The Long and Winding Road: What are you looking at?

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There are occasions in life when a fun idea takes shape before your eyes and develops a life of it’s own. One such casual conversation I had with my colleagues in Minneapolis some 4 weeks ago was one such occasion. Always looking to see things from a different angle and offer another perspective, we were struck by even in this age of ‘content’ we are still terribly governed by image. 

To be more clear , the first image or first impression seems to have many people hamstrung, as if they cannot see past what they see and understand what is being said. We brainstormed for a few moments and came up with a cunning plan….little did we know that literally within 5 mins of it being deployed we would have the bait taken! Truly, it is moments like this that restore my faith in fun.

We decided to use my insignificant Twitter account to ‘play’….. initially my ‘avatar’ was a rather fine architectural picture of my home-town , Liverpool…..”she loves you , yeah, yeah , yeah!”

At 3rd Planet Media we tend not to seek the front and center position, which may sound funny being so very heavily involved in video but rather like a chef may not enjoy cooking at home, we tend not to show-boat ourselves. However, we decided to use a photo of yours truly in a pose mimicking and old Monty Python image …..think ‘city gent with bowler hat on top half and garters and high heels on the lower half..!’ Now, we did not show the whole picture but the look on my face was a little akin the the Mona Lisa….. arms folded and a sideways look with a faint smile. Knowing the inspiration behind the pose you can see why the look evolved…anyway the point was to start to change the look and see how people reacted. Would they take what I said more seriously or not?

You could have blown me down with a feather just 5 minutes later…. I had a comment from a follower criticising the picture and telling me it was ‘too aloof and distant’! Brilliant , I could hardly believe it…it is not supposed to work that quickly.
Without going into too much detail , the person who sent the comment did not direct the comment directly to me but instead made a pronouncement for all to see. OK , game on!!!
I had to appear upset, confused and irritated by the comment; so I did.

By the end of the exchange , I apparently had ‘freaked out’ and had completely ‘over-reacted’ to this persons display of over familiarity…. priceless!

To save the blushes of the person in question , I will not direct you to their site to look at their ‘real estate agent styled slightly pitched forward at an angle JC Penny photographers booth’ avatar because that would be all too ironic.

Suffice to say that the 1980’s was a great decade!

Amazing that such a small change to something could cause someone to ‘break cover’ and dish out unsolicited advice because they ‘knew better’, if I didn’t know better I would have thought I had just been heavily patronised by someone who, I think, is my junior. God , I love this business!

So on to the next change:

bit of a difference you will agree..

I happen to love this picture , it is so full of character and is completely non-threatening. Interestingly to me was the fact that I started to get more UK contacts than I had before whilst using this avatar. Does that mean Europeans are less concerned about image? Could be, I know I am more likely to walk away from someone who is just too slick and shiny. I had some messages commenting positively on the new picture..obviously no relative of the first person who played this game we had set up.

Then came this:

Nice juxtaposition of ideas with this one, perhaps a little more of a refined joke than the ‘dunce’ but apparently equally well received. My activity has been consistent by and large. I have made the same number of comments and connections and still more UK folk.

So what have I learned by doing this? As ever , one learns a little bit more than expected and also different things than expected. We all help each other learn even when we are trying not to.

I think the main takeaway for me was that Social Media is a delicate balance between direct opinions and over familiarity. They say familiarity breeds contempt and I am sure people all over the networks suffer setbacks to their confidence and positive outlook at the hands of people who had not fully considered their impact. 

Let me be the first to say that should the person in question who provided me with the great start to this idea be reading this, they too might be indignant. If that is the case I would say this;
‘I am recounting this, without names or hints to identity, to educate and illustrate a point whereas you dived in in order to dominate and impose your perspective; there is a difference!

There is a wider point to all this in addition to the simplistic concept of visual first impressions; that is our ability to alter our perspective overnight and reset our ‘normal’ button at will.
Last night something happened that will define an era in many ways, it was an event which allowed Social Media to strut its stuff in much the same way a major world event does, it was this:

Walk into any bar three days ago wearing that suit and someone would have called for the psychiatrist, walk in tomorrow and someone will want to have their photo taken with you…
all is not what we see either physically or conceptually, never dismiss the fool for he is twin to the wise!

see you on the long and winding road…… Patrick

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