I am my content. You are your content. No, this idea is not a twenty-first-century update of the Aristotle quote, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This is about perception—how others perceive us.  Everything we produce is content without exception. From an innocuous game of tic-tac-toe on a napkin to a thesis paper, it’s all content. Because something is content doesn’t mean anyone wants to consume (or interact with) it. Who wants to root around the trash for discarded napkins?

It’s safe to say we’re consuming more content now than at any point in history. There’s a word for this type of diet: we’re Informavores. It means consumers of information. Being our content is not the same as being a social media influencer (or an opinion leader in public relations parlance). Everything we produce regardless of intent is available for others to consume. Unfortunately, this includes private things like text messages and photos. That phone in your hand and the cloud are not as secure as we’d like to think.

This post isn’t about our connected existence (or the internet of things); it’s about perceptions and communication. It’s safe to say none of us want to be judged solely based on our work and social media posts. The reality is we are. The police have caught criminals because criminals have posted about their crimes. People have lost their jobs because of inappropriate posts. And relationships have ended over posts. The same is true for text messages and email. Our content has an impact on our lives.

During my first two years of high school, I was a poor student. I couldn’t have cared less about schoolwork. In my junior year, my English teacher gave the class simple advice that changed how I felt about work. He told us don’t hand in work that you would be embarrassed to have your name on. This simple suggestion was some of the best advice that I’ve ever received. He was telling the class that in life you are going to be judged on your work. What has your name on it will influence how others perceive you. If your work is shoddy—regardless of how nice you are—you’ll be perceived as a liability. Poor work equates to a poor (or lazy) person. A poorly written email means this person doesn’t care. I internalized the message and was on the honor roll my last two years of high school.

My teacher was saying our content—what we produce—is how we are perceived. Your content has your name on it. And all content communicates. That funny animated GIF you include in an email or text will impact how you’re perceived. If this is beginning to sound like public relations, that’s because it is. For example, if I make an off-color joke at a company Christmas party, I know I’ll be reprimanded. That’s generally understood. However, if I make the same joke in a Facebook group, I may still be reprimanded. The joke is my content, and if my employer finds out, it will take action. We can’t escape our content. It will always have our names on it.

Being your content isn’t all bad. If you understand what your content is communicating, you can use it to your advantage. Use content strategically, and you’ll land that dream job or build that following on Instagram. You need all of your posts, pictures, graphics, videos, etc. to work in concert with the same goal. Remember, all content communicates and has your name on it. The right content communicating the right message will lead you right where you want to be.