Blog networks are all the rage. 9rules just asked for another round of submissions and recieved 700 entries. That’s a pretty big number for a geeky blog network. What makes 9rules special is who you’re associated with, a 9rules badge has come to mean quality and their careful selection process helps them maintain this position. Problem is, that kind of quality control doesn’t exist everywhere.
On a few occasions I’ve been asked to join blog networks. I’ve turned it down every time for one simple reason: I don’t want to be associated with a group unless I have absolute belief in what they represent and the quality of product they put forth. Put shortly, I’m incredibly controlling of my online image. More and more lately I’ve been thinking of myself as a brand that needs to be managed carefully. NoahBrier.com becomes the online hub of that brand. The way the site looks and everything written here becomes a reflection of me.
That’s why I’m so careful about who I associate myself with. Nike wouldn’t align itself with a brand or charity it didn’t absolutely believe in, so why should I? My online identity is incredibly important and will most likely travel with me for much of my life. The fact that I control the top Google spot for my name is powerful. I am defining myself.
I expect that this idea will become increasingly important as more and more information ends up online. Think about kids growing up now with Myspace, Facebook and whatever else accounts. Much of their life is being documented from a young age. That means when they’re looking for a job and are Google 10 years from now all that stuff will show up. This doesn’t have to be a problem, but it’s certainly something to be aware of. I personally stand with Bryan over at Avalonstar who wrote: “When it comes to jobs, let your blog be your screener. If you run into potential employers similiar to those Kristine had to deal with, then screw Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem, there are better places out there thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have more respect for you.”
The problem is many people can’t afford to take that attitude. Unless you’re fairly confident with the online identity you’ve created it’s hard to take this angle. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of what’s out there. If you’re in high school you should go out and start a site with your name as the title. Put whatever information you want associated with you.
Don’t let others define you. Define yourself!
When I had this conversation with Kareem a few weeks ago his question was, “what about the people who write bad stuff about you?” My answer: “Bring it on.” The wonder of the internet is it proves that there’s no such thing as bad press. As long as a detractor includes a link they’re upping your pagerank and if they’ve got a comments section, you’ve even got an opportunity to defend yourself on their site. Returning to the branding idea: The best brands are the ones that inspire both the positive and negative. If you’re writing something that someone feels passionate enough about to write a response then you’re doing something right (assuming you’re not just viciously attacking others).
It’s especially interesting to bring the “Brand of Me” back to the current attention debate. In discussing some comments by Esther Dyson in the WSJ Andrew Keen wrote: “Dyson says that the Internet in 2016 will come to reflect our hunger for attention. It will be electronic proof of our existence. To misquote Descartes, “I can be googled, therefore I am.” The future of media, therefore, for Dyson, is partly a Darwinian struggle to rank higher than others, and partly an existential struggle to prove one’s own identity.”
Certainly part of why I have this website is to attract attention to myself. However, I think it’s a mistake to call online identity creation only an act of attention. In the real world it’s easy to shape your identity. People see you, talk to you, shake your hand, interact with you. All of these things play into their opinion of you. Online those physical interactions aren’t possible. Online you can be anything. That’s part of what attracted so many to the internet in the first place. More and more, however, people are choosing to be themselves online, not someone else. It is becoming an extension of us and as an extension we must be aware that it is also a reflection.