Millennials Have a Branding Problem

I puzzle over this question a lot; how to be authentic when authentic isn’t valued. How to be real when you’re whole generation is addicted to lifestyle porn.

Authenticity, this rare and raw substance that used to ooze from art and poetry is being sopped up by gluten-free vegan YouTube stars and fed to us like the cattle they’ve sworn never to eat.

It’s chill to be vulnerable; it’s ok to add labels that separate us and give a slight insight into our personal lives — as long as that insight has a trending hashtag or viral video attached to it.

Where is the real vulnerability in an age of meticulous self-branding?

Vulnerability drives connection, but we’ve gotten so good at creating these facades that being real is real hard.

I understand the power of social media. I get that my future employer will peruse my timeline and feeds to get a glimpse of who I am. But will they see the real me? Or will they see what years of systematic planning, feedback, market research, and branding has created?

I know what Nike is about. I know Nike’s brand. Can I say I know yours? or your friend’s? Do they have their real selves visible to the world, or are they constructed just like the rest of us?

We paint our face to hide our face- Memoirs of a Geisha

How can I reach out for connection when your bio is full of empathy but your text back is apathy, or empty?

How does someone with an eating disorder, or postpartum depression, or a failing marriage tell others without damaging their brand?

How can I reach out about my depression without seeming weak, tainting my brand, or disrupting my perfect instagram aesthetic?

Guys. The number of people committing suicide is on the rise. The articles describing the signs run through our feeds at the same rate, but we remain oblivious. It’s easy to put on a smile, ask how someone’s doing, and hope they don’t answer with anything more engaging than “great”, “well”, or “fine”.

This deluge of “fake it till you make it” or “outward in” therapy is true bullshit. Getting validation with likes and follows doesn’t build connections. It doesn’t equate to support or love or friendship. A beautiful instagram feed doesn’t mean my life is together. I’m hurting behind these posed photos and witty captions. You either can’t see, or don’t care to.

See, my brand is strength. Rebellion. Boldness. I can’t talk about the suicidal thoughts I’ve had. The hurt I’ve felt. The burden of living. My brand doesn’t allow that much vulnerability. My brand is admitting something hard, but wrapping it up in sarcasm so you can’t see it.

I doubt I’m the only one. Behind picturesque scenes of hikes, dinners, accomplishments, and other posts are pregnancy scares, anxiety, drug abuse, and more.

Millennials are a generation of artists and fools who paint themselves up to hide the decay they feel inside.

How the hell are we going to connect with one another when we can’t be our true selves? How can we be vulnerable in the midst of all of this?

I won’t pretend I have an answer for you. I’m as lost as you are. I hope these sporadic thoughts are mingling with your own. I hope as you look through your one-way glass you’ll decide to let the world in. Let them see you for the mess of a human you likely are. Perfection is passé. Give the world a dose of reality. You’ll see you’re not alone.