Open your dig­i­tal door

Em­brac­ing an on­line pres­ence is es­sen­tial

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - LAURA FURSTER

No­body trusts an en­tity that they can’t find per­son­ally or pro­fes­sion­ally on­line.

Do you re­mem­ber when it was cool to be mys­te­ri­ous; to not show up to the party; to leave some­thing to the imag­i­na­tion?

Cen­turies ago, the Re­nais­sance brought us from the Dark Ages into a bright new era of mod­ern thought, mod­ern art and mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.

In the 2000s, we are par­tic­i­pat­ing in an­other re­nais­sance — for­merly crea­tures of mys­tery, hu­mans have been re­born into an age of so­cial om­nipres­ence, as a prod­uct of so­cial me­dia.

You may be think­ing, “Here we go — an­other hip­ster mil­len­nial whin­ing about the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of her gen­er­a­tion.” Au con­traire. I be­lieve it is time for us to em­brace so­cial me­dia for the gift that it is, es­pe­cially at a time when de­cid­edly vi­cious job mar­kets are push­ing more and more young peo­ple into en­trepreneur­ship and self-em­ploy­ment.

In our vi­brant city of Hamilton, the cul­ture of cre­ative and busi­ness in­de­pen­dents is thriv­ing and grow­ing.

When Face­book was in its in­fancy, I had a dis­tinctly love-hate re­la­tion­ship with any type of so­cial me­dia. I likely have a few unat­tended ac­counts float­ing in the In­ter­net ether — a par­tially con­structed MyS­pace, a Tum­blr with no blog en­tries — and as for Face­book it­self, I opened and deleted ac­counts for a few years be­fore be­com­ing a sta­ble par­tic­i­pant in 2010.

Be­fore then, I was un­com­fort­able with the bla­tantly voyeuris­tic feel of In­ter­net pro­files.

How­ever, as with any other con­tro­ver­sial nov­elty, with fa­mil­iar­ity comes the neu­tral­iza­tion of con­tempt. The more I have ac­cepted that so­cial me­dia just is, the more I have come to ap­pre­ci­ate, and vo­cally sup­port, its at­tributes.

Presently, in the realm of young in­de­pen­dent pro­fes­sion­als, es­chew­ing so­cial me­dia out of fear of over­ex­po­sure is far more harm­ful than it is self-pro­tec­tive.

I be­lieve that any of those pur­su­ing in­de­pen­dent ca­reer goals are plac­ing them­selves in a po­si­tion of sig­nif­i­cant dis­ad­van­tage by cling­ing to the no­tion that veils of mys­tery are still valu­able.

They aren’t. No­body trusts an en­tity that they can’t find per­son­ally or pro­fes­sion­ally on­line.

It is ex­pected that any func­tion­ing per­son with a healthy so­cial life and as­pi­ra­tions, and any mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful busi­ness that ex­ists as part of a com­mu­nity — in other words, the one we want to sup­port — has a so­cial me­dia pres­ence. Those with­out will be dis­missed as un­der­de­vel­oped and am­a­teur.

I, per­son­ally, am far less likely to try a new res­tau­rant that does not have a pres­ence in the tri­an­gle of so­cial me­dia heavy­weights: Face­book, Instagram and Twit­ter. So­cial me­dia equals brand­ing, and for in­de­pen­dent pro­fes­sion­als, per­sonal iden­tity is their brand.

This is why my Instagram ac­count is set to “open,” and many, though not all, of the posts that can be found on my Twit­ter or Instagram are also pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble on my per­sonal Face­book page.

Five years ago, I would have con­sid­ered it self-in­dul­gent and tacky to have my so­cial me­dia posts vis­i­ble to the pub­lic, as though I had left my front door open for any ran­dom passersby to take a tour of my life. Now, how­ever, I be­lieve it to be smart and ad­van­ta­geous.

The more I leave my door open, the more doors will open for me. The more my com­mu­nity rec­og­nizes me, the more op­por­tu­ni­ties their recog­ni­tion will pro­vide. As an in­de­pen­dent artist and writer, there is no­body else re­spon­si­ble for my suc­cess ex­cept for me, and so vig­or­ous self-pro­mo­tion is a ne­ces­sity. Per­haps, had the great cre­ative minds of his­tory had ac­cess to so­cial me­dia, they wouldn’t have had to wait for death for their work to go vi­ral.

Laura Furster is an in­de­pen­dent fine artist, lit­er­ary writer and jour­nal­ist liv­ing in down­town Hamilton. She can be found on Face­book/Twit­ter/Instagram, and at laura-furster.com

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