On Social Networking and Personal Branding

I stopped tweeting last week. I did not, however, delete my Twitter account. What prompted me to do this was an interview on a radio program, Fresh Air. Interviewed was a journalist who just won a Pulitzer prize for a series he did on distracted driving: how cell phones–talking, texting, and emailing–change the way we drive. The conversation drifted from the specific venue of technology consumption in cars to technology consumption writ large and how technology changes the way we think, how we live, and in many instances adversely effects our quality of life.

I forgot which early psychologist twisted Aristotle’s assertion that we humans are rational beings by saying that we are rarely rational but possess an astonishing ability to rationalize our decisions ex post facto. Computers–holding onto the aura of seemingly magical productivity instilled by good IBM branding in the 1960s and 1970s–confer an “I’m getting things done here” message upon their users, and still do, even though what we use computers for as of late can rarely be called productive

My issue with Twitter in particular is that, when engaged in heavy use, I feel my brain quicken. It is volatile, and thoughts–instead of coming out nicely punctuated with a sort of droll, discursive spirit–come out in fits and starts, as if my noetic works are gummed up.  I felt the refulgent glow of wit between my ears, but found upon further examination that this readiness to rhetorically lacerate a subject, in practice, rendered itself in spluttering 140 character syllogisms and overly precious plays on words–which I then proceeded to hashtag, so that when the meme goes viral I’d be pegged as its progenitor.

#Hegelgasm: n. The palpable feeling of transcendence characterized by mental quietude and a glimmering warmth about the head and neck; likely a psychosomatic response to self-congratulatory notions of intellectual achievement resulting from successful implementation of dialectic thought processes.

I propose the following methodology for dealing with social networking utilities, especially if considering their use as a “personal-branding” tool: use Twitter and Facebook as native, parallel, back-end distribution channels for autogenous content. What this basically means is that I know that the vast majority of my blog hits are linked from my Facebook page, and that Facebook qua Facebook and Twitter qua Twitter make for extremely disappointing personal-branding experiences. One must create more substantial content than 140-character witticisms, or wacky status updates, or anemic attempts at “keeping in touch” to be considered valuable.  

Who do people respect more, the creators of content or those that re-tweet or post shortlinks to content?  Who is more valuable, the creators of content or the disseminators of otherwise unread material? It’s a tough question, and a little too philosophical to get into here.

So, here’s my new Social Networking Paradigm in a nutshell: It is my belief that the greatest currently-available tool for personal branding is the weblog. Little to no direct engagement with various social networking utilities is required, as posts linking Facebook and Twitter users are created endogenously, simultaneously to when a blog post goes up. This directs more users to the blog, and frees up otherwise wasted hours spent surfing Facebook to write better blog posts, read, engage face-to-face with friends, and re-learn deep concentration and other mental processes lost through interface with technology.

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Ultimately, I don’t want it to seem that I’m writing this blog only to build the brand of Jason D. Rowley. In fact, personal branding is the least of my reasons for writing The Halcyon Days; I view it as a good mental workout, as a peer-reviewed version of what I keep tucked away in a growing pile of Moleskine notebooks, and it ultimately forces me to keep my love of arcane verbiage at a manageable level.

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to check my Facebook and deny a random Foursquare request and retweet some nonsense and address my iPhone, which has been jittery with text messages for the past ten minutes. 

Now, how ridiculous did I sound?

Author: Jason D. Rowley

As I mentioned elsewhere, I wear a lot of hats. Currently, I'm interested in VC data, early stage startups, and journalism. Previously I've been a blogger, designer, researcher, startup founder, (temporary) college dropout, connector, occasional branding designer and amateur chef.

2 thoughts on “On Social Networking and Personal Branding”

  1. Great post Jason,

    There’s no question that tweeting in 140 character snippets is having an effect on our minds – the unwritten imperative to disseminate information, results in us reaching for easily Retweetable slogans, rather than making well thought out, discursive points. Needless to say, we end up thinking in snapshots and get bored when we can’ reduce it all to 140 characters. I’d be interested in hearing about your experiment – how do I do that, unless I follow on Twitter?

    Best wishes

    Hung

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