Are You Juggling 2 Versions of Yourself?

Blogs - Vietnam: Feb. 14, 2019

When Vietnam’s national Under-23 football team went on its fairytale run, reaching the finals of the Asian Under-23 football championships for the first time in history in 2018, expats living in Vietnam viewed an unforgettable display of the pride Vietnamese have towards their country.

Social media was also abuzz with comments and praises all around. It was certainly a great time to be Vietnamese, even if you weren’t one.

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Lost in Translation Online

However, on a certain thread in a Facebook group, an American expat English teacher by the name of Daniel Hauer, who fronts a very popular YouTube channel with over one million subscribers, and who has about over 100,000 followers made an offhand comment in reply to a fan who had boldly proclaimed that he would tattoo the Vietnamese flag on his body if his country were to win the tournament.

The only problem with Daniel’s comment was that he chose to correlate a well-decorated former military general with a body modification process that involved the genitals. In other words, he committed one of the biggest cardinal sins in Vietnaminsulting a historical figure, even though it was only meant to be a joke.

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The festivities momentarily came to a screeching halt as Daniel, who had been living in Hanoi for years with his family, suddenly found himself dealing with the wrath of the Vietnamese. He had his contracts voided by the schools he was teaching at; there were calls to boycott his channel; his family was thrust into the spotlight and he found himself in front of the Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI) having to explain what he had just done with the prospect of a huge fine.

However, this leads to a question. If he had just been a regular nobody, would the reactions towards his act have been equally as intense? If he was still unemployed, would it affect future employment opportunities?

How Online Personas are Viewed in Vietnam

Over the years, there have been foreigners and even locals who have learned that Vietnam is concerned with different content issues than in other countries. However, the press coverage, as well as online debates over their deeds did not quite reach the levels that Daniel faced. One of the reasons behind this could have been due to his online persona and its wide reach.

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Social media has allowed people to create an alternative persona that may not necessarily coincide with their real lives. Although Daniel’s online persona was an extension of his career, some others do it purely out of seeking attention; some feel it is an easier way to make friends or new contacts and some do it purely to escape from a harsher reality.

How an Online Persona Can Heal

22-year old Ngoc Hong Nguyen, a student and part-time content creator had a tough time as a teenager. She battled depression, an abusive relationship and bullying in school. Although she did remarkably well academically, often finishing in the top-ten among her cohort, she felt a lack of appreciation from her parents.

Her depression got further compounded after a traffic accident left her partially paralysed for almost half a year. As a result, she started gaining weight, her grades suffered, she started entertaining suicidal thoughts but the straw that broke the camel’s back was a comment her ex made to her.

“Nobody is going date you unless you go for surgery to fix your ugly body and face.”

Instead of letting those incidents kick her down, she decided to prove her detractors wrong. She studied even harder and managed to get into a university, went for a nose job, lost weight, took up boxing, discovered and honed her talent in make-up and decided to start her own Instagram account where she would post makeover pictures and videos of herself and started blogging. She was so good at it that even her own friends could not recognise her post-makeover looks.

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“I started a transformation on Instagram aimed to inspire others that they too, can pull off a Hannah Montana in their lives. Before achieving happiness, it is normal to suffer.” She said.

However, it wasn’t an easy beginning as she had to deal with comments labelling her as fake or even poking fun at her looks.

“At first, it made me cry because it felt like no matter what I did, people would still think I was full of it. But I also received messages from girls saying that I was a reflection of them and that it helped them face society. This changed everything.” She added.

She eventually focused on creating even more content, with the sole purpose of inspiring girls to challenge their own imperfections.

Why Your Online Persona is Important in Vietnam

Although Ngoc and Daniel are drastically different from each other, they share one thing in common - they have a strong influence online.

While the scandal surrounding Daniel showed the negative repercussions of making a mistake online, and how it can affect his real life, Ngoc’s case was the opposite. She had been using her online persona as an escape from her harsh reality, as well as a means to inspire others.

“I now understand why people react negatively towards me. It’s because they want what I have, but aren’t confident enough to do the same. One reason could be that they aren’t brave enough to face society and the many rumours and untruths that will come with it. However, I don’t think that way. I write my own story and I have the power to give it a happy ending.” She added.

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Creating an online persona may not necessarily reflect who you are offline, but it will certainly provide a window to who you are to prospective employers doing a background check on you. Just like how Daniel Hauer lost his contracts after his mistake, there have been many instances of job candidates falling down the pecking order after a quick google search revealed undesirable social media posts from years earlier.

In this day and age where information about you is freely available online, and where political-correctness is turning into a frequent buzzword, it will take more than a glossy LinkedIn profile and a well-curated Facebook page, YouTube channel or Instagram profile to impress potential employers.

You will also have to ensure that any remarks or photos that you post are not likely to offend the wider world or the past may literally come back to haunt you.

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