I logged into Instagram this morning and the first picture in my feed was of a political friend of mine speaking at a conference. Further down a professor friend has posted a pic of him skiing with very important people. Then there was a friend posting a picture of herself from a Brussels climate strike – and that was her only pic of that event – her at it.

Over on Facebook a journalist friend who works for a French TV channel in Brussels has posted his latest breathless excerpt from the channel, reporting on something from within some EU institution. Scrolling past a picture of a student friend pictured with a European Commissioner, I then see a video of a politician friend of mine strutting up to the podium in the Bundestag in the expectation I will watch the speech in full. Comments beneath the speech show that all of this at least in part works. Either that or the commenters think that excessive compliments gain them some political patronage. Let’s hope it’s the first.

But how often do do that self promotion thing on social media I wondered? So I checked. Or tried to.

Scrolling back over Instagram the last pic of me I can find on my own account is 7 September. There is one mention of my name on a poster in May. And that is it for the whole of 2019. There is 1 picture of me I posted in the whole of 2019 on Facebook, from a trip to Budapest. On Twitter I post so many images it was time consuming to go far back, but there has not been a single selfie or picture of something I am doing this year.

If not pictures or videos, what else then?

Since the turn of the year I have been on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme talking about trains (tweet with 3 retweets, 7 likes on Facebook, a bit more interaction on the sarcastic I’ve been asked tweet). I did not even know France24 had posted a video excerpt of my Brexit debate appearance (and the full show is available here), and my tweet about the show got nowhere, although my disgust at a fellow guest drew some sympathetic reaction on Facebook. I’ve taught 2 courses this year at the College of Europe (which is a pretty prestigious place if you are impressed by those things), but one of my fellow teachers is better at shouting about it than I am – the most I did was post a couple of pics of a grey Bruges. I spoke at LSE’s German Symposium on a panel with a CJEU Judge but… yeah but apart from a sarcastic post on Facebook and a tweet about the topic that got very little traction there was not any trace of it online. Meanwhile I would expect an interview in Slovenia’s main daily newspaper to probably generate rather little traction, and I have not even made anything out of these quotes for Al Jazeera.

Looking a bit further back 2019 was a good year for my political analysis – my three series of Brexit diagrams each got the respective stages of Brexit right (delay, then election, then Johnson victory and Brexit by 31 January), and even my tactical voting efforts worked out remarkably well – my prediction record was at least as good as sites that threw a hell of a lot of money at the problem. There was probably a fair dose of good luck in all of that, but I am not sure my analysis of either of these issues was worse than that delivered by people who would be considered as “experts” by the London political elite. But that’s not what I would considered to be. But whether my predictions were successful or not is not central to my relative irrelevance to these debates – a lack of self promotion is probably at least as much the cause.

So then the question is this: what do I actually do about this?

Selfie and self promote the hell out of this, because everyone else is, even though I find myself rather repulsed by it all?

Or stick to my principles and to try to highlight topics and issues that are important, boost others (whether famous or not), and continue behaving as I have?


  1. Great article, with very relevant thoughts! Lots of people should be asking themselves this. It’s hard to resist the temptation to self-promote because everyone else seems to be doing it (and what are they getting out of it?), but I think it’s eventually better to stay true to yourself.

  2. V9Poker

    Great post.

    “I have an almost complete set of photos of the south and north banks of the river between Westminster and Tower bridges in the late 1940s, and the plan for a future post is to bring these all together and document a trip along the river showing how both sides have changed in the intervening 70 years.”

    Wonder if that might have the makings of an London Topographical Society publication? 🙂

    Sherly Claudia

  3. Christopher Wicks

    Do you own a cat? I find that writing or sharing political comment or analysis will get a very small reaction but give me greatest satisfaction. Posting a picture of our cat or even an occasional selfie will reassure me there are people out there looking at stuff I share on FB. Interestingly quite a lot of unlikely friends tell me that my political commentary is interesting and appreciated. It may well be something you wrote to which I’ve added a one liner.

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