In the bounds of our current world, some public voices is under consistent, overt scrutiny. I say some because not all public displays of voice are criticized as openly as others. The more attention an individual voice accumulates, the more susceptible he or she is to criticism. But not being so blatantly perceived as a public figure does not discount the value of an individual’s public statements.
While working in private investigations and digging through the body of content on the social media of my subjects, I was often astonished by their representation of themselves. That is to say, I think there was a disparity between these individual’s valuation of their voice and its actual meaning, relevance, and consequence. Individualized media, wherein an individual has a unique URL on a website, on which they are free to share their words, images, and other expressions, has potent meaning.
And I’m not just talking about the legal repercussions of publishing instances of written word or images. I am talking about valuation. I use this term because I think a lot of people do not completely understand that even under the guise of believed anonymity, their emissions matter. For example, when an individual takes part in the creation of the dramatization of a particular news event, he or she is in fact contributing to the narrative surrounding the event.
I have compiled some methods in which the individual can understand his or her contribution and value, whether or not he or she has a large following, or sense of visibility.
Valuation of Professional Persona
In my final week of coding bootcamp, it was suggested that we provide LinkedIn recommendations for the individuals that we worked with in groups during the course. This struck me as quite unnatural. As a new developer, I was asked to provide a gauge by which employers and other LinkedIn users would be able to then gauge another individual’s ability to perform at a job. Some may say that it’s “not a big deal” to provide recommendations.
And it’s not that I didn’t think that there were some individuals in class who would excel at a web development position. It is that I place value on my recommendations in such a way that I have to feel very confident about what I am saying, at least in that moment. I would be doing a disservice to my classmates by outlining such a microscopic part of their work, or by giving them a recommendation simply because I was prompted by the program.
When an opinion on someone else’s work is given out too freely, I am often struck by how exaggerated the praises are. Creating an overall higher valuation of my own opinions has quieted me. When I valued myself less and when I regarded myself as invisible to public scrutiny, I may have been quicker to provide recommendations and loud remarks about the earth shaking impact that an individual I barely know has made on the future of mankind.
In a transaction of recommendations like those on LinkedIn, we see an unsubstantiated view. Does the giving party value his or her recommendation, or is he or she simply giving the recommendation in hopes to receive one in return? Would the giving party speak the same way about that person around his or her friends? Or did the giving party feel pressured to speak a particular way about the person whom he or she is recommending. Now there’s also a question as to how the recommender wants to be perceived. Because remember, the recommendations also appear on the recommender’s LinkedIn profile.
Pride in Voice
While we should not have to live in fear of our unique voices, we should have a general consciousness of the weight of our voice. Even if we have not garnered attention in the public sphere and recognition of our mode of vocalization, we need to be aware that we contribute at least to a body of opinion, stance, and discourse. By putting more value on our voice, we can think more thoroughly about what conversations we are interjecting in. And we can evaluate whether it is even necessary or concerning that we engage with those conversations.
If you took a sample of the comments and other written material that you have published online, would you think this content was representative of your true self? Would you be displaying what you aspire to become, or are you presenting the part of you that is sad, alone, malevolent, and unfamiliar? I have read countless comments that I would categorize as unnecessary. There is a superficial way to place value on your written statements. That is, you place value on the emotional response you have in that moment of writing, your limited understanding of the situation, and your need to be part of a critical mass of commenters. Thoughts prompted by urgency and immediate heightened emotion are sometimes lacking depth, and pouring into an avalanche of voices is a sport of hysteria.
When we take pride in our voice, we do not need to be embarrassed if we do not feel the same way in the future. We can live in assurance that in that moment, we valued our written body of work. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, one of the characters says:
“The pressure to make public retractions of past statements – there’s something medieval about it. What does it mean, anyways, to ‘retract’ what you’ve done? How can anyone state categorically that a thought he once had is no longer valid?” (179)
One of the theme of The Unbearable Lightness is the impermanence of life. Things occur once, and then they are done. If all moments are just that, valuation becomes all the more immanently important. In this moment, you have the opportunity to value your voice. In this moment, you have the opportunity to be in alignment with your values. In this moment, you have the opportunity to use your voice in its full power. In this moment, you have to ability to value your words.
Our written trail is part of the culmination of our lives. Some of what we say has little social weight (depending on our social reach), but all of it is part of a progression. Valuation of your voice is an incredible power that you can give yourself. Nobody has to come and award your voice value. If you respect your voice and understand its value, you will have done yourself justice by coming closer into alignment with comprehending just how much you matter.