Are you allergic to Twitter? Do you befriend people outside your target demographic? Then you may be suffering from an undiagnosed personal branding disorder.
As our country continues its nosedive from prominence, we can all rest assured that, even as our tiny fortunes disappear and our little ships sink, our ability to create the illusion of inherent personal value will save us. Remember, in the golden age of social networking, our personalities are irrelevant; our personal brands are what really matter.
Accordingly, psychologists will soon shift gears from diagnosing personality disorders to diagnosing personal branding disorders. After all, you might be obsessive-compulsively checking Twitter all day for mentions of your name, but that doesn't mean you're sick, it just means that you're committed to maintaining a robust social networking presence in order to adjust to the demands of an increasingly volatile global marketplace. What was once considered pathological, personality-wise, must be viewed as wildly adaptive in today's ever-shifting digital landscape.
Conversely, personal branding disorders have the power to rip the American Dream right out of your clutches. If you're not ready to take your appeal as a human being and boil it down to a few key words, if you can't reduce your complicated philosophical perspectives down to a sexy catchphrase? You're in trouble. Now is the time to ask yourself: Do you want to be a part of the next wave of rich personal self-promotion, or do you want your child to grow up not knowing what really good sushi tastes like?
In order to protect yourself and your offspring, be sure to familiarize yourself with a few of the most prominent personal branding disorders currently threatening our socioeconomic infrastructure:
• Avoidant Branding Disorder: You're hypersensitive to comments posted on your Facebook page, and highly self-conscious about your tweets, wasting hours editing them and finally deleting them because they're not quite right. The fact that you only have 13 followers on Twitter has led to severe low self-esteem, but you occasionally pronounce the whole thing "a useless waste of time." The thought of attending a social networking conference makes you break out in hives.
• Brand Identity Disorder: You often find yourself longing to be accepted by people outside of your target demographic. You're haunted by the illusion that there's a difference between your brand and your "real personality." You experience anxiety when you're confronted with distribution models or marketing strategies that go against your basic "values" or "principles," most of which are unnervingly unrelated to the laws of supply and demand.
• Histrionic Branding Disorder: Your statements are often highly emotional and don't support or endorse your brand in any way. You sometimes go off on tangents, both in real time and via social networking tools, that aren't related to the product or services you currently offer. You waste excessive time each day focusing on feeling "appreciated" or "loved" instead of monitoring your profit margins. You frequently attest to the importance of "finding true love," often at a significant cost to any ongoing efforts to increase your sphere of influence and expand your potential customer base.
• Schizoid Branding Disorder: You have been overheard proclaiming that Twitter is for blowhards with ADHD. You profess a love of "nature" and "reading books" instead. You refuse to chat with people online, and your cell phone service charges extra for texting. You call Blackberries "Crackberries" and claim that you're not even a little bit curious about the iPad. When someone asks you a polite question, such as "What's your current distribution capacity?" you merely roll your eyes and shrug, then wander off without answering.
Unfortunately, because these Personal Branding Disorders have only recently been identified as serious maladies by helping professionals across the country, further study is necessary in order to understand their causes and consequences. Above all, the population must be alerted to the threat. Ultimately, personal branding disorders are capable of eroding international trade, thereby curtailing our access to basic goods and services—like dog grooming, and chili cheese fries!
The next time you find yourself disparaging iPhone apps or raving about the restorative effects of growing organic milkweed in handmade windowboxes, it's imperative that you seek professional help immediately. Remember, there's no shame in admitting that you're indifferent to your own multi-platform marketing initiatives, as long as you can see clearly that it's not normal. The sooner you can admit that you're sick, the sooner you can address your ineffectual sales tactics and build a more resilient, dynamic personal brand that will resonate with a wide range of potential customers, now through the end of the fiscal year.
Heather Havrilesky is staff critic at The Daily and author of Disaster Preparedness, a memoir published by Riverhead Books in January 2011. She was Salon.com's TV critic for 7 years and cocreated Suck.com's Filler before that. She has dispensed ill-tempered advice at the rabbit blog since 2001.
Photo by Bryan Rosengrant, from Flickr.