Al Jazeera

Online Self-Loathing & Surveillance

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 1.41.41 PM Personal branding online sure gets a bad rap, like this New Yorker post by Tony Tulathimutte, which warns us "You Are What You Tweet".

He's talking about the self-loathing variety of personal branding online -- heavy on the self-censorship with no mention of integrating what matters to you with the vulnerability that actually connects us as people,  both concepts we emphasize at GlobalNiche.

Tulathimutte concludes, "The more immediate threat may be the surrender of private identity: to perfect the total image of an impressive life, we prune off the parts of ourselves that can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t be seen."

Meanwhile, The Guardian writes about the psychological effects of surveillance. Research shows being surveilled fosters distrust, conformity and mediocrity.

I can't help noticing that the most deleterious effects of being watched seem to track with the defensive, inauthentic personal branding approach Tulathimutte writes about. As if when we reveal ourselves voluntarily we're avoiding actually being seen.

"Science can lay claim to a wealth of empirical evidence on the psychological effects of surveillance...indiscriminate intelligence-gathering presents a grave risk to our mental health, productivity, social cohesion, and ultimately our future."

That's serious business not to be taken lightly.

But do we have to approach the online presence we build as if we are being watched against our will? As if all we aim to communicate is 'successful' conformity (which is of course mediocre and gives the rest of us nothing to connect to).

Can we make being seen (when we choose it, that is) a path to our own resilience?


Sarah Kendzior makes a related point in Al Jazeera September 9, "The danger of data: Not the information, but the interpretation".

She writes: "Our online self-expression - selective and self-censored, complicated and contrived - is being mistaken for the summation of our being. The great existential fear is no longer not knowing who we are. It is not getting the chance to find out."