Personal Branding in the Twenty-First Century
The first decade of the twenty-first century saw a huge shift in the ubiquity of technology for the average person. The ability to connect instantly to the Internet ushered in a new way of communicating personal identity. From cultivating a MySpace, Tribe, or Friendster account to constructing GeoCities or Live Journal profile the 2000s saw a significant change in the ease of how information was transmitted. Anna Garvey, Director of Content and Social Media for WebRev Marketing & Design, coined the term Oregon Trail Generation to describe the micro-generation that exists between Generation X and Millennials, (Garvey, 2015).
Transformation of Personal Identity
The Oregon Trail Generation was largely responsible for the seismic shift in how personal identity online changed in the twenty-first century. As a culture, the Oregon Trail Generation came of age at the precipice of affordable home computers and were college-aged young adults as social media became the dominant platform of communication and promotion. People relate to the world through their experiences online. Beebe, Beebe, and Redmond (2011) describe Social Identity Model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE) as the theory “that people are more likely to stereotype others with whom they interact online, because such interactions provide fewer relationship cues and the cues take longer to emerge than they would in face-to-face interactions” (p. 75).
In the beginning of the 2000s, a multiphrenic attitude toward identity was acceptable and perpetuated through false or misrepresented accounts on social media. Fewer people including potential employers investigated online the presence of applicants so the ability to portray different or false identities was easier. Martin and Nakayama (2010) describe identity tourism as “concept that refers to people taking on the identities of other races, genders, classes, or sexual orientations for recreational purposes” (p. 25). However, as the concept of personal identity evolves, employers are performing Internet searches on prospective employees, identity tourism is becoming less prevalent. People developing a personal brand are realizing that any content posted on the Internet in the past can be traced, retrieved, and potentially used negatively.
Technology as an Agent of Change
Technology is both advantageous and disadvantageous to a person developing a personal identity. Developing an online identity is a process of refining image and portraying positive characteristics, and useful skills. Social media experts Deckers and Lacy (2013) ask
- What do I want to be known for? (p. 7).
- What qualities do I want people to associate with me? (p. 7).
- What is the first thing I want to have pop in their heads whey they hear my name? (p. 7).
Technology can benefit someone developing a personal identity online by providing the tools to promote, distribute, and maintain a presence for business, educational, and personal endeavors. However, technology can hinder a person’s ability to obtain work because anyone can perform a perfunctory Internet search and find questionable material.
One tool available to people designing an online identity is the Facebook app SimpleWash, which allows users to remove offending content.
SimpleWash comes with a precompiled list of words that may be considered offensive or alarming to those viewing your social history. This list spans a broad spectrum of “dirtiness,” from sex to drugs to curse words and more (it even includes some seriously abstract crazy things you might have posted) (SimpleWash, 2013, para. 6).
Technology provides people the opportunity to alter previous Internet activity so that future employers and potential clients see the best representation of personal identity.
Personal identity is a necessary component of involvement in networking, employment, education, and professional enterprise. Creating a personal identity through technology is a critical component in obtaining employment in the twenty-first century. Anyone belonging to any generation will benefit from constructing a personal identity, establishing a positive image, and maintaining an active presence online.
Beebe, S. A., Beebe, S. J., & Redmond, M. V. (2011). Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Deckers, E., & Lacy, K. (2013). Branding yourself: How to use social media to invent or reinvent yourself. (2nd ed.). Indianapolis, IN. Que Publishing
Garvey, A. (2015, April 21). The Oregon Trail Generation: Life Before and After Mainstream Tech. Social Media Week. Retrieved from http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2015/04/oregon-trail-generation/
Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2010). Intercultural communication in contexts (5th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.
SimpleWash. (2013). Why to Use SimpleWash. Retrieved from http://www.simplewa.sh/about