A public image is a versatile matter. One can choose to build their own public image, or have it be determined by the public. Whether one chooses to paint their own self through their media and online activity or lay dormant and allow the public to build this image, one thing is for sure: A public image is not optional. Once a user has posted, commented, or participated in online activity in any way, their image is public. What one decides to do with their image is by their discretion.
My public image before this class was not very exciting. I do have Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but I’ve never been super outgoing on these. I’ve never seen value in sharing online. My public image was solemn. I’ve always considered myself a “lurker”: someone who views content online, but who doesn’t engage with it. This is part due to my background and how I have been raised. The less information you share, the better off you will be is one of the principles that has been ingrained in me since childhood that has led to me to be more reserved online and keep to myself. Making re-inscribes familiar values. (Chachra, 2015) In my case, the absence of making and creating exhibited my own values. This heavily contrasts the present norm where many teens use social media abundantly to network and be recognized. They are like online flaneurs: “individuals who came to the streets not to go anywhere in particular but in order to see and be seen.” (Boyd, 2014) Starting a blog this semester has given me new perspective as, prior to this, I had never shared much online. The blog forced me to step out of my comfort zone and write about what I am passionate about. I had a new public image that was separate from what I had previously established. A fresh start online with a new purpose allowed me to build a whole new public image. Instead of being reserved, I was open. I was open about my thoughts on music, what appealed to me, and even the emotions that music provoked from me. In some sense, it felt like this was part due to dissociative imagination. Nobody knew who I was, what my past was, or even my other public image. John Suler uses the analogy that “It’s Just a Game” (Suler, 2015), and, to me, that’s what it felt like. It felt like a game in the sense that the stakes were low, and I could do anything I wanted with little repercussions. It allowed me to find comfort in sharing my online self.
Going into this class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As a business major, my experience in publications was quite minimal. Being thrown into the fire was a bit intimidating at first. Trying to figure out what I should post about, how to run a blog, and how I wanted to present myself was all very challenging. I conquered the steep learning curve simply by writing. Once I decided on a topic, I would start writing. I wrote music reviews and had no idea what I was doing, so I just wrote. I wrote about the background of the albums, how they sounded, and how they made me feel. I felt like I could offer value to a broader audience if I provided different aspects of a review. I imagined my audience to be quite like me in the sense that we both share a passion for music. The music itself is not enough and we crave an experience beyond it. Reading and writing reviews helps satisfy our craving for more. My focus was on underground music with a few exceptions, and I wanted to bring light to lesser-known artists who I believe make incredible music. I think they are underappreciated and underrecognized, and I wanted to contribute to spreading their work to a broader audience however I can.
Overall, I have found a new appreciation for publications. Without this class, I would have never gained perspective into what it takes to create a public image. I have been exposed to the value of publishing and sharing one’s views, and over the course of this semester, I have found that I have become more engaged in my other online communities. Through an increased participation, I have felt more satisfied and discovered a more rewarding experience online. This has changed my online presence, and I have begun developing a new self. Becoming more comfortable and confident in publishing myself online has transferred over to my other media platforms outside this class. I believe if others like me are exposed to an experience such as this one, they may also find the value and satisfaction that comes with engaging in and contributing to their own online communities.
Boyd, D. (2014). Searching for a publc of their own. In D. Boyd, It’s Comlicated (pp. 213-227). New Haven: Yale University Press.
Chachra, D. (2015). Wny I Am Not a Maker. The Atlantic , 1-2.
Suler, J. (2015). The Online Disinhibition Effect. In J. Suler, Psychology of the Digital Age (pp. 321-326). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.