Things I’ve learned lately: apparently, the internet likes breasts. Who knew?
When I posted my Getting Naked entry a few weeks ago, my website traffic spiked impressively.
I’ll admit, I was a touch nervous about publicizing my extracurricular activities, for a second, for fear of negative backlash. North Americans in particular can be particularly prudish about nudity in all its forms, artistic or otherwise, and where this is, in theory, a Business Website, it did cross my mind that some may consider it unprofessional to discuss such things.
These days, the line between A Business and That Business’ Owner is becoming blurrier and blurrier. More and more people are freelancing or running sole proprietorships, and the ubiquitousness of Facebook, Twitter, and Google means that, whether we like it or not, we are all bec0ming more and more publicly accessible. I see there being two ways of approaching this, whether you’re a business owner, career-minded professional, or vagabond with an iPhone.
You can always take the paranoid route, putting lock and key on your various internet going-ons, monitoring your activities, and keeping everything generally as hush-hush as possible.
Or, you can choose to accept the omnipotence of the internet, and you can embrace your public (even if it’s just your mom).
Years ago, I made a conscious decision to opt for a policy of truth and transparency. Accordingly, a great deal of my life is documented online, and I’m not particularly shy about anything. Above and beyond anything else, it’s a great deal easier when you don’t need to worry about maintaining two personas (sometimes it’s enough work maintaining the one!)
I’m lucky that, being in a creative field, most people view all my unusual and wild behaviour as charmingly eccentric. I’m allowed to be a little left-of-centre because I’m considered an “artist”, whereas a lawyer or an accountant might not enjoy such laxity. In fact, some of my most interesting contracts have come about through people who’ve appreciated the more unorthodox pieces in my portfolio (the poster that featured a man’s naked ass, from my days in college, being particularly popular). Being upfront about who I am, and refusing to apologize for anything, has actually drawn to me the exact sort of clients I like best—the slightly mad, the eccentrics, and the people who’ll let me do fun work.
It’s primarily for this reason that I advocate total transparency to everyone—lawyer or artist, banker or baker. Thanks in part to the rise of social media and the increased immediacy of communication between customer and company, more and more businesses are adopting open-doors policies. Embracing truthfulness is far simpler than navigating a complex PR junket, and carries with it the added bonus of allowing your clients to develop a natural sense of trust in you, both as a professional and as a person.
This is why I now tell sole proprietors to use “I” instead of “we” in their advertising copy. Or to start writing a blog, even if it’s only to chronicle the ups and downs of day-to-day operations. Make use of social media, and stop worrying that the CIA or your boss will look up your Facebook profile. (I mean, they will, or at least your boss will. The CIA will probably only look you up if you’ve taken to stealing other people’s children or burying bodies in your basement or cheating on your taxes. I mean that you should either stop caring, or stop publicizing your dirty secrets.)
My cardinal rule goes like so: assume that everything you put on the internet will appear on a billboard in your town with your name in six foot tall lettering, and if you’re not comfortable with that, for the love of god, don’t put it on the internet. Simple, but effective!
It’s possible that, the more of yourself you’re willing to expose to the calculating, judging eyes of the public, the more likely they are to dismiss you as a deviant, a freak, or just a creature that doesn’t jive with their own personal value set. But, in a culture that’s flooded with so many different people and ideas, realize that you can afford to offend a few people here and there.
If nothing else, at least they’re sure to remember you.