i always wanted to be a Beat, a bohemian.

instead, suddenly i find myself  in the Business section of the bookstore, just an aisle over from Philosophy.

i hunker down, intent, studying the titles on the shelves with the rabid eyes of a shark looking to game the casino. i am giving myself a personal, experiential education in How To Maybe Write a Bestseller About Ideas and Social Media. go hard or go home, they say where i’m from.

i has me a literary agent.

i pinch myself.

all these years of dreaming of being discovered for my sizzling cool. instead, i stoop in the Business aisle, plotting the story of self as brand in the world of social media. a dissertation and a trade book. book first. with capital letters, cold hard ambition you can lay out on a table like a cadaver and dissect.

it is the story of how people with my artsy-fartsy prejudices and my humanities degrees and my bohemian posturings are – thanks to the way social media works – ending up in the Business section of the bookstore. it is also the story of how business itself is – for the same reasons inverted – becoming more literary and humanities-focused in its discourse and processes. the unholy marriage of never the twain shall meet, indeed.

it is, in the end, the story of the reputational and relational economy of the digital.

it is the story of brand as a personal rather than a corporate attribute; as a brave new world of identity. brand is not the sell, nor is it without soul. i LOVE this shit.

Allen Ginsberg, i think, would wink at me. or maybe hoist himself up on a soapbox and rail, soliloquize, erase me with the scope of his supermarket excursions. i bow to his shadow in either case, and smile.

i feel like Alice down the rabbit hole. you see that vial labelled Drink Me? hand it over.
i want help, though.

it’s a shameless kind of want, the same kind of shameless i always imagined would see me perched with my folk guitar outside some far-flung library strumming Dylan songs, the really long ones, with my guitar case with the embroidered Grateful Dead bears open for donations and a handwritten sign, If you Fear Change, leave it here. life takes you funny places.

instead i sit here in my hometown hoping you’ll tell me stories…yours. or those you think might resonate. i need a few case studies, poster children whose selves and brands i can explore and dissect.

i want to know, in these stories, about how the so-called real and the online self.  about how you and your virtual identity get along. i want to know if the lines between them have changed for you, over the time you’ve spent engaging online.

you don’t need to be a Big Deal to tell me about your “brand” and yourself. you don’t need to like the idea of brand at all. in fact, i might like it a lot if you didn’t.

you can email me, if you want, or leave as many comments here as you want. i may pry further. i may come and park myself on your floor and read your virtual Tarot cards like some social media fortune teller, promising the inevitable dark, handsome stranger and a future of millions of Twitter followers. i may offer my effusive thanks in the acknowledgements of something printed on paper, someday, knock wood. that something may be a Ph.D thesis or a tome you can buy on Amazon and in the Business aisles of better bookstores, or both.

either way. i am sitting, waiting for the story hour to begin.

all those years i dragged myself through Korean and Slovak and Turkish streets at dawn not looking for an angry fix but another drink, a smoke, a conversation to be in, arms or words there was something transcendental out there burning for the ancient heavenly connection, i knew it, i saw it in tatters and hollowed eyes and tenement roofs illuminated. but in the end, i came home and found it here, in the ether.

and so i laugh and burn my beret, and ask what you think it means to be a self in the world of social media?
edited to add: if not your story, whose? who should i be tracking down to explore success in social media and ways it intersects with personal identity? who’s your idea of an exceptional, or reluctant, or conflicted, or interesting “brand”? even if they’d never use the word themselves? and who or what (feel free to email rather than comment, as you wish) make up the benighted practices reinforcing the concept of personal branding as some kind of Amway Cult of Personality? all recommendations gratefully received.

i might even buy you a beer to keep you talking.