I often say I am a very private person who lives a very public life. And I refuse to completely give up on retaining some semblance of privacy, despite the public nature of my work. I believe the public and private spheres of our lives can coexist, but it takes vigilance and persistent image management.
The average Internet user has over 5 social media accounts. And whether it’s your Facebook profile or your Airbnb account, the image you select to represent you on those accounts sends a variety of both subtle and overt messages about who you are (and how you want to be treated in that space and beyond). It controls the people we attract, the conversations we have, and the outcome of those exchanges.
But if we tend to take the power of our image for granted when it comes to our physical self-presentation, we are even more likely to underestimate the critical role of our digital profiles. When you are face-to-face, you are a 3D entity, complete with vocal variations, energetic wavelengths, and your own unique scent, all of which inform the body on display. But on the screen, your identity is flattened and reduced to pixels that zero in on only one sense: sight. And how that vision is interpreted relies on the words and accompanying images that round out that particular profile.
For some, this limited presentation of self is an opportunity to reinvent themselves — to strategically highlight favorable or preferable elements, while diminishing the emphasis on other less flattering aspects of our identities. But for others, these constraints pose challenges, as it can become difficult to determine which features to highlight to a particular audience, and on which platforms. Juggling multiple online profiles, in addition to your physical persona, is image management on steroids. And it can be exhausting at best, or reputation-damaging at worst.
Confidently selecting and promoting your image on social channels need not be stressful, however, if you approach it thoughtfully, and with a little expert guidance. After years of research, I’ve boiled down online image management to 5 key elements — and based on my analysis of digital identity and social exchange in virtual spaces, those 5 rules will lay the foundation for a positively perceived profile.
The prominence — and consequences — of your virtual image is here to stay, so it’s time to start making savvy online image choices. Check out my video (for men and women) of 5 rules for online profiles and watch your interactions and digital efficacy transform.
What challenges and pitfalls have you faced when constructing and managing your online profiles? What key lessons have you learned? I’d love to hear your personal stories in the comments section.
p.s. Do you know someone who is a super user of social media and might benefit from a little profile refinement? Or perhaps you have a friend or relative who is less tech savvy — they might appreciate knowing about this resource.