Brad Paisley puts it perfectly “I’m so much cooler online…” (Watch the video, it’s pretty funny!)
We have all developed a “persona” that we present online. It is a combination of our avatars, pictures, videos, words, actions, reactions, everything that we allow the public to see on their screens. But how much of that public online persona is who we really are? If I chat with you on Twitter or some other social networking site, view pictures of you on Facebook or Flickr, read your blog, watch your videos, listen to your podcast or even just look at your avatar is the person I am interacting with online going to be the same person I would meet at a cocktail party, a business meeting or a networking function? Will you look the same? Will you talk the same? Will your attitudes and behaviors be the same?
Would I recognize you offline?
The words “authentic”, “transparent” and “real” are bandied about with pronouncements for everyone to be these things. But what do they mean? When taken in their normal context the meanings are pretty self-explanatory. When these terms relate to social media/social networking, they really are not that different. Defining them in the online space is easier when you ask a few simple questions.
Are you “authentic”? Is what you say and how you say it online consistent with the way you talk and the things you talk about offline? Are your actions consistent online and offline? Or is what you say and how you act online based on who you think your online community expects you to be, as opposed to how you think/talk/act offline? We all want to present ourselves in the best manner possible. Sometimes being online is like being on a very long first date. But, just as naturally happens in a relationship, sometimes you have to let your faults show. It is what makes us human and what maintains relationships beyond that initial attraction. So is your online self a true reflection of your offline self?
Are you “transparent” enough – Do you share enough online that I would feel I know you if we met in real life? This does not mean that I need to know every meal you eat, every person you date, every tiny detail of your life. It simply means that you are sharing information and engaging in conversations that exchange information that give me insights into who you are as a person and what you do.
Are you “real”? Would you treat me the same way offline that you do online – show the same interest in my well-being, in my life, in my business? It comes back again to – Are your actions, words, behaviors consistent on and off-line?
So now that you have asked yourself these questions – Think about the answers? If you are not sure and even if you are, ask someone that you trust who knows you both off & online. Are you the same on & offline? Would I recognize you offline?