Authenticity is hot – almost as hot as sustainability or minimalism.
How much of you do you share online?
How much of you is enough, and how much is too much?
A recent article on Copyblogger, titled Why People Don’t Want the “Real” You, sparked an interesting discussion on authenticity.
In this piece, Brian Clark states you should always have your customers in mind and tell them the stories about you that they want to hear, to help them tell their own stories.
He believes, however, that you shouldn’t share all stories of who you are – just the ones that resonate with your audience.
Your story absolutely matters, but only to the extent that it helps people tell the story they want to tell about themselves.
Am I telling you to be fake?
No, I’m telling you to get your head in the right place.
Focus on them.
Match them with aspects of yourself, your products, and your services. But never forget that you’re helping them tell their own stories as you create your own.
I love helping people tell their story, but here’s where I disagree: I am a person, not a persona.
Chris Brogan puts it even bolder in his article I Am Not Authentic, when he states the following:
None of us are authentic, unless we suffer from some serious mental disorders. We all filter. It’s part of what makes the world work. If we were completely and utterly authentic, we’d have no friends, no loved ones, no business.
Wait, what? Being authentic is now a mental disorder?
To me, being authentic means being real, true, pure, raw and open. And sure, that’s not always easy to do – but it’s definitely a lot healthier!
The Difference Between a Person and a Persona
I am the same person both online and offline.
I value honestly and openness, although I do know where to draw the line of too much information.
I don’t see the advantage in creating an online persona: a prettier, polished version of myself. Maybe that would attract a larger following or sell better, but it just wouldn’t feel right to me.
Life is not all rainbows and ponies and I’m a real human being. Just like you, I have my off-days and difficult moments – and I don’t mind you knowing that.
I like to read about both your successes and failures, your best and not-so-pretty moments in life.
There’s life in awkward. There’s truth in errors.
Your stories are what make you human.
Being Authentic Online
I firmly believe people want to connect with real personalities, not brands. Or, as Chase Night puts it when he explains that being a werewolf is not his brand:
There’s no point in writing if you don’t want people to know who you are.
Or take this example.
For April Fools, Joshua Millburn played around with the idea of being real versus being a brand. He announced, jokingly, that he hadn’t actually quit his six-figure job to pursue a minimalist lifestyle. Let’s say his readers were… not amused.
The bottom line: stories only matter when the people are being real.
You can’t be inspired by people who only show you the very best parts of their lives, who have breakfast on the beach every morning and who don’t ever complain about the sand between their toes.
Give your audience the best you’ve got – but don’t be afraid to show your shadow side as well.
You might be surprised to see others identify with your quirks, your struggles and your hardship.
It might actually inspire them more than your success stories.
The picture above this tale shows me, waking up in Santiago de Chile back in 2007. The effect on it is not made by Instagram or Photoshop. It’s simply the reflection of my dirty apartment window.
My boyfriend loves this picture, because it reminds him of “an old movie in which you preferably play yourself”.
Think about that for a minute.
A movie in which you preferably play yourself.
Are you playing a role online? Are you a person or a persona?