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First impressions on the internet

Iain Broome
Iain Broome
2 min read

You might think me mad, but I’ve been thinking a lot about first impressions and the way things appear right now.

In the always-on world of social media and running a website like this, I’m meeting new people all the time. And mostly without knowing it.

Take Twitter, for example.

Permanent, but temporary

Twitter is the ultimate throwaway medium, where 140-character sentences come, go and turn to history in the blink of an eye.

Conversations, links and self-promotions. They are permanent, but somehow temporary. No one deletes your tweets, but barely anyone remembers them either. Which is fine. They’re not supposed to remember. Not really.

And yet, new people are finding me (and you) all of the time. And what do they have to go on? Our profile photos and biographies, sure. But then what? What are we really like? What do we tweet about?

On a platform like Twitter, you have very little control over first impressions. You don’t know who’s looking at your tweets and you don’t know what they’re looking for. Really, the only thing that you can guarantee is that the first thing they’ll look at is your most recent messages.

Because that’s how Twitter works. It’s about the here and now.

Stand by your words

But what if the last thing you tweeted was part of a conversation about something completely different to whatever your thing is? How will it look if the last time you posted it was in frustration, weather-related or, heaven forbid, a description of your last meal? What sort of first impression is that?

The answer, of course, is that it shouldn’t really matter. Those tweets are part of whoever you are. Or whoever you are online, at least. So why worry about it? Who cares what people see first? If they’re worth their salt, they’ll look beyond a handful of short internet messages. Won’t they?

Well yes, probably.

However, I do have this thing about being able to stand by everything I write. Not in terms of quality, necessarily, but certainly in tone.

It’s why I almost never swear on the internet. Not because I don’t swear in real life (I do), or because I object to other people swearing (I don’t). It’s because I want to make a good impression. And I’ve no idea who might be reading.

Consistency is key

Again, you never know when people are going to check your Twitter profile, Facebook page or blog for the first time.

You can’t control it and I can’t think of anything worse than micromanaging your online profiles in a way that means you only ever have your most brilliant tweets, status updates and posts at the top of the pile. That would be illogical, antisocial media.

If you care about first impressions, the one thing you can achieve is consistency. You can aim to always meet your own idea of what’s appropriate. It may be that someone stumbles across your writing, wherever it may be, and the first thing they read is far from ideal.

If you’re consistent, it won’t be the end of the world.

Who’d have thought?

This is what I’ve been thinking about. First impressions and consistency. I’ve also been thinking about why I’ve been thinking about it so much. And it’s because, I’ve decided, it’s important to me. I care what people think. It’s been a tiny revelation.

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Iain Broome

Author of the novel, A is for Angelica. Freelance writer and content designer. Sender of newsletters.