Awhile back, a Facebook friend I’ll call Darla, fell sick and gave us a blow-by-blow account of just how crappy she felt. She frequently updated her status to keep us abreast of each new symptom and each successive level of misery.
Although I really didn’t care to hear every detail, I must say that her boldness captivated me.
I thought back to last year when I had the flu. I tried to be light [dare I say witty?] when I updated my social media. “I have reached a state of perfect oneness with the coach,” I remember professing on Twitter and Facebook. It was clever and glib and didn’t begin to express the discomfort or inconvenience I was experiencing.
Reflecting on Darla’s style and mine, I’ve been thinking about authenticity in our personal social media brand. Darla was certainly authentic in her TMI. Often lately I feel that some of us might be guilty of the opposite; withholding struggles, routinely giving bad news a Pollyanna spin (“Granny was hit by a bus. Although we’re devastated, the good news is they paid for the funeral and we get free transit for life!”) and perpetuating relentlessly perky personal brands at the expense of our honesty and authenticity.
Sometimes our updates sound like we’re serially writing one of those annoyingly chipper holiday letters, one line at a time. “My husband got another promotion, making him the youngest VP in company history. Oh, and he was selected by People magazine as one of the 50 hottest hunks of all time! Again.”
You know what I mean?
There’s nothing wrong with sharing joys and successes and I certainly believe in being positive and optimistic. All I wonder is whether we leave room to express the more wrenching side of life. Can we say, “Well, that was a shitty day. I’m going out for tacos and a pitcher of margaritas.” Or “Crap, I really screwed up at work. I wonder if I still have a job.” Or “Well, that day sucked. Next?”
I know I can’t. I seem to be unable to say any of those things. I have deleted so many authentic-yet-potentially negative posts before hitting the “update” button.
Mark Stelzner recently made a point of being more real on social media. And he has let an F-bomb or two fly. While I’m not going to go that far, because for me that wouldn’t be authentic, I certainly took notice and admired him for stepping out there.
He told me he feels like he “has the risk profile to be able to truly put myself out there and let people self-select if they like the ‘real me’ or not. I agree that there are a lot of people who are trying to build a very deliberate representation of who they’d like to be perceived as (versus who they really are). I understand in the context of keeping your job, maintaining your privacy, and staying sane.”
Well said, Mark.
I also wonder whether we HR types are especially prone to over-censoring ourselves online. We are so used to being discreet, maintaining confidentiality, being as politically correct as our workplace cultures require, as well as constantly putting the best possible spin on everything – from the increased cost of healthcare to the need to attend mandatory sexual harassment training or explaining why Ray no longer works here – that we are not always well-practiced at being real, putting it all out there, and being ourselves.
I’ve been writing this post over a space of weeks and during that time, I’ve tried to crank out more of my own negative/’real’/gritty posts and I don’t think I’ve made much headway.
One of my few ‘successes’ was when I wrote, “I can honestly say this is the worst movie I’ve seen all year.” That was written on January 6 (which might change the context a little) and I’m still goofing around, but I promise – I”m working on it. I’m getting there!
Or maybe wry and glib *is* my authentic voice. I can live with that.
What is your voice online? Do you struggle with being authentic? Do you question others? Tell me in the comments section.
Photo by biogenesis