A few years back, shortly after graduating college, I attended a senior project showcase for students who were in the year below me. I got talking to a friend of mine who revealed some big news. He had landed an internship in which he’d be working in game audio for a prestigious company. I was thrilled and congratulating him when I noticed that I was far more excited hearing this news than I had been recently in similar instances.
It was the time of year when everyone was lining up their next steps from college into the professional world. As such, many people were sharing exciting bits of news via social media to be celebrated and congratulated. This interaction was different though.
As I stood there in front of my friend I was visibly giddy with joy, unable to contain my excitement for him, and I soon realized why. It was the first time that I could remember since attending college here in the States that I had heard a significant piece of professional news in-person without having read about it on social media first. I was treated to a genuine moment of in-person surprise and interaction which we’re typically denied in lieu of an instant, impersonal broadcast of information, often inviting of little more than a “like” here and a “follow” there.
I dwelled on this experience and reflected upon the way I myself was using social media. The further into my college experience I got, the closer I got to my professional path of being a “composer/sound designer for film and games”, the more I saw a shift in the way people following a similar path were using these “social” tools. What started off as platforms to share fun but frivolous content during my high-school years back in the UK, slowly morphed into a toolset for professional advancement though the projection of a carefully curated (sometimes not wholly accurate) image of oneself, the ability to cold-tweet out to industry idols, and paid services that would artificially boost your following. I remember having a genuine fear that if I didn’t use and abuse some of these methods and tools, that I would fall behind, that I wouldn’t make that crucial “contact” or that I wouldn’t get my work noticed. Yet when I sat down to learn and figure out how I might somehow benefit from these platforms, it all felt somehow dirty to me. It felt as if I was comprising my values and, to some extend, who I was for the sake of getting ahead.
As a reaction to these experiences, a couple of years ago I resorted to not post anything professional on Facebook (including my current position) in the hopes to provide friends with the same experience I had had and to try and keep some element of my social media use purely social. Today I have news updates on my website which repost to various places but not my personal “wall”, and all of which you have to sign-up for in some fashion whether by “following”, “subscribing”, “liking” or whatever. That way, the news is there for the few people seek it out but I still often get to share genuine news in-person with friends and colleagues if they ask.
There’s certainly the school of thought that says “fake it till you make it”, and I don’t mean to criticize those who do use social media for professional advancement with this post. I just wonder whether as we increasingly spend time interacting with people on these platforms, if the image we choose to project is becoming more important and perhaps more “real” than the reality.