In the field of internet marketing, there is an entire scope of work surrounding “Reputation Management.” This has to do with addressing problematic reviews on review sites, responding to online complaints, etc. The idea behind it is that if someone googles your business, you want them to be able to find your storefront homepage and positive reviews.
At its least-sleazy, the online work itself is a combination of soliciting positive reviews from happy customers (to crowd out the complaints), addressing and responding to complaints publicly (so the person can feel heard, and other readers can see that the business is responsive), and if necessary, asking for unfair complaints to be taken down. I’ve got to say it: this work is a waste of time if the business has done nothing to correct the problems that customers were citing in those reviews.
In the more personal world, or in the world of brands of human beings – like authors or experts – this effort is called “Image sculpting.”
Social Media perpetuates the illusion that we can control what others think of us.
Let that flutter around like a frightened bird in your ribcage for a moment.
Existentialists knew the nausea of this realization. We cannot control what others think of us. Nor can we ever really see or understand it.
With Social Media, we feel like we have control over how others perceive us. “I only post the things I’m willing to put out there,” some of you might say. “Don’t post it if you don’t want your grandmother reading it!” etc. etc. Think about how much we gnash our teeth when someone tags us in an unflattering photo – one that we’d never want to allow online.
So many articles have been written about very short studies that tie Facebook to depression and anxiety symptoms. So many articles are out there to give perspective about how other people only post the very best parts of their lives online. Those are all concerned with the act of comparing ourselves – our profiles – with the profiles of others.
They don’t address the fact that we’re all creating those profiles at the same time. And as we create those profiles, we are editing, curating and creating the image of ourselves that we want to send out into the world. In terms of self-image, this is okay. In fact, it’s actually good for us.
The problem lies in the illusion that by creating these profiles, we are able to influence or control what our friends think of us.
Because we can’t.
We can’t control how others see us.
This thought is terrifying and freeing at the same time. At it’s most existential, it can be crazy-making in our own attempts at self-understanding. For me, giving up the illusion that I have this control means that I’ve got one less thing to do.