How to Be Authentic in The Online World
It’s becoming exceedingly frustrating to be authentic in the online world because we’re constantly pulled away from being our authentic self. You know, the online world where influences live, original brands thrive and solopreneurs are popping up left and right.
Every day we’re bombarded by online experts telling us how to best build an audience, or a following. We’re told left and right that x, y, and z are the best practices and that we have to do them in order to be successful at the ‘online game’. In fact, I have followed many tips from these experts, even at the expense of my own internal compass.
When I found myself feeling uneasy about a particular prevalent activity in this space, I consoled myself with “What the heck do I know about this subject matter? I’m not an expert, they are!” This flawed way of thinking led to many bouts of anxiety and depression because I felt that I HAD to do what everyone else did, else I’d face dead ends.
But then something clicked.
I had a few conversations with other introverts that felt the exact same way I did about online practices. It opened my eyes to the truth that I don’t have to do what others are doing. It might not be a ‘proven’ way yet by the so-called experts, but it feels right to me, and being authentic in the online world and to myself is more important than following the herd.
I have the privilege of having a full-time job that keeps me financially stable. So anything that I do with my side hustle comes from a genuine place of passion and love. As a Sr. Functional Analyst at a Fortune 500 Company in the United States, I’m lucky to have enough time to myself to pursue Honestrox as a project. I don’t need to strategize, purchase every tool available out there, or sell myself out in order to make it’.
For me, ‘making it’ means having the freedom to post what I want and when I want. Since I don’t depend on this website to feed my son, I can play around and be authentic to myself. I like to think that even if that weren’t the case, that I would still refuse to do the following 5 things, but one never knows how they’ll react when dire times are afoot.
It’s because of this freedom that I refuse to do certain things that seem commonplace in the online space these days. While I’ve been influenced by each one of them in the past and believed that I had to follow suit. I’ve recently chosen to be more authentic to my true self and forgo all these so-called ‘best practices’ that garner attention. It’s my goal moving forward to act according to my best instincts. Because every time I’ve gone against many of them, I ended up taking the hit mentally.
Here are 5 things to do to be authentic in the online world
1) Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not
This is the foundation of authenticity, as the first rule is to truly honour yourself. There are plenty of things the mega-influencers do that I simply cannot bring myself to.
For example, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen this pose before: pretty girl/boy, arms wide open, smiling and laughing in the middle of the street. Or a field. Or in a chair. Whatever the ambience, it’s always the same forced picture to denote an air of confidence, even if it’s the last thing they’re feeling at that moment. They could be crying behind the scenes, but oh how much fun they’re having in front of the camera! As an introvert, I cringe at the thought of such a pose because it’s not my personality.
There’s a huge trend of showing up at your best, from every single angle, all the time. There’s a reason why people follow influencers – because they’ve mastered the art of illusion. I’ve never been a giddy, top of the mornin’ to ya kind of gal, so I have a difficult time resonating with these pictures. I don’t smile without a reason and I certainly can’t pull off pretending to laugh because it’s not who I am. Gosh, I totally prefer my resting bitch face over faking a smile.
It’s definitely something I struggle with but I’ve come to realize that I’m not serving anyone by pretending I’m someone I’m not. That’s not the goal I want to achieve, even though that’s what gathers attention these days. If there is such a picture in my feed, it’s because it was caught unintentionally and it spoke to me. Otherwise, I refuse to do this.
2) Consider your gut first before following a sketchy trend
I recently learned about the phenomenon of ‘follow to be followed’ and I’m honestly stumped. If this is the type of world we operate in now, I want nothing to do with it. Show me your authentic self, and I’ll show you mine. If I choose to follow you it’s because you inspire me or you’re teaching me something, not because I want you to follow me back.
What kind of Instagram game is this where superficiality wins above everything else? If you practice this, what kind of business are you creating for yourself? It’s anything but genuine, which is why I refuse to do it.
As an introvert, I crave deep and meaningful relationships. I have no time for such games that take me away from an honest connection with someone. This is about staying true to your principles because there comes a time in everyone’s life when we have to make a decision about whether we want to participate in a common practice that might not fit into our worldview.
Personally, I want the people who follow me to be interested in what I have to say, and not because I tricked them into it. I would only be tricking myself. Honestly, my biggest win is when someone finds me and they follow me because they think I’m either funny, inspirational or a total weirdo. That’s the biggest compliment I can get. It’s mostly for this reason that I choose to not follow that many accounts so that I can create a genuine following.
3) Choose value and honour above all else
I get hit with so many valueless targeted ads that I’ve had it. I see this in my feed all the time. The same faces keep popping up. It’s overdone. Provide value and content instead of trying to sell off your ‘free system’ that got you 2k clients. It’s so uninteresting, I can’t imagine it working long-term.
As an introvert, not only do I find it extremely uncomfortable pushing my own agenda, but I can spot it immediately when others do it. It’s not something I want to practice in my own business. I believe content, community, and purpose-driven value are the key factors in building an audience.
Some do it wonderfully and you can feel their genuine desire to help you solve a problem, but the majority almost seem predatory. I’ve definitely promoted my content plenty of times, especially if there’s a blog post I think will resonate with people, but I don’t think I’ll post ads that benefit me directly. There’s a very distinct difference between the two and I strongly believe people can spot it. As an introvert, putting myself out there is uncomfortable enough, I can’t imagine having to create ads that just end up annoying people.
4) Listen to your compass before following a best practice
I caved in and smothered my website with ‘opt-in freebies’. I plastered them all over my website, even though it made me feel ‘icky’ and uncomfortable inside. Who is this girl all over my pages prompting people to join her list in exchange for a self-promoting document?
I recently came to the conclusion that I’ve been too indoctrinated into this online world that continuously pushes everyone towards the same end goal. Those who are actually seeking help are overwhelmed by all of these practices employed by the ‘experts’.
I decided to follow my instinct and go back to basics. It’s not that I don’t have any freebies hidden within some pages, but they are not prominent or my sole-focus in attracting an audience anymore. I refuse to do this anymore. I went against my gut the entire time and now that I’ve changed my strategy, it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Don’t be afraid to follow your gut feeling, only you know what works for you.
5) Challenge the status quo on what success means
Ah yes, the epitome of success. 1M followers, 10k likes and 1k comments per post. Hallelujah, what a goal to strive for. It’s impossible to keep up with the Kardashians or to mentally stay sane in such a sea full of competition. So what, unless 1M followers result in £1M in sales, it’s futile to exert this energy on such a goal.
I’ve decided to give myself the freedom to post what I want and when I want, without the pressure of always having to look at my insights and stats. Success to me is when someone relates so much to what I have to say that they choose to open up with their own story and connect with me.
If people like what I have to say, they can follow me, else it will all remain part of my legacy. I will not follow to follow, buy an exorbitant amount of ads, or participate in click-farms. I choose to not focus on likes, followers and comments. There are more important aspects of my business to focus on than knowing that someone out there liked one of my poses.
As an introvert, this is the most challenging aspect of being an ‘online personality’ because it can really get to me and bring me down if my expectations aren’t met. And that usually happens when I have the wrong set of expectations.
At some point, I might expand or remove some of these items, but for now, this is where my heart’s at. It’s a daily struggle where I need to make sure I’m staying true to myself and to my goals, and that I’m also doing what I can to expose myself to the world. It’s a tricky game to play, and one that definitely costs some tears here and there, but ultimately at the end of the day I need to live with myself first.
Because if I don’t like myself, the success achieved through these means won’t mean anything ultimately.
So think about your own authenticity. What is it that you’re currently doing that doesn’t feel right? That gives you an uneasy feeling when you do it? Think about why you’re doing it and then try to come up with an alternative that agrees with your gut. If you find yourself following others online because that’s ‘how it’s done’ but you’re going against your own principles, you need to stop and ask yourself if you’re being true to yourself.
We can’t all be Tony Robbins or Marie Forleo. Nor should we want to. We need our own voices to push through the noise. And that can only be achieved successfully once we stop trying to be everyone else but our own authentic self.
Featured image by Brooke Lark
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