finding your inner avatar

I’ve probably given dozens of talks to students about the importance of being aware of one’s online presence.  The importance of having a professional picture on LinkedIn rather than using the one taken at a party with friends holding red Solo cups on Facebook.  Or even just cropping the party photo.  And I’m not even a career counselor.

Most of these chats have been pretty rudimentary.  Maybe just a couple of topics beyond the photo one and letting students know that many companies will do research into their social media activities in one manner or another.  My thoughts on this, therefore, have evolved towards what I like to think of as a higher awareness of one’s online presence.  More than just how one represents one self superficially, through pictures and the types of facebook wall posts or Instagram photos.  But at a deeper level.  At a point where what one posts online in all manners is part of a cohesive persona that is purposely chosen as a representation of your identity.

We use avatars all the time, but the most common instance is in video game play.  In those cases, a great deal of effort is often put into the avatar’s appearance, from clothing to armor to weaponry.  More than that, though, there is a conscious choice about the type of “person” that avatar will be.  The personality reinforced by actual behavior.  A wizard tends to be seen as sagacious, and I know many players who “speak” as their avatar in language tending towards the more knowledgeable and learned.  I know others that have chosen to be represented as warriors, and speak aggressively and sometimes even belligerently.  Certainly oftentimes these avatars are somewhat similar to the actual person – one that it perhaps a bit more fight-oriented chooses to be a soldier.  But sometimes the connection isn’t so obvious, and, again, some kind of decision has been made to not only look the part, but act and speak it, too.

Similarly, we should paying attention to not only how we look (better than that facebook party picture, hopefully) but also how we represent ourselves online.  Do you blog?  If so, what do you write about?  It could be about the intricacies of leadership and communication, which perhaps shows that I am one is a bit nerdy or bookish or about cooking, which demonstrates a life outside of work.  Something enjoyed on a different level.  Do you tweet?  About what?  Is the train late?  Or is there an interesting article about new trends in higher education?  What else do you use?  Might you actually use a facebook page as a discussion point above and beyond the purely social?

More importantly, have you made a conscious decision to do some combination of these activities?  If so, have you developed a kind of online personality through such an amalgamation?  Is it one that you like or intended to create?

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