much as any commercial is. Of course I am. I told you – I’m a salesman and my goal is to sell. Saying anything to contrary would be the real deception – the truest of lies.
To continue in this world, as my friends told me, I must embrace the selling of myself. I must accept there is no shame in this practice. The only shame attached is in how I present myself. No one should be ashamed of self-promotion, so long as it is honest, for this is a medium where only the authentic can live forever.
I am the head of this business, and the only thing on sale, truth must start in the workshop, and honesty must be my campaign. I understand nobody has to read to my words, and no one should if I’m being dishonest in my delivery.
So please, come in for look, try something on, but no, I don’t expect you to buy.
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ART BY THE WORLD FAMOUS