‘Who am I?’ is a timeless question, and answering it has never been straight forward. Your true self not only changes through time and experience but is also adaptable to different situations.
Then there is the projected self, or how you show yourself to the outside world. You could call this your public profile or your own brand. The projected self is basically a more socially acceptable you that can jump more easily through life’s many complicated hoops.
In the past, this would usually mean understanding how to act respectfully in society within the laws and social rules of the time. Now, there is an additional way to project yourself, and that’s through your online presence.
The main difference between how you project yourself face-to-face with someone and declaring who you are online is that your thoughts and ideas are written on the internet with permanent marker and can be accessed globally.
If you aren’t very savvy on your privacy settings, any prospective boss, new love interest or potential follower can search where you went out when you were 18, what music you liked when you were 25 or what political beliefs you had when you were 30.
Away from your private online moments, there is also the intentional, public image you are uploading on the cloud. What you are doing on the internet matters not just now but in the future and the idea that you can balance separate personal and professional images might apply in your real life, but the distinction is blurred on the internet simply because both worlds can search for you.
In a world that is quickly throttling towards never being offline, understanding how to balance your personal and professional online presence is crucial. Finding the balance between respectability, reputation and originality has always been a goal in life, but now getting it wrong can have a much more lasting effect.
The internet is what it has become today because we not only extract information out but we also constantly add our own selves into the framework, and simply pushing a button can catapult a thought or view across the internet. Knowing your own moral limits, personal values and professional goals are key in being able to navigate a digital world riddled with communication potholes.
The ultimate solution is knowing what to put under lock and key, understanding your online rights, keeping up to date with current branding trends and knowing what to SEO like mad.
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.