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5 Reasons to Care About Your Online Presence, and 3 to Forget About It

5 Reasons to Care About Your Online Presence, and 3 to Forget About It

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    It’s gotten to the point that you just aren’t keeping up with the times if you don’t have a Facebook account, a LinkedIn profile, a Twitter feed and a presence on a dozen other websites. It can be crazy trying to keep up with all of it — and there are new social networking websites coming out every day. What can you do? It’s absolutely imperative that you’re on all of them, right?

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    Well, there are some clear benefits to spending time on all those websites that make up your online presence — but there are also plenty of drawbacks. It’s worth taking a look at the reasons you should care about creating social networking profiles and updating them, as well as considering the negative aspects of dealing with all of those sites.

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    5 Reasons to Care About Your Online Presence

    1. Employers and clients look for you online. While many of those people interested in offering you work are looking for your contact information and your references, plenty are looking for all the bad things about you that may have be listed online. Having social networking profiles can give you several pages that pop up on a Google search that are more or less under your control. They’re usually highly ranked and can help you show off your talents in a more recognizable format than a blog or personal website.
    2. You can make contacts and find friends online. Stories of long-lost friends reconnecting on Facebook and other websites are becoming common. And social networking sites don’t just limit you to friends you already know: they provide an easy forum to find business contacts without any requirement that you actually leave your home or office and go to a networking event.
    3. You can communicate even without contact information. Many important people in a variety of industries have at least a placeholder profile up on a variety of social networking website. And while you could never get a direct phone number for some of the people higher up the food chain, you can still easily send them a message on LinkedIn or whatever other website they frequent. It’s possible that some sort of assistant will review your message — but you can still get a lot closer to bigwigs via social networking.
    4. If you don’t claim your name on all the various social networking sites, someone might do it for you. Seth Godin, the author of numerous marketing books, provides a classic example: despite the fact that someone has claimed the name ‘sethgodin’ on Twitter, it wasn’t actually Godin (who blogged about the fact). In Godin’s case, the account was not used maliciously — but it also wasn’t a case of someone with the same name getting there first. If you don’t grab your name on every social network that pops up, you may not be so lucky. Someone could easily use such an account to spread false information or otherwise cause trouble.
    5. Everybody else is doing it. Peer pressure is a poor excuse — but if it’s becoming an industry standard in your field to have an online presence, not having one can be problematic in the long run. And if all of your friends stay in touch through a particular website, you certainly don’t want to get left out. Merely putting together a profile and updating it can be a small investment of your time, compared to not having the ability to connect to customers or friends online.

    3 Reasons to Forget About Your Online Presence

    1. Employers and customers don’t actually care that much about your social networking abilities. Sure, just about everyone will run a search on your name these days — but as long as they don’t find anything bad, it doesn’t particularly matter what they do find. If you have a particularly common name, you’re likely to get lost in the shuffle anyhow. You’ve got plenty of other ways to describe your abilities and connections, and you can probably do a better job of that fact than a standardized profile page.
    2. Putting too much information out there isn’t necessarily safe. Even assuming that identity thieves aren’t monitoring your every move through all your online accounts, telling your clients, family and everyone else every detail of your life just doesn’t sound like a good idea. There are so many horror stories about over-sharing, and having a thorough online presence just asks for such a story to happen to you.
    3. Social networking and crafting an online presence take a lot of time. If you get going, it isn’t hard to spend hours on a site like Twitter. You can call it networking or marketing, but either way, you’ve spent time that certainly could have been put to better use on trying to connect with the kids in your third grade class.

    Finding Some Balance

    It seems like social networking and online presences only have the value that we give them — and giving them too much value isn’t wise. That said, I think that maintaining a profile or two is a good idea. It’s worthwhile to grab your name on multiple sites, but I don’t bother with constantly updating every site I have a profile on. Instead they all point to either my website or the two sites that I do interact with regularly.

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    Like most things, caring about your online presence in moderation can be useful. It’s when a person tries to update every site under the sun that it becomes useless. It’s worth thinking about just what level of moderation makes sense for you.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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