Having your face out there for all the world to see was always a danger
Anything that attracts a lot of attention is guaranteed to include a lot of unwanted attention.
You always had to deal with weird emails, stalkers, overly-enthusiastic fans, bizarre complaints, and unhinged rants.
Today, it's a lot worse.
Polarization, doxxing, cancel culture, "woke" mobs...
If you go online, you can become a target at any time, for any reason, or no good reason at all.
And the stakes include your livelihood, your privacy, even the personal safety of yourself and your family.
Anonymity used to be the default position online
I'm old enough to have played on Usenet back in the dark ages when dinosaurs still roamed the internet.
Back then, the saying was, if you didn't want to see it on the front page of the newspaper, don't post it online.
Everyone used screen names back then. Nobody shared personal information.
All it took was social media and smart [sic] phones for everyone to forget that.
Forget privacy. Heck with caution. I'm posting all my personal details all over this mother.
That wasn't a great idea.
You risk serious personal costs by being "known" even as a business brand
Over at Joe Pulizzi's The Tilt newsletter, there was a discussion about a couple who was involved in an adoption case that (for reasons unstated) went south.
This couple found themselves subject to the meddling Karens who love nothing more than to speak to the manager about your wrong thoughts. Word is the couple were even subject to an investigation by the local sheriff's office.
All because of online drama.
All of which could have been avoided by not putting their personal dirt out in the street for all to see.
The Tilt suggests the following advice for brands:
First, appreciate the difference between authenticity and transparency. All the content you create should be authentic – truthful about your words and actions. But you, as a content business, don’t have to be transparent (i.e., share) about everything.
Ask: What am I willing to share with my audience? What am I not willing to share?
Really dig deep in your answers. Think about the most extreme situations. Would you be willing to talk about that with your audience? What are you not willing to talk about?
This may be the most important conversation you have about your business.
You need to make money and sell your wares, sure...
But that doesn't matter if you lose it all because of a lunatic with an agenda.
It's plain good advice to keep a low profile today
I'm a Gen-X kid of the 90s. At heart I'm still low-tech in spirit. I prefer the analog world to the digital.
But reality is what it is, and I'm (currently) not willing to do what it would take to be totally offline.
So there's a compromise.
I still use screen names everywhere I can get away with it.
Pen names for my writing projects.
Lots of them.
All accounts using different passwords. Different browser profiles. VPNs and Tor.
Staying away from the Big Tech platforms.
Paying for services instead of buying into the Myth of Free (which makes YOU into the product)...
This here website is hosted on a private server that isn't physically located in the US.
I have multiple backups of everything.
Paranoid? You best believe it.
When people really are out to get you, paranoia is the correct posture.
The late and great direct marketer Gary Halbert once wrote a newsletter titled "The Dark Side of Success". It's a cautionary tale, drawn from his own experience, about showing off when you make it big.
I'm in no position to declare the RP enterprise, or any others of mine, a success. But the advice is more true than ever... even if you're a "nobody".
Here's one gem:
People who never take any risks are boring cowards but people who take stupid risks are, in fact, stupid. Consider this: The news is full of stories about the dangers of AIDS yet, by far, the #1 and #2 most common preventable cause of death in the U.S. are cigarette smoking and not wearing a seat belt. Yet millions of dummies still smoke and ride around sans safety belts while mouthing banal quips about how everybody has to die of something.
Trust me, Buckwheat, if you get lung cancer or permanently mangled and/or paralyzed in a car crash, the memory of all those cute little banalities you used to say will make you vomit.
And so it is with taking unnecessary chances in your advertising campaigns. No one is in complete control of his or her destiny but, for God's sake, don't beg for problems like I did. You'll get enough problems no matter how careful you are without insisting on having more.
Showing off is one of the "perks" of being a success. However, I'd like to suggest you avoid trying to impress people who are losers. Losers are bitter, frustrated people who are constantly looking for new people to blame for their failures. And, if their bitterness becomes too intense and their focus settles on you, only trouble can result.
Go ahead and drive your Rolls to a meeting of the Young Millionaires Club but beware parking in the K-Mart lot.
Don't take stupid risks. Don't show off to losers.
That right there can save you a world of hurt.
If you think that doesn't apply more than ever today, you'd best think twice...
Before you end up deplatformed, jobless, cut off from your finances, and under investigation.
Branding is one thing, but don't be stupid about it
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