When I first joined Twitter in the fall of 2008, my handle was @smashadv and my profile picture had me holding an orange in front of my face. It was a throw away shot from a photoshoot for a campaign I was working on. The image worked for me in the social spaces since I was only testing the waters and didn’t want to reveal too much about myself. I was playing it safe and all.
Sometime in the summer of 2009, I met David Armano at a SocMe function. Unlike now when I just basically share, back then I was like a gnat – engaging as many of the top (popular) people in the medium as I could. I questioned everything in an attempt to learn as much as possible. Besides, the way I figured it, the popular people might be experts in marketing, public relations, search algorithms, etc., but in this brave new medium that required lean, precise writing – they were on my turf. Only, I was hidden behind an orange and had a twitter handle that loosely referenced my ad agency. I introduced myself to Armano. He didn’t recognize my name. I’d brought an orange with me and I held it up. He recognized that. After a few minutes of small talk, he looked at me and said, “You know – you should consider losing the orange.” Now you have to remember, back then – Armano was like Jesus. And when Jesus tells you you should do something, you do it. A little while later, I went to another profile pic of me holding an orange out to the side. A year later I changed accounts from @smashadav to @jmitchem (I would have just changed @smashadv to @jimmitchem, but I owned both of those handles – and so Twitter kept telling me that someone owned @jimmitchem . Yes. Me.) I also decided at that point that I didn’t want to be an ‘expert’ of the medium because it seemed that too many of these people were (are) insincere and did (do) too much self-promotion gaming via tight networks of other popular people. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good people preaching and practicing in the medium, but the whole ‘followers’ thing is just too disciple-like for my comfort.
Anyway, I’ve hung around and have worked within social media’s holy trinity (Twitter/Linkedin/Facebook) these past few years. And I’ve learned that the more authentic I am, the more satisfaction I get from connecting with and engaging new people. And the only way I was able to get this far was by stepping out of the shadows and into the light. By casting aside anonymity.
Enter Google+. I’m there. I’m just not sold on the idea of another portal just yet. Even one devised by the world’s digital goliath. Besides, we all know that these ‘free’ services we use are really just datamining schemes, right? And the more data that companies like Facebook and Google can capture about you, the more valuable it is to advertisers. Sure, it might seem innocuous to list all of the places you’ve worked in the past to ‘help people connect with you’ – but it’s all really intended to create an accurate portrait of you so that someone can sell you something. In the world of business, efficiency is king. And to advertisers, the closer they can target their audience, the more efficient the ad spend – and the sweeter the ROI. So when I was filling out my profile on Google+ and got to the part about Past Places I’ve Lived – I stopped. I also noticed that Google wanted my phone numbers, nicknames, gender, education and more. Sure, they offer the opportunity to hide this info from public search, but that’s not important to them. You see, every one of these seemingly innocent profile questions are directly related to valuable data that some advertiser will pay dearly for – regardless whether I’m visible in a public search or not. But it’s ok, it’s a free service. The only price is my anonymity.
As great as it may be, I don’t need Google+ yet. I like Google for search. And Maps. And some people say their email and calendar is good. I don’t know, I use different clients for those things. And I am too heavily invested in the other social portals to justify spending time ramping up a new one.
Just remember this – in the brave new world of connectivity, you can’t really expect to gain much by hiding behind a mask. Or an orange. You’ve got to be willing to open up and be yourself. To cast aside anonymity. Just be mindful that the services you utilize to make your connections and expand your networks don’t really give a damn about you. They only want your data.