Online, You Don’t Look Like a Middle-Aged White Guy [Hyperbolic Tendencies]
It’s always fascinating when technology seeps into real life. When I drop a dish, I find myself immediately trying to “Control+Z”. I’m constantly trying to rewind what I’m watching in a movie theater, but alas, there’s no DVR.
These are mere “mechanical” examples of technology’s tendrils woven into our daily lives. What really fascinates me is technology’s affect on the Meta level: how it impacts our perception of one another and how we make decisions.
Last week, I pitched a television show idea about a group of high school girls, all smart (gasp), total science and math geeks (gasp) and sick to the death of the vacuous veneer that passes as “culture” at suburban high (gasp). Long story short, the young women gain some notoriety at science fair and after a series of fun but totally believable events, wind up being hired by local and state agencies to help solve a wide variety of science, ecological and environmental problems/mysteries in their hometown. I think it’s a great idea and I’d watch the show. But that’s not the point.
After discussing the idea with the 24 year-old studio executive, she informed me that she’d researched my online presence and suggested I “focus my personal brand.”
After my initial impulse to poke her in the eye had passed, I took a deep mental breath and said -
ME: That’s interesting. Tell me more.
YOUNG EXEC: Well, you’re this kind of older guy, no offense.
ME: I don’t believe one grows old. I think that what happens early on in life is that at a certain age one stands still and stagnates.
YOUNG EXEC: What?
ME: It’s T.S. Eliot.
YOUNG EXEC: The singer?
ME: Exactly. You had a suggestion about my personal brand?
YOUNG EXEC: Oh yeah. So you don’t look like the writer of a show about high school girls. And reading your other work and stuff about you online, meeting you was just kind of like a total surprise, you know?
ME: Well, to be fair, I have a lot of interests. Many of them aren’t necessarily indicative of the physical manifestation of the being sitting before you.
YOUNG EXEC: Is that T.S. Eliot too?
ME: No, that’s me.
YOUNG EXEC: Cool. So, yeah. I think that it would really help if you brought what you write into closer alignment with who you are.
And that’s where my having a good time toying with this charmless network drone evaporated.
To be fair, this executive isn’t an idiot. She’s actually quite good at her job. And she’s young, so of course I look old. My parents looked old to me when I was 24. Someday someone will say the same thing to her and she’ll have her own personal crisis.
ME: So I should write only about things that people generally think a gay, white, middle-class man my age (damned if I was going to answer that question for her) is interested in?
YOUNG EXEC: Sort of. Not really, but kinda. You know?
ME: I don’t think I do.
YOUNG EXEC:: Just like, make sure that your online brand prepares people for what you bring to the table, you know?
There are so many things wrong with this I won’t begin to detail a list.
But what I’m still completely preoccupied with is that this executive is simply an expression of today’s reality: By choosing to exist in the digital realm, technology is a window directly into my life, allowing anyone to connect all of the dots and draw their own conclusion.
The question we’re all faced with is: do we “manage the perception” and to what degree?
While the young executive I dealt with may seem an extreme example, it’s not. If you’re on Facebook and looking for a job, count on a potential employer looking at your profile. And if they don’t like what they see, don’t expect a second interview.
Fair? Not in the least. Then again, life’s not fair.
It’s worth the time to make sure that what you’re putting out there for the world to see reflects how you want to be perceived. The degree to which that stands in contrast to one’s own truth is a personal choice.
Shockingly, the studio executive doesn’t want to pursue my television show. The snarky side of me wonders if I should ask a 30ish female writer friend to go in and pitch the same basic concept to the same executive. Instead, I wrote the executive a note thanking her for her time and wished her ongoing future success.
Yes. I was managing the perception. And it’s okay if you judge me for that.
Managing how the world sees you a bit too daunting to tackle today? Instead, read a copy of Hell House: The Awakening. It’s guaranteed escapism as its finest! That’s not enough fodder for procrastination? Then follow me and my hyperbolic tendencies on Twitter.
featured image credit: daveelf