Social media: some people love it, some people hate it. I love it and hate it (depending on the day/platform we are talking about). But however you feel about it, there is no question that social media is a powerful force in our society and is where many of us spend our time. It is an incredible way to network and to discover small businesses, inspirational people, or really adorable animal reels. It is a tool which can be quite powerful when used the right way.
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to be authentic—true to who you are—on a platform where you can curate your image. So how does one maintain their authenticity while navigating these sites? Here are five things that have helped me approach social media in an honest way.
Remember you are dealing with real people.
Remembering I am dealing with actual human beings helps me be intentional about what I am posting. I want to share something that will bring a smile to my friends’ faces! It also impacts how I comment, if I love a photo, I want to let my friends know. If this were an in-person interaction; my friends would be able to see my smile. I try to be good about interacting with the people on the platform. It also impacts how I respond to comments; I am more grateful that people took the time out of their day to view my content, and I try not to get too worked up if I get a negative comment. I know that the people who are seeing my content are complex just like me—they have their own history, hopes, and dreams.
Do not lie.
This one is obvious but not always easy. And here is the thing, I actually love good camera angles, great hair days, and fun memories, and that is OK. Fun (helpful) filters can add some jazz to a photo. The photographer side of me appreciates some editing like brightening and adding a little color saturation (usually because the photo didn’t capture the correct color in the first place). I think that those are fun tools at our disposal and using those things can help give our page the look we want, as long as are honest about it. I don’t want to ever pretend that a filter is real life or that my dress-ups look is actually make-up free. And more importantly I don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not on social media. It is not ok if I go to a boring party and share photos of it afterwards, raving about how it is the best day ever. It is OK if I don’t get along with everyone, but pretending to be besties in order to boost my following is definitely not authentic. Social pressures and the desire for more followers can make it tempting to stretch the truth or push it to the side completely, but honesty is an integral part of authenticity.
Be intentional with your social media use.
Why am I on these platforms? I want to stay in touch with friends and so when I post something, I try to think about how this can brighten their day. I also want to expand my audience as an author so I want to make sure that I am letting people know what I’m working on. I never want to waste time getting lost on random reels, I want to make sure that I am being intentional and honest with myself about why I am using these platforms.
Remember that your profile cannot sum up all that you are as a person.
It just cannot. We can share pictures or sentences on these platforms but they do not fully capture who we are. We are complex creatures with unique backgrounds, interests, and dreams. We can share a piece of ourselves on social media platforms, but it is important to understand that we will never be able to share everything we are. Hopefully, this is incredibly freeing. We do not have to share everything about ourselves to be authentic, because it is impossible. There is sometimes a pressure to share more and be vulnerable if you want to be authentic; if there is ever something that you feel like is too personal for all your hundreds (or thousands) of followers to know about you, that is OK. It does not have to mean the end of authenticity. I admire the people who share vulnerably on their platforms; they are often a great source of inspiration. However, I also follow many people for a specific reason: plant tips, healthy recipes, or because they live abroad and I want to follow their adventures. I do not need to know every detail of their lives, but I do want them to be authentic in the way they share.
What people say about you says more about them than you.
The final things to keep in mind when trying to be authentic on social media is understanding that the haters gonna hate. There are so many different views and people in this world that it makes sense that there are going to be some miscommunications or frustrations when dealing with all the people we come into contact with on social media platforms. Not being able to read people’s face expressions or get to know them in person amplifies the struggle it can be to communicate with people who think differently. Remembering that everyone is a person can help but, at the end of the day, there may be people who just can’t understand where you are coming from and that is OK. They have their own journey. To be absolutely clear: this does NOT make cyber-bullying or hate speech ok. Block the haters if need be! But remember, that their words do not define you. What they say does not define who you are. It is important to keep sharing and commenting as authentically as possible, because that is who you are.