The Unpublished Persona

The Unpublished Persona is all that does not appear on the front of self-display. As the tree falls in the forest, neither does the completed life go unpublished. At least according to current trends in sharing worded and visual messages of the self. The Unpublished Persona splits the contemporary person from his life on display. The shadow has come full form and has simplistically been rendered into the solidification of nothing other than everything untethered to public display. Those who do not present published versions of themselves become the stuff of enigma. More so, they are sided as reluctant, and in so refusing, to participate in the act of individual branding. In effect, the individual seeking distinguishing identification in the social and professional realm relies on similar methods of information circulation as brands do. When individuals become brands, the Unpublished Persona can take a number of faces, and is not pre-supposed by the brand. Though, we may like to think that it is exactly correlative. That is, that the Unpublished Persona and the published persona on social media are the same.

Political theorist Hannah Arendt says in The Life of the Mind regarding the individual and his urge of self-display that “Nothing and nobody exists in this world whose very being does not presuppose a spectator. In other words, nothing that is, insofar as it appears, exists in the singular; everything that is is meant to be perceived by somebody.” This ideology, as applicable to modern displays, intertwines with voyeurism. Spectatorship implies some degree of control that the displayer has over his performance. Whether he invites the public into his theatre or invites the public to stop on the side of the street to watch him, he controls the location, beginning, and ending of the happening of the display. Posting on social media takes some of these elements. It assumes a broad base of viewership, but the beginnings and endings of display are not clearly confined. Rather than give a performance which will expire, social media gives longevity to a parcel of information. Beyond choosing the content and publishing it, the displayer has a lesser degree of control over the interaction. His control is contained in curation of his brand.

mountain photo by mohammad alizade

This avenue of branding transforms elements previously attributed to corporate branding. The status update becomes a press release. The profile photo becomes an icon, a graphic for recognition, and in some functions, a logo. The personal description becomes a mission statement, and is even referred to as a tagline. Relationally though not accurately, the Unpublished Persona is everything that does not exist in this branding formulation. The Unpublished Persona is the one who determines what content will meet the brand message, and will establish how controlled the thematization is. Even the decision to have private social media accounts contributes to the curation, and serves as a formulation of content in itself. Redaction makes its own branding statement. Some individuals opt to make their social media profiles “private.” Even so, a synopsis of intent is viewable through the profile image, tagline, and any content made public. The Unpublished Persona is conscientious, calculating, and aware of his presence. There are inevitably some mistaken moves in the process of administering brand maintenance (depending on the conscientiousness of the brand manager), but social repercussion keeps his brand in bounds.

Many of those Unpublished Personas evolving the brand rely on external validation for brand refinement. When an article of published personal branding information is met with quantifiably positive interaction, the Unpublished Persona takes notes and can replicate some of the elements of that success for a later campaign of self-display. He is cognizant of information met with rigorous examination. His brand aggregates more content, more feedback, and more attentiveness as the social media account ages. The pool of content that fills his feeds reflect the self that cohesively brands his namesake. Social media savviness identifies him if he fulfills predominant categories of content. The whole of self-display rests in cooperative restraint and propelling of the individual social media appearance. He is restrained where his personal branding veers away from his core branding message. He is propelled where the content is safest for those engaging him to associate themselves with.

The Unpublished Persona works for the brand; he is the full-time brand manager. He corrects the content direction when he needs to and he may have internal conflicts about authenticity, proper representation, and alignment of his multi-dimension. The Unpublished Persona self-displays as an act of spontaneity, improvisation, and in semi-controlled extinction; the published self is tuned, whittled, and responsively conducted. The present Unpublished Persona perhaps fears his mortality more than any member of generations before him. For this fear, he leaves record of his persona in measurable narrative. It is not enough for him that he thinks and lives. He establishes his longevity in the pool of social history. As Arendt observes, “To appears always means to seem to others, and this seeming varies according to the standpoint and the perspective of the spectators. In other words, every appearing thing acquires, by virtue of its appearingness, a kind of disguise that may indeed – but does not have to – hide or disfigure it.”

mountain photo by Rohit Tandon

Displayed as the hero of his own story, the brand identifies the peaks and falls of the individual’s journey. Constructed narratives on social media highlight different foundational and universal elements of the human story. Some of the narratives focus on exceptional, politically-neutral, and resoundingly positive momentos of a rather muted, highly-polished existence. Others offer a more rounded view of a human life, including joyous, mundane, and down-trotted examinations with winded descriptions. Sentimentality and focus on outlook as directly correlative with a worldly success may decorate the former. While authenticity and philosophical musing may cower over the spectators of the latter. The curve of narration regards time, place, and experience in developmental, linear, and successive achievement.

Philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty says, “No thing, no side of a thing, shows itself except by actively hiding the others.” A prime example of this saturated division of selfhood in literature lives in the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Jekyll is the outer figure and the exemplary citizen who contributes his share to society. He presents well to the public and meets the requirements (at least at the beginning of the narrative) for presentation of his public self. In seeking a perfectly good version of himself to live in the world, the shadow figure Hyde is torn and manifested into a separate entity altogether. The Unpublished Persona, even if he does not meet this extreme dichotomy of personhood, lives as a different entity from the published self. The published individual brandished to his spectators expectantly trivializes and compounds the unpublished self. Depending on the caliber of social branding, the Unpublished Persona is even romanticized and insights into material, no matter how mundane, that is presented from a source other than firsthand gains traction. Herein, the “candid” personal information takes on a life tertiary to the published persona and the Unpublished Persona.

The Unpublished Persona is not the brand, but it is what the brand suggests of the individual’s life outside of the public narrative. Arendt poses a question in her 1978 book that is just as relevant today, “Since we live in an appearing world, is it not much more plausible that the relevant and meaningful in this world of ours should be located precisely on the surface?” Hannah Arendt goes on to suggest that “the inner, non-appearing organs exist only in order to bring forth and maintain the appearances.” Contemporary persons have added a new layer this meaning. There is now not just inner and outer personas, but also the published individual. The person displays himself to a live audience for in-person interactions, and displays himself to a fluid, voyeuristic audience on social media.

Self-display is an integral human quality, and is dimensionally staged on the front of social media. Through narrative feed, personhood is condensed, summarized, and uniquely posited as an act of recording. He chooses the story of his mortality. The Unpublished Persona lives his epitomized version through social media self-display. Not bound by expiration of information transmission, the brand can display continuity and lasting representation of the Unpublished Persona.