That’s the topic we’re going to discuss today. Because it’s something that I think has truly held me back from making decisions when it comes to going ahead with a project, or an idea constantly. The idea that everything needs a brand, everything needs a username, every argument, debate, question, ponder needs something behind it that can shield everything else. Hey if me talking about this topic helps you move on from a hurdle, I’ll be more than glad!
As with anything, let’s start at the beginning. Being born in 1996 affords me a few benefits in life that many might not have anymore. I remember a world where the internet wasn’t mainstream. A world where the only small device in your pocket was a CD Player (if it fit), and if it was time to come in after a day of stone wars, then it was your mum shouting your name on the street. Showing my age aside, it does open up a smidge into why I’ve always chased the fascination with usernames. Growing up back then, it was extremely important to never give public details about yourself. For all you know, there’s some weirdo on AOL chat rooms waiting for the real live Sean O’Donnell to come in and then you’ll be kidnapped! Things like that rarely actually happened, but internet safety was massive back then and still is to a degree. But I think these days it has lessened massively. There’s not a person I know that actually uses a genuine screen name as a way to post anonymously. Why would you want that? If you had a hit tweet or instagram, you’d want it to be attributed to you. Keeping in mind I’m including folk that have a username, then add their best mate, so now everyone knows what their username is. Now I’m not saying people don’t do that. There are folk that genuinely don’t mind. I’m just saying I don’t know anyone that actually engages with it the way I do. I’ve got alts that I use to talk about politics, games, tech, whenever I want to ask a real stupid question. Alts are the oxygen of the internet. They keep debate flowing.
Social Media / Branding
I’m going to start with Social Media, since that’s were we just ended. For me it’s a very real concept that if I post something on twitter, there’s a part of me that wants it to be seen by absolutely everyone, maybe it’ll blow up, maybe I can do tweeting full time and people will just follow all my projects, yay! Chances of that happening? Very low, but it’s a real thing. Secondly, it’s also pretty scary. I recently had a tweet blow up (kinda) and it was really just a debate about Andrew Tate being in Prison and whether he should be there or not. Harmless stuff, but I can only imagine my reaction if that blew up using my real name. That’s the issue really. Using your real name opens you up to so much more. You can find my Linkedin, my employer and go further from there. Using a username at least affords you the minimum effort required in making yourself anonymous. It’s the one thing I think we all use usernames for at least to some degree. I myself just use my real name. sean_odonnell_96, but it’s a private account, if someone want to see what I’m up to publicly, then they can go follow my brand accounts! “SwitchedBit” For example, is the username I use across most social media platforms. Why? I wanted a good username that represented something in the tech sector to represent me. That’s all usernames are at the end of the day. A representation of something that you might be interested in, to at least give some hint as to what you are into. I’ve not always went by that name though. I’ve used things like XenZibe in the past, which was an old gaming name that me and my brother thought up off, then we’ve got LimitedWarfare which was an old youtube channel I wanted to get up off the ground. Followed by many more. I actually found a bunch of old content from back when I was around 11. It’s fair to say I am not at all going to bring that username up. Shame, Cringe, a lot of emotions looking back at that era of being a dumb teenager online. Rather glad I was able to clean up SOME of the content out there. Sadly not all of it. I guess that’s a pretty decent benefit of having a username. Posting stupid out of date thoughts and opinions can be pretty easily forgotten when you don’t associate even remotely as that kind of person anymore.
Anyway, getting offtrack. Usernames. We use them to represent ourselves, most often in the kind of things we’re into. So why not just use our names? Seriously, like if you want someone to add you on Facebook, you don’t say; “Oh yeah, just add xGameSlayer4420”, that’d be mental. I think that’s where I’m starting to come into problems. I have had so many usernames, so many attachments to various identities and then completely removing those from the internet to keep myself anonymous when I don’t really want to be. That then deletes all the hard work I’ve done in trying to create a brand / content around that certain “thing” thus rendering any time spent completely pointless. Sure, I’ve perhaps grown as a person. Learned new things, managed to write better, but it’s not went to any end users.
I created SwitchedBit as a brand for my gaming, technology and general content. But that’s just me. To be honest I’ve kind of went off the name as a brand now. No one tends to get it, so it’s almost like an inside joke for myself 🙁
Fixing My Identity
For me this is something I’m trying to work through, as I’m writing this so might be a tad all over the place. I think my overall point is that, if I as someone involved in the tech sphere want to attract people to my little corner on the web to hear what I have to say, surely I need to do that as me, and not some alter ego. After all, chances are I’m going to want to tell folk things about myself to actually believe what I have to say. My credentials for a start. Why on earth would you download some software from some random bloke on the internet that hasn’t given you any reason to trust them. However, if I actually utilized the fact that I know what I’m talking about, given my experience then that goes a long way.
And I think that’s it really. Prime example of this would be JoelOnSoftware. Guy puts his own name in his damn blog, he’s not afraid to say whatever and have it associated with him, yet I kinda am, hence why I’ve always used a username, a brand. Perhaps it’s just complete fear of being corrected, wrong, and giving the wrong information out there. Easier to tarnish a brand and start a new one than it is to change your entire identity. I guess in some ways I’ve been going through that nearly every 2 years now. But when you think about it. I’ve been doing it completely wrong. I have been the brand, rather than the brand being it’s own thing. That’s constantly been my fault. When you look at things like LinusTechTips, you know it has his name on it, but it isn’t actually him. It’s a full team of over 100 employees at this point running a channel. That was always the dream of SwitchedBit really. I just never had the time to be honest to ever make a go of anything with it. So it just ended up becoming my name for everything, because if I used it everywhere, maybe people would google it, find the web page and forever look at all the content! Absolute Win! As if. Who am I kidding?
I think I have a plan now. Starting… well now. Anything technical, software, IT, anything like that I’m going to upload as me. I might even start moving any posts over from SwitchedBit to preserve the content. I don’t know what I’ll do with the SwitchedBit project though. I feel like on some level if I wanted to get into YouTube / Content Creation then I need that as an outlet for that. Brand Names are still pretty decent in terms of SEO and that kinda thing. They shouldn’t be completely disregarded. I think perhaps I was also chasing that. Using a brand account, blowing up the SEO and hoping it works.
Secondly, I’m going to stop being so paranoid about posting content under myself. Infact, I’m going to stop engaging with content that does exactly that. The amount of time and effort I waste on political slap fights, which don’t even matter because neither person will ever change their mind, is astounding. No more.
Third, honestly I might just reboot. I’ve been carrying a lot of dead weight with what I still work with technically from my younger years that perhaps I’ll discuss in another blog post. But I’m really living ancient and need to start moving with the times. Perhaps I’ll take my twitter off private and actually contribute to the field which I love so much. Knowing my luck it’ll be gone next month.
So in conclusion. Kids, don’t do what I did and create a username with the sole purpose of making it into a brand, and then completely just make it about yourself and deviate completely from it’s purpose. If you want to make a brand, do that, and then anything person, or outside of that objective, post it elsewhere. If you want to debate a rando on Twitter about Vaccines. Do it as you. Not as the brand that you want to turn into a media empire. Or just don’t create a brand, and instead focus on yourself. That’s also rather splendid. Especially if you don’t have time to run or build a media empire.