I don’t know when I got boring online. It just happened slowly. The gradual boring of Ron Bronson probably began with the start of my professional career.
I went from the Air Force to college, so I had about eight years of unadulterated time to indulge in my interests, while working and I think I used the time pretty wisely. But then I started working and changed the formula up.
I’m not sure if I just thought I had to do it because I was “grown up” at that point or if there was some other catalyst for it. But there’s no doubt that what I used to talk about online, I no longer do.
Why this is important is really related to my interests and the expression of the things I’m really passionate about. The fact is, I never talk about anything other than music. Maybe because it’s safe. Perhaps, when I feel like potential employers, colleagues, clients and online people who’ve never met me in real life will read what I write because I’m afraid they’re going to misunderstand my points.
Perhaps I’m just overwhelmed by the way the world has emerged online and I’ve failed to adapt my own strategies to accommodate that. I mean, I had a successful, well read blog at a time when few people were blogging and did this for years. Then I stopped as life changed, I moved and decided that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to say so much. My views have indeed changed over the years and I’m sure that’s helped too. But if you don’t talk to me offline, you’d have no idea of the real path of that evolution because there’s no real record of it anywhere.
This has come up a lot, because about once a month, someone from the past will resurface. They’ll recall the “old” me. Projects I’ve worked on, things I’d done and when I talk about what I do now, I remember why during my last year of college I abhorred the idea of selling out and getting a job before I earned a few more degrees.
I got out of the Air Force in 2002 and went to college full-time after that (I started college in ’01 while still on active duty at Wash U) but took a year off between 2004 and 2005. In part for an internship, but also because I got a job. My parents thought this made a lot more sense, after all, because well…I was 26 at that point and people back home had assumed I’d been in school since 18. I got a lot of “well, are you STILL in school? How many degrees are you getting?!” But I hadn’t been in school even three years at that point. Yet, I felt pressure to work, because that’s what my folks do, y’know?
But in the fall of 2005, I went back to school to finish. In the summer of 2006, I got my first job as a web content editor and a bunch of redesigns, a blog and some other good stuff later, the rest is history.
The point of all of this though, is somewhere along the way I lost my identity. I started to envelope what I did professionally with my life off the web and before I knew it, my career swallowed my self-expression whole. Everything I did became about “growing my profile.” As much as I deride those personal brand builders, I was reading them and snickering on one hand, but quietly letting that methodology influence my dealings online.
What’s strange is, I didn’t hesitate to pull any punches on edustir when it comes to issues in higher ed that I felt needed to be addressed. Yet, when it comes to things outside the realm of higher education, I would shrivel up and stay the neutral course.
Twitter made this worse. No tool has been better for me, in terms of staying connected to folks I’ve met professionally and no tool has been a vehicle for an Isopropyl alcohol-like sanitizing of my online personality like Twitter has. It’s not the medium’s fault, it’s a reflection of my own conservatism and a desire not to be misconstrued at any turn.
As I reflect on it though, I realize that the fearlessness I’ve demonstrated at my peak is the sort of attitude I need to take as I go forward on things. I’ve spoken a lot in the past about the need for people and institutions to use their own understanding of their strengths to represent their product, brand or whatever else in their communications online.
But I’ve come head first into the collision of how executing that in practice, is a whole lot more difficult than doing it in theory. Figuring out where to go next, of course, is a challenge I’m actively confronting.