It’s so easy to create an online persona that is nothing like who you really are or more like you than you’ve ever shown anyone. Online you’re somewhat anonymous. Online you have the freedom to be completely different. You can be confident, shy, snarky, sweet, clever, simple, mean, nice, pretty, plain. You can be silly. You can be serious. You can be younger. You can be older. You can create the you that you’ve always wanted to be or be the you that you’ve always hidden from everyone. Online you can slip into an identity that is a completely different version of yourself.
But once you’ve created that online persona or brand it’s not always as easy to walk away from it. Not if you’ve put a lot of time, money and effort into developing that persona and brand.
As a book blogger and reviewer once you’ve “created” the you that you want to be, found your reviewer’s voice and designed your blog, it’s hard to reinvent yourself when you’ve grown tired of the you that you’ve previously presented to the world. Your readers and those that you work with have expectations based upon the you that you’ve shown them.
If you decided to be someone fun and silly or someone who tells it like it is or someone who gives a thoughtful and critical analysis of what they’ve read, changing it up, becoming someone different, is difficult. You might lose readership. You might lose professional connections. You might lose trust.
Starting over isn’t always an option. Especially if you don’t have the time or energy to rebuild your brand or you don’t want to sacrifice all the work you’ve already put into your blog.
But sometimes it’s the only option if you want to continue being a happy blogger.
Maybe you were someone who liked to show your playful side online and now you’re feeling anything but whimsical. Maybe you were someone who loved to snark about everything but now find it tough to come up with the clever, witty posts that keep your readers engaged. Maybe you were someone who liked to keep things professional but you’ve gotten jealous of those bloggers that seem to have a lot more fun and take things a lot less seriously.
Maybe you’ve outgrown the person who you used to be. Maybe you’re tired of putting on the mask you’ve been wearing.
Being someone other than who you are in real life may seem deceptive, but is it really?
We all have different sides to ourselves. We all have different faces we put on for the different people we interact with. We don’t act the same with friends as we do with family or with co-workers or with employers or teachers. We don’t act the same in front of those we find attractive, those we like or those we dislike.
And we aren’t static. We are constantly reinventing ourselves. We aren’t the same people we were five, ten years ago. We don’t necessarily like the same things we once did, enjoy the same books, think the same way.
We may not want to wear the same masks – online or offline.
As bloggers we are constantly asked to be honest in our thoughts about the books we read. We’re asked to speak in our own voices. We’re asked to be unique and interesting. But what if our thoughts have changed or the way we wish to express them has? How can we be unique if we feel tied to the brand we developed one, two, five years ago? How can we be interesting if we’re trying to meet everyone’s expectations of us?
How can we be ourselves if we feel tethered to the identity we created for ourselves long ago?
The simple answer is that we can’t be.
The identity we created for ourselves may not have been the one we showed to everyone in our offline lives but at one point it was exactly who we were and wanted to be. But if it isn’t who we are now, then we are being deceptive.
If we haven’t modified our online selves along the way, if we’re clinging to outdated versions of ourselves, then this once better, stronger, happier, sillier, sarcastic version of us is now just like an ill-fitting pair of pants – uncomfortable and unflattering. If it’s not who we are or who we want to be, we should not still be trying to make it work.
And yet we still hold on. Tightly. Why?
Because we’re just as afraid now as we once were that maybe the “new” version of who we are won’t be liked. Maybe our readers will be disappointed in us. Maybe our reviews won’t be as good. Maybe our contacts will ignore us. Maybe… Maybe… Maybe.
And maybe we won’t be liked. Maybe our readers will walk away. Maybe our reviews will be less trafficked. Maybe we’ll lose some contacts. Maybe we won’t land any “hot” tours. But…
…maybe we will. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find new friends and readers and contacts. Maybe those who claimed to be friends no matter what will remain our friends no matter what. Maybe this new version won’t be as surprising as we think it will be, because it is still us after all.
We just have to be willing to take the risk. Because we have to be happy with who we are online and offline. Even if our online self is just one of the many versions of who we are.