A Room Of Your Own (Online)

To echo Virginia Woolf in her essay "A Room Of One's Own," every (person) needs a place of their own where they can dream and write and create. In Woolf's day, she was talking about the importance for female writers of solitude and space. But the analogy of a room -- where one owns the key -- and creates a sense of self is directly translatable to online. Especially as the web is a place where most of us still exist (in a virtual sense) while our corporeal bodies sleep. And in a multi-time zone planet, you might want your virtual self to be your best one.

If you don't have a room of your own on the Internet, you don't have a voice in the modern world.

And we're not talking about a presence on a proprietary (closed) social network. That does not count as a place of your own. That's a hall closet in someone else's vast mansion where you neither pay rent nor have a lock on the door. Plus, without belaboring the point, today's Facebook is yesterday's (or tomorrow's) MySpace is the early 2000s' Friendster. Who knows what's coming next? Just like hashtags on Instagram are yesterday's Flickr Commons sharing are the decade before's ascii art (look them up, they're adorable).

A room of your own on the web is a philosophical statement. Who are you? How do you want to be perceived? What do you want to showcase about your life/art/beliefs? And, more importantly, what do you want to kick to the curb of Google's second page of results (where nobody goes)? How about your messy divorce and the hideous fallout? That bad haircut that seems to appear in every vanity search you do? (It's
OK, we all do it).

Search engines, despite what the SEO (search engine optimization) gurus tell you, reward three things - frequency (post something every day), context (correct tagging and linking) and popularity (who's linking to you and who's linking to them?)

Yes. It's high school.

But you're older (and hopefully wiser). You have a family of origin, choice or procreation, a job or a thriving entrepreneurial future and a past. These things are worth protecting by making sure what appears online is a true representation of your (ideal) self.

Actually, let's take another tack for a moment. Reputation protection aside, building an online presence is also less of a promotional vehicle (although it is a very useful one) and more of a philosophical exposition.

What have you done with your life thus far? And, most importantly, what do you want to do with what's left of it, now you've got a handle on who you are (hopefully)?

Because a room of your own online is a place to explore where you're going based on where you've been. Most of us don't take time to think about who we have grown up to be. There just isn't time. But if you don't know who you are and where you're going, do you think you'll ever get there (wherever that is)?

It's not permanent. It's a website -- fluid, thematic, easy to change (but only if you build it yourself and more on that in a moment) -- and it's the most glorious form of self-expression. By building your virtual presence and putting it out there, you are joining the future. By looking at what others are doing on their sites and linking to them and communicating and sharing, you might find yourself part of a bigger tribe than you thought. And with translation tools getting better all the time, you could start to interact with places on the globe in languages you don't (yet) speak.


Take a deep breath.

Go to wordpress.com (yes, as they used to say on the British Broadcasting Corporation -- which does not allow advertising -- Other Brands Are Available -- we're just using this as an example) and click on the button that says "Get Started" (it's orange, top left, can't miss it).

On the next page: it says "email" (self-explanatory -- but use your own email, not a work one) and then username. Your username will be the title of your site; it's what people will type in to find it so use your own name if you can. If not, something that feels representative. The domain name (website address) that ends with wordpress.com will be free but it's worth selecting the drop down option (if it's available) to buy your own domain.

Once you've done that (and gone into your email to click the link they set up just to keep everything secure) you can have fun choosing a look and feel (themes, under the appearance sub-menu, bottom left) and so on.

Create some simple navigation (pages) with your bio, creative work, stuff you love to read, your resume (always helpful) and try a few blog posts. Post once a day. Maybe something simple like a photograph you've taken or a quote you love. Practice by putting something out into the virtual world on a daily basis.

And now you have a room of your own on the Internet.

Tell us your story.

Because you deserve to be heard.