This post is not only about how to curate your presence, but why this is absolutely essential. The old adage “You are what you make of yourself ” holds even more true online than in “real” life. In the real world, your image shifts and changes according to circumstances, according to the person with whom you are engaged in conversation or in a relationship, and according to your mood. Online, whatever you put out there in cyberspace stays there, to be passed on, transformed and manipulated at will by others. So be careful what you put out there. Be careful of your words, of the photos you choose the post and, above all, whenever you can, of the photos and videos that others post of you. The latter, especially if you’re a public persona, is often very much out of your hands, so you just have to be conscious of the situations in which you find yourself in the real world and how they will be reflected and repeated online. Of course, gossip is gossip, whether it be online or off, and there is nothing more out of your control than other people’s interpretations of who you are as these get passed on. If in the past, in strict social environments, one had to have adhere to certain norms and maintain a discrete public profile, nowadays one must be even more vigilant.
This self control is worthwhile. You can and do have control over who you are online and should be aware of this and turn this to your benefit. You can truly create yourself online, through well-wrought writing, and a well curated selection of images. Whatever your profession, this attention to your online presence is key—it’s a way to show consistency and progress in your career; a way to demonstrate a certain integrity with your words. You are what you say you are, the images should match the words. If you say you are an environmentalist, or an activist against child labor, then let’s see some photos that show you hugging trees and signing petitions. Much too often, renowned individuals fail to be mindful of the importance of being consistent with their public presence. We live in a time and a world of image, of immediacy and impact. But these images linger on, they float around the web, and they never seem to disappear; the images may come back to haunt you. The internet is still quite young, so we don’t know yet what the long term effects will be on our reputation. But there have already been plenty of scandals to demonstrate the private and politic fallout that a failure in attentiveness to words or actions can bring.