Curating content. Do you know what it means? Do you do it? Do you curate your own and publish it, along with culling relevant verbal and visual gems produced by others?
In an article I read a few weeks back, the topic was curating content — our own content for personal purposes, as in the stream of words, pictures and video clips that we comb through, enhance, organize and share on the Internet. As for content marketing, that is a related (but different) subject, as the materials collected and presented are usually for commercial purposes.
Whether personal or professional, I must say, I chuckle at some of the expressions we’re accustomed to these days. We don’t read; we “consume.” We don’t write; we “create content.” And we “curate” — a term that used to be reserved for museum professionals collecting and selecting artwork and objects for exhibition.
Contemporary parlance has co-opted the term; now we are all curators if we so choose!
And hey, why not? We’ve already bought into the notion of a personal brand.
The Beauty of the Internet
The beauty of the Internet? Easy, breezy access: We can find out almost anything, see almost anything, and connect to other parts of the world — and each other — at little to no cost.
And we take it as a given to enhance our communications as we illustrate our lives in a variety of ways — Instagram, for example — providing a more diverse set of experiences of ourselves that others can explore.
We also have tools at our disposal to tweak whatever we present — a little exaggeration here, a now commonplace dose of hyperbole there, and a smidge of fudging to credentials we think that no one will check.
And you know what?
Very few will.
But the reality of our publicly packaged and presented lives is this: To some degree, most of us are primping, posing and postulating for effect, for personal or professional gain, to be part of the crowd, to stand out from the crowd — or some combination of the above.
No harm, no foul?
I would agree. But what of the shadow impacts as we’re “curating” in an attempt to give the audience what we think it wants?
The Drama of the Internet
Social media envy?
Right. Been there, done that, talked about that… and its existence no doubt will continue to escalate. Maybe this is unavoidable. Envy is a human emotion. Why wouldn’t we feel it in extremis when viewing the shining faces and sparkling venues we see on our assorted feeds? Would it be easier if we reminded ourselves that everyone has problems, that anything can be Photoshopped, and that most of us “curate?”
And what about those who say too much and show too much? And what if my TMI isn’t your TMI, or vice versa? Is the answer as simple as “well then… don’t look, don’t read?”
What about the millions of us who market our services and skills on the Internet — doesn’t our presence have value — something along the lines of “all publicity is good publicity?”
Then there is pleasure. Who isn’t smiling, myself included, when you get a spike in page views, a viral mention, a rush of new likes and follows? But what happens when we’re so deeply enmeshed in that world that it overtakes the physicality in which we actually dwell? And what about when we overstep and then can’t go back?
Are we obliterating our ability to respect boundaries? Are we losing sight of what real reality looks like? Are we feeling worse about ourselves rather than better?
Picking Your (Public) Spots
There are days when I read things online and wonder what someone was thinking as the narcissism or meanness shines through; there are other times when people say things — under their own names — and I wonder what they were thinking. Is there no concern for an employer or prospective employer, not to mention a spouse or children?
I’m all for free speech, and I have consistently written on highly personal topics. Like I said, my view of what is okay to say may be Too Much Information for you, and fine for others. Still, I recognize that over the years of writing online, I have also grown more circumspect in what I share and how I share it.
I consider the fact that I may have business clients who are “consuming” or, at the very least, glancing at what I publish. I balance what I wish to say with an assessment of my goals — rarely financial — largely to contribute to a conversation I find important.
I hesitate to speak as personally as I once did, but then I typically wrote about events long after they occurred, I was purposely vague where information felt sensitive, and while I didn’t always follow my own rule — don’t air your dirty laundry on the Internet — I certainly tried.
Thoughts on a Blank Page
There are days I struggle here, wanting to write of something I am trying to work through, but knowing that the “story” and its challenges are only partially mine; people I know and love are involved. I am left to stare at the blank screen, and take on a different topic.
There are other days when the feelings or situations that seem pressing may involve only me. While I might benefit from writing — and others might benefit from reading and commenting — I err on the side of discretion.
Everything in our lives needn’t be “consumed” or curated.
In those instances when I keep specific segments of my life entirely private, or pockets of my experience are neatly tucked behind a smiling mask, I tell myself that in six months or a year I may reflect from a greater emotional distance. Then, I can curate as I must, while still presenting what I have learned.
When Should We Be More Honest? When Should We Shut Up?
There are times I wish we felt free to reveal ourselves more honestly; free to appear less polished in our depiction of how we live. No overdoing the Photoshop, the filters, the positive twist when what we really need is a good, long cry.
Life ain’t easy, so must we always pretend otherwise?
There are times I wish people would keep certain information to themselves. Yes, I can “turn the channel” — and effectively, I do, by closing a window or tapping on a screen.
Above all, I remind myself that most of us have issues in our daily lives that pose problems. Most of us are insecure in certain ways. Most of us aspire to something more — not necessarily material, but in ourselves, our relationships, our families, our jobs. And when we can read thoughtfully (not “consume”), converse honestly (not “share”), and dispense with the prettying up of our experience, all of us just might feel a little bit better.
These days, I have a set of questions I ask myself before I sit to write —
- What am I sharing? How personal is it?
- Who else is affected by what I might say?
- Will this impact my professional life? My social life?
- Why am I sharing, and why now?
- Will my words or images hurt anyone?
- Will my words or images encourage valuable conversation?
Depending upon the answers, I ruminate, I rant, I postulate, I play, I angle, I analyze; I may “tweak” a little for privacy or, I keep mum.
Are there subjects and incidents you would never share online? Are some topics for private communities? If you wish to explore an experience of a family member or friend, do you ask their permission first? Do you protect yourself in terms of what you say and display online — from the prospective employer or co-worker?
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