The other night I was hanging out on TweetDiner, an excellent Twitter chat hosted by Margie Clayman (@margieclayman) and Stanford Smith, aka @pushingsocial. On this particular evening, the regular hosts were off for the night and stand-ins Ian Rountree (@ianmrountree) and Jeannette Baer (@myagenda) were running the show.
The topic for the night was authenticity and transparency, which generated some heated debate and got me thinking about the meaning – or even the possibility – of being authentic.
(Ian wrote a great summary of the TweetDiner session. Read it at ianmrountree.com.
Are You Authentic?
When was the last time you met someone who admitted being “fake”? It’s a common accusation among the middle-school set, and one that sneaks up in adult life as well. When it’s hurled at us, it stings. “Am not!” you scream (maybe just in your head). We all like to think we’re being the real us, all of the time. But are we?
I made the comment on the chat that “I think if you have to work hard to be authentic, you’re probably not.” I stand by that statement, but I also believe that sometimes, we’re inauthentic without meaning to be. Just look at the world we live in and ask yourself, “How is it even possible to be authentic?”
Welcome to the Artificial Age
Long before the day internet crawled into our pockets on a smartphone, we were well on our way down the path of hiding our real selves. From artificial Christmas trees to artificial limbs, we celebrate advances in technology that make our lives “better.”
- We live on artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors and artificial preservatives.
- We decorate our homes and offices with artificial plants.
- We wear pleather instead of leather (if you’re into that kind of thing).
- We disguise our natural selves with make-up and hair dye and wrinkle serum.
- When all else fails, we resort to plastic surgery…or another miracle invention, Spanx.
So how do we even know what the real thing is?
How to Be Real
Is being real or authentic online being the best, ideal you? Or is it more about being you, warts and all? If you want to put your best foot forward, are you inauthentic, or just optimistic? Is it wrong to use the internet to create a persona for yourself in the hopes that people will see you for who you want to be?
As I’ve debated this notion between my real self and my best self, I’ve reached this conclusion: Being authentic online means being you. If that’s someone who cares to keep up appearances and is never seen in public without a hair out of place, feel free to be the same online. If you’re more like me and tend to trip on your shoelaces from time to time, let it show.
Being authentic doesn’t mean you have to expose every vice. Share what you’re comfortable with so people know you’re human, but keep in mind that too much sharing can be as bad as hiding something. Both will backfire.
Finally, remember the Wizard of Oz. Hide your real self, and sooner or later the truth will be discovered. When it is, you’ll lose whatever credibility you thought you had, and that’s not worth the risk.
If you have to stop and think, “Is this me?” it probably isn’t.
What do you think?
Image by: Le fay