LinkedIn: I’m BAAAAAACK…

Assignment: Establish a LinkedIn profile if you don’t have one. Enhance your profile if you do have one; join groups and interact with others. Please describe what you did to enhance your profile in the journal blog. Also discuss in journal blog: What are you doing to establish your personal brand online? What could you be doing better? What do you plan to do in the future? What strategies will you employ?

I can hear the collective gasp in the audience when I reveal that I already had a LinkedIn profile before this class. I know! I’m sure it has appeared that I have evaded and avoided all things Internet and social media for the last decade of my life, made so obvious by the routine of this class.  And to some extent, that was true of my life before grad school.

But in contemporary society and regardless how much we ‘late-adopt’ or maybe even try to avoid social endeavor online, these days the Internet is a required resource when you’re looking for a job.  And unfortunately, I found myself doing just that on a recurring basis over the last decade.  I found myself in the restaurant business in 2003, after financial struggles led me away from the news business.  It was the allure of singing that made me go that path when I found a gig singing in a restaurant.  But as it appears things typically go in my life, good things come to an end.

That singing gig eventually ran away from me, and I found myself squeezing out a living by waiting tables.  And I was miserable. Enter months of job searching and my eventual creation of a LinkedIn profile.

I had basically forgotten I had that profile until this topic came up in class.  I’m not really sure my LinkedIn account ever actually led me to a new job. After revisiting that profile right now for the first time in as many years as I can recall, I can see why that might have been.  I did a terrible job creating it.  Looking over it right now, I see that the ONLY experience I included on it was restaurant-oriented–when at the time I created it, all I wanted was to get out of the restaurant business!!  And the profile picture…all I can say is THAT was a bad call.  On further examination, I noticed that out of 16 listed skills and endorsements, only half of them pertained to any of my skills that I needed to highlight to get me back to a professional career setting. The rest of these indications of skill were simply distracting (such as “entertainment” and “versatile writer”–both so ambiguous they could be wildly misconstrued). Amazing.

Meanwhile I had 13 requests and several emails requesting endorsements that I had basically ignored during the time I left this profile sitting idle. Who knows how many of those were lost connections I could’ve used when I have previously needed a career change.  And further, who knows how much longer I would’ve let this stale and inaccurate professional profile dangle in the ether had I not been challenged to update it for this class.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to be in graduate school (which happened without a LinkedIn presence to speak, but if this door hadn’t opened I can only project that I would still be idle in Chattanooga and ignoring some awesome resources I had at my fingertips all the while.  I won’t neglect my LinkedIn profile any longer!

Here’s the link to my new and WAY IMPROVED profile:

In revamping myself on LinkedIn, I linked to the academic journal in which I was published at Georgia State University, I joined three groups (one of which is directly related to media studies, which is the focus of my professional project), I sought out and invited some old colleagues from prior professional settings, and I linked to several people whom I’ve met here in Memphis and who will undoubtedly be helpful as my education and eventual career search evolves forward.

Personal branding is paramount in today’s professional society. I have been pretty slack in this endeavor, although careful to consider my respective audiences on the various social media platforms I use.  As discussed elsewhere on this blog, I reserve Twitter for the primary outlet for discussion of gay stereotypes and establishing contents within the gay community to further my research and actual social contacts in general. In turn, Facebook has been my primary means of contact with friends and family from back home in north Georgia. My brand in that setting is a far less personal representation. This is a necessity considering my alternative lifestyle and the narrow-mindedness of many people whom I still value in that audience.  I had intended to brand myself within my ongoing media studies of gay stereotypes on television with my topic blog, but as discussed in another post, that endeavor has proved to be too vulnerable and personally challenging.  I’m strongly reconsidering my prior consideration to forge ahead with that blog under a pseudonym because I’m just not comfortable being that ‘out and proud’ in the online setting.

As to how I could manage all of this branding better, it would be ideal if I could streamline all these various identities into one cohesive identity that I could exert across all platforms. I believe consistency and accountability are significant human attributes. Those who exhibit these attributes have my utmost respect. And when my urge is to exemplify these traits as well (and I do my best in my private life), I’m just not in a life position where I can be consistent with my brand platform-wide.

I have re-oriented my thinking, however, and in that light I intend to focus more attention on my blog that has thus far been used for journal and reading insights.  I gave that blog a new theme and established some further metrics tools with it so that I can maybe re-illuminate a creative writing outlet like I once had with my Myspace blog in the late 2000’s that reached over 34,000 hits.  With my energies devoted to this blog in specific, I believe I can streamline my online presence to more consistency and accountability.

My engagement strategy will be a simple one. It worked extraordinarily by the very nature of Myspace, wherein each new time I posted a new creative writing blog an alert was inserted on my profile so that all my friends could see it.  In the current setting (and because I have been working on a ‘blog-a-day project for this new creative writing momentum), I will simply link each new post to my Facebook status and to my Twitter account.  The bulk of my prior readership is still contained in contacts lists between these two platforms. I’m confident that consistently posting links to each new blog update will draw healthy traffic to this creative writing blog in short order.





Weekly Reading Insights-Week 5

At first, I considered that our readings in Clay Shirky’s book for this week and the suggested outside readings about capitalizing on still photography for online use were unrelated.  The reading topics for each week’s class don’t generally have to be related, but I like to establish some sort of connection amongst the themes if I can. In most aspects and at face value, it initially appeared that this week’s topics are disparate. Shirky takes on the general ideas of “social capital” and “bridging and bonding” in his chapters.   I initially couldn’t see how that could pertain to photography at all.

But after some consideration, I’ve envisioned how best practices of personal internet photography and the concepts of bridging and bonding social capital do intertwine–and in profound ways.

Indeed, the Internet has changed our culture. For illustration, Shirky alludes to Robert Putnam‘s pivotal work entitled Bowling Alone. (Which, by the way, was the most intriguing and enlightening reading for me during Mass Comm Theory last semester.) When Putnam composed his insights, he fingered television for the devolution of society’s tendency toward group interaction. Putnam characterized that trend in 2000Shirky takes a look at it now, and as it pertains to the Internet. And what he sees is dissimilar.

Rather than devolution of group interaction, Shirky suggests that the Internet has promoted societal assembly.  It has made it easier. It’s become cheaper. And thereby, there is more of it. Rooted in what Robert Axelrod has characterized as the general human tendency to be reciprocal and “shadow the future” by doing good things for others on the presumption that they will return that favor,  Shirky and Axelrod allow this concept to apply to social interaction and collective cultural group identity. It’s essentially “paying it forward,” as it were. As Shirky contends, we strive toward the best with our social interaction. And we innately desire it. This urge inevitably increases our investment in social capital. It’s human nature to assemble with others, we do good things to ensure it, and thus it has been a human tendency.

When Putnam considered that television as a technology interrupted that, Shirky illustrates the internet as a champion of it.

Integral to a discussion of social capital investment are the concepts of bridging and bonding, illustrated succinctly in the writings of Pippa Norris. The internet has redefined the ways humanity approaches these concepts.  In bridging, we reach out to others who are unlike us in order to invest in the new or foreign. Bonding, on the other hand, characterizes a tendency to cleave to the familiar.  Society has not previously witnessed as electric an environment on either front as has been viewable with online activity.  Shirky contends, and I concur, that our society is in a new, more intensive and dynamic realm of social interaction on both fronts. Walls for interaction have disappeared, and the resultant increase in group formation and activity is obvious.

Shirky also indicates that this new culture of increased social interaction has its downfalls. Professional roles have been eliminated, in that the human coordination element has been largely removed from the equation. This is particularly obvious in the news business, as mass amateurization has undermined the gatekeeping role of news organizations. Also, what Shirky calls the social bargain is compromised, as the Internet allows people to evade governmental and journalistic limitation. His third perceived downfall is the general danger of communicative and group-based freedom (i.e. for mass activity as well as negative momentums). This concern speaks for itself.

So how does it all this pertain to photography and sharing pictures online?  The implicated advice is clear: be smart and skilled about how you take pictures you intend to post online, and then be very selective about what you follow through with posting. Online endeavor towards investment in social capital is our new way of life, and it is no longer merely a function of written expression. The Internet is now the vehicle for how we coalesce in modern times, but we no longer solely rely on written communication to do it. Words pervade, but we utilize images more profoundly in contemporary online society. Old school still photos in hard copy have a legacy of being worth 1,000 words.  But the audience is now amplified to a global one, with any given set of eyes perusing what we post at any given time. It is incumbent to consider within this new momentum of personal online branding that we use photographs to our benefit. Basic skill at photography is a requirement. And tutorials abound. It is now requisite to pay attention to what we broadcast for our own online image.

But considering how significant and fast-forward online communication is in the realm of social capital investment and how the concepts of bridging and bonding flourish in online interaction, utilizing intuitive and quality photography can either further or inhibit that possibility. We can identify with others across the world without typing a word if we correctly utilize images. And we can simultaneously miss opportunities or ostracize ourselves if we do so recklessly.

Indeed, as our global community waxes and as affiliations rise and amplify at the hand of the Internet, it is paramount to duly equip oneself with at least basic skill and awareness with still photography.  If Shirky is right in his assessment that the concept of community(ies) will only be advanced by the Internet–for better or worse–, the images we post today can either be a death-knell or a proponent to the potentially life-changing and significant social capital scenarios we could navigate tomorrow.