Public Image and What Others Really See

by Emily Jasper on January 11, 2011

On NBC’s Today, Meredith Vieira interviewed stars and the writer of The Social Network as part of the movie’s store release today. When asked about Mark Zuckerburg’s reaction to the motivation being inaccurate, writer  Aaron Sorkin said, “If a movie absolutely had to be made, I would want it told only from my point of view and not also including the points of view of the people who were suing me and hated me. And this movie is told from everybody’s point of view.” Matt Lauer also had Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi talking about her novel today, a book apparently prompting discussion of Snooki’s capacity to write. She may have a party girl image, but what I saw was a young woman who probably has more potential than we’re giving her credit.

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Both interviews got me thinking about the information we make available about ourselves, thus forming the perceptions others have about us.

You may always want to be viewed in the best light, so you limit the opportunities for others to see you any other way. Bloggers truly understand this because our readers can form an opinion of us heavily influenced by what we’re allowing to be made public on the web. There are entire industries devoted to public image, all based in the idea we must control this information. Dan Schawbel has made Personal Branding a must-have for Gen Y.

When the public sees a lesser version, we often become upset. “That’s not me.” As Sorkin said, while we may not want to see it ourselves, we can be quite different than who we present to the world.

Sometimes we’re not looking for people to see the best version of ourselves, but instead they see an extreme trait personified in our perceived behavior. People may think Snooki is throwing away her own dignity, but she could also be a genius at Personal Branding. Do we really know? Most of us can only draw conclusions from the version of Snooki that she has provided for us, which is pretty different from the woman who spoke with Matt today.

There is a lot more to us than the single dimension provided by a blog design or manifesto, by reality TV or a scripted press release. We who may try to control our public image must remember that at some point we lose that luxury of control. We see it all the time with celebrities: stories come out of the woodwork from childhood friends, distant family, or former lovers. While the degree of truth in some of those stories could be questioned, they provide us with more texture and color to the images presented to us.

This is something to remember: all of us are more than what you see online or in the public eye.

Screenshot taken from the embedded video provided, copyright msnbc.