The question of authenticity online seems to be a quest for the impossible.
Some bloggers criticise the current state of authenticity online, stating that the “pursuit of personal branding has severely tarnished social media as a whole“. What I can’t seem to grasp is how can you decide if someone is inauthentic? What if they really are that shallow? Dark? Sarcastic? Funny?
Who decided that social media was to be uber confessional? Have I missed something?
How is online personal branding any different from real life?
What if we are high monitoring social beings who only want to put their best foot forward? Or we have a high need for social approval in real life that they amplify that online?
Ultimately, to be authentic you need to be real and true, not fake. Does that mean you have to reveal EVERYTHING?
Is a stripper more authentic than me because I wear clothes to work? Is a flasher more authentic because he reveals more of himself than you’d ever care to see? No.
Being approved as “authentic” is an impossible quest. You will never satisfy everyone’s desire to feel they really know you.
It’s not going to happen. Even if you were to post pictures of your colonoscopy online or your the ultrasound of your baby inutero there will always be the question of doubt – did it really happen?
Do you own those images? (Please note: I have NOT recommended putting images of your internal organs online. Not ever. Especially not around lunchtime).
There may even be a backlash from people asking WHY you did that.
You can never win.
Last week I decided to to do some basic research on perceptions. I asked a simple question on Facebook
The results were interesting (and quite flattering actually) it made me realise that I do a good job of projecting a positive image online.
- 33 people responded to my question
- All were female, 19 are mothers
- 15 I have never met in real life
- 2 I have met once
- 8 I have not seen in years
- 1 is a family member
Do we have to put everything online?
Some say you need to be honest online. Really? Why? Honest about what? Does it add to the relationship? Perhaps.
Does revealing your dark side make you more authentic?
I don’t know. Maybe. I’ve revealed things on my other blog that have brought me closer to some in my community, some then found the similar experience too hard to deal with and disappeared. The dark side may be a part of you. I know mine does not define me so why should I have to talk about it?
Usually I don’t tell people that I am terrified of the dark, I have a fear of being alone, even for a few hours, and I used to suffer from panic attacks when I had to walk into a room full of people I didn’t know. I developed coping strategies for a number of these fears. I’d assume an alter ego – it was still me. Just an exaggerated part of me. Is that inauthentic?
What about those who fabricated stories to establish a connection with certain readers? Yes, it does happen. Would that bother you? Michelle Garrett put forward an interesting question about how people would feel if after a period of time they realised that the blog they were following was actually fake and none of it ever existed.
Every one of us has a unique past. We are all complex individuals. Just because you may present a different persona online does not make you two-faced, inauthentic or a fake.
What do you think? Is the quest for authenticity online impossible?
Photo credit: http://www.jmorganmarketing.com/