Why everyone wants to be a brand?
In today’s world, personal branding has become a ubiquitous concept. From social media influencers to politicians, everyone seems to be shaping their image and presenting themselves to the world in a certain way. But where did this idea come from, and what does it mean for our society?
According to Tara Isabella Burton’s book, Self-Made: Creating Our Identities from Da Vinci to the Kardashians, personal branding has been a part of Western culture for centuries. In Renaissance Italy, courtiers aspired to a quality called sprezzatura, which involved concealing all effort and making difficult things look easy. In Regency England, this became known as the ‘bon ton’, a mysterious aura of one’s own.
The concept of personal branding has always had two impulses: an aristocratic element of signalling one’s superiority, and a democratic element of expressing one’s essence. In America, the idea of being a self-governing individual took deep root. People were judged by their own cultivation of themselves, not their father’s social station. You were supposed to imagine and shape your own fate; those who did not were deemed failures.
Later, Hollywood created a new kind of celebrity. Personalities and roles blended, as actors were seen as archetypes: the femme fatale or gamine waif or working-class hunk. The personalities and lives of stars were managed by studios, their mysterious magnetism was, in fact, cultivated by committee.
But with the rise of social media, personal branding has taken on a whole new level of importance. Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms allow anyone to aspire to celebrity status by making their seemingly real life into compelling art. There are ‘content collectives’ of influencers who live together and film their lives for social media.
Even if you’re not looking for fame and fortune, the internet-driven economic system requires pretty much everyone to sell themselves to survive – to get a job, to get a date, or get votes. We are what we create and commodify.
But what does it do to the soul when we create these masks? What do we lose when we cut the strings of custom or community or deny our own internal complexity? These are important questions that we must ask ourselves as we navigate this new world of personal branding.
On the one hand, personal branding can be empowering. It allows us to take control of our own image and present ourselves in the best possible light. It can also be a way of expressing our true selves and connecting with others who share our values and interests.
On the other hand, personal branding can also be limiting. When we focus too much on presenting a certain image to the world, we may lose sight of our true selves and what really matters to us. We may also feel pressure to conform to certain standards or expectations, rather than following our own path.
Ultimately, the key is to strike a balance between personal branding and authenticity. We should strive to present ourselves in the best possible light while also staying true to our values and interests. We should also be mindful of the impact that our personal branding efforts may have on our mental health and well-being.
In conclusion, personal branding has been a part of Western culture for centuries, but it has taken on a whole new level of importance in the age of social media. While personal branding can be empowering and allow us to connect with others who share our values, it can also be limiting and lead us to lose sight of our true selves. The key is to strike a balance between personal branding and authenticity and be mindful of the impact on our mental health and well-being.