I have noticed recently that several people within the social media space have taken issue with personal brand, and more specifically with self-centered ego-driven social media practitioners. Nobody likes a preening self-loving idiot (which I suppose would be an ironic blow for such a narcissist to discover), but I feel the pendulum threatens to swing too far in the direction of self-suppression. I felt strongly enough to do a snarky blog post a couple of weeks ago (http://doughaslam.com/2009/08/28/social-media-top-5-i-am-smart-and-handsome-and-my-cat-is-adorable/). While I feel there is no real danger that ego-supported blogging and the like will go away, I do want to buck the trend and write a little more seriously in defense of it.
I offer three reasons why “me-first” egoist social media is a good thing:
- “Me” is what each of us know best;
- Truly abhorrent narcissism is boring and will be ignored; and
- The “oxygen mask” principle rules.
Write What You Know- You
This is the heart of my thinking. We are supposed to provide value in our content, whether we are sharing a love of cats or dispensing ageless business wisdom. Surely, people don’t want to read (or listen, or watch) us prattle on about ourselves. That thinking feeds into a harmful myth. Really, what topic do you know better than yourself? What examples, experiences, and opinions can you draw on to best illustrate your points other than your own?
Whatever you may or may not be an expert on, you are definitely an expert in “you.” I come at this from the perspective that I was never inclined to write about me- who cares about me? It turns out, as I decided to blog and podcast, that if I tried to discuss any topic without injecting myself into it, I would devolve into bland, uninteresting parroting of other peoples’ stories. A ton of people wrote about marketing and PR (or whatever your topic might be). The only differentiator any of us has in this “anyone can publish” society is ourselves.
Adding value is adding our own point of view and experiences to an existing concept or story.
Ignore the Bores
This, of course, does not mean that all self-centered writing intrinsically has value. If someone is a braying bore, that becomes evident as we consume their content. The responsibility of the audience (another favorite topic of mine) comes into play here; you can vote with your feet (or your RSS reader).
This, to me, is simple Darwinism. People who rely on ego-driven content without adding value will eventually be ignored. Even if they do catch some attention and success that does not mean you have to follow. After all, your narcissistic jackass is someone else’s purveyor of shiny-object wisdom.
The “Oxygen Mask” Principle
Whenever I board a plane, the one thing I remember from the safety speech is the bit about the oxygen mask. In an emergency, always put on your oxygen mask before helping others with theirs- even children and the infirm. The reason is that a gasping, dying, helpless person is of no help to those around him or her.
But don’t all nice bloggers want to help others? What good does it do to help ourselves first? This is the oxygen mask principle; a person who makes himself strong and confident, building, yes, a healthy ego, is in a better position to help others.
Don’t hold back talking about yourself because of some misplaced sense of a need for humility. Tell us all about yourself–that’s how you will help the rest of us. By all means, don’t think you will bore me if you talk about yourself. Unless you do.
Doug Haslam is an Account Director at Boston’s SHIFT Communications, and blogs at DougHaslam.com. He is also smart and handsome, and his cat is adorable.