Now that social media is a huge part of how we communicate these days, and because building your platform is a key element for visibility, the word “authentic” is being bandied about, but what exactly does that mean?
Mirriam-Webster lists several definitions, including these two:
- not false or imitation : real, actual < an authentic cockney accent>
- true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character <is sincere and authentic with no pretensions>
Whatever the official definition, it’s interesting to note that the word authentic means different things to different people.
- I’m sure you’ve witnessed that certain someone on social media who tells ALL and simply does not know when to stop. He or she believes being genuine means sharing everything, warts and all. The idea of too much information (TMI) does not apply to this person.
- For others, it means not caring about how they look, e.g., wearing very casual clothes (like pajamas), shooting video without wearing any makeup and little or no concern about lighting. Winging it and just speaking off the top of their heads about anything and everything is fairly common with this mindset. (And by the way, when it comes to media and doing interviews, this is never OK. When others tell you to “just relax and be yourself,” that means be your very best self at the top of your game. It means to be your best self as in when you’re speaking on stage, or meeting a potential joint venture partner for the first time. –Not the casual you sitting at home vegging on the coach in your jammies.)
- Still others choose to share their deepest, emotional confusion via Facebook Live, or some other platform, convinced this is what they must do to remain relevant.
These definitions of being authentic may be fine if you have social accounts simply to share with friends, but if you have a book and a business you want to share with the world, then it’s important to be aware of how you come across. (I know this seems like a no-brainer, but it’s rather fascinating how many don’t seem to embrace this notion. Perhaps you’ve seen it and you know what I’m talking about.)
On the other hand, in our social world, people like to do business with people they like and trust, so sharing things about yourself is important. No one wants to do business with a resume or someone who doesn’t share anything personal about themselves. (Those who don’t share at all, or continue to have a profile picture that isn’t even a picture) just don’t seem to get the social concept.
When you watch other professionals around you falling into the “Am I being authentic enough?” trap, one can start to wonder what’s expected of himself or herself. If everyone else is over sharing, does that mean I have to, too? What if I really don’t want to share at all?
There is a huge difference between being real and having no boundaries. It’s like going out on a first date and telling the other person every little flaw you have. They go running for the hills, which is exactly what they should do.
So how much is enough? How much is too much?
As is the case with most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Here are some thoughts to consider:
- Think about your brand. What do your readers, customers and clients expect from you? Is sharing everything about your personal life a part of your brand? Then it might be appropriate for you to do so. However, even if that is the case, it’s still smarter to leave your deepest, darkest secrets where they belong (deep inside you) rather than visible to the entire world.
- Consider your own sense of what feels right. If you read or listen to someone who is clearly over sharing and you find yourself cringing, then that obviously would be too much for you.
- Each person has to decide for himself or herself what works. There really is no “one size fits all” when it comes to authenticity.
- If you tend to lean toward sharing very little about yourself, challenge that. It may mean you need to open up a little more about who you are and what you’re about.
I call this having a “public-private self.” When I was in radio broadcasting, it was the first thing I had to develop in order to build rapport with my audience. Now that everyone has a platform, each person has to figure out what being authentic means to him or her.
Question to ask yourself: When it comes to personal matters, what are the things you’re willing to share and what is strictly off limits? Being clear on this can be very helpful in determining what’s OK to talk about, and what’s not OK.
And remember: whenever you hear or read about someone telling you what you have to do to be authentic, take it with a grain of salt. There is no one definition for everyone. It’s up to each of us individually.
So where do you stand with the question of authenticity? What’s OK to share, and what is off limits? Always curious…
To your success!
P.S. I love this video on authenticity from Will Smith as he was being interviewed by Charlie Rose.
He tells it like it is.
P.P.S. Are we connected on social media yet? Let’s!