I often get asked how I’m able to manage my social media presence. The question confuses me. “What do you mean? How do I physically manage the different accounts where I am active?” “No,” they clarify, “How do you maintain your authentic self? How do separate the personal from the professional?”
It’s an interesting question, and one that gets asked more and more since social media has made it possible to be everywhere at once. But at the end of the day, it’s still a question that, for me, has a simple answer. There is no need to maintain a personal and a professional. I am the same person online as in person, whether I am working with a client or having coffee with a friend. I am the same person on Facebook as I am on Twitter or Instagram.
The reason that some people have difficulty maintaining their authentic self is because they’re trying to be someone different than who they really are. Now, I happen to be a nice person who subscribes to a personal philosophy that comes down to “don’t be a douche.” It works for me because it’s hard for me to really mean. Mostly I’m nice. When I am not nice — I own up to it. I take responsibility for it.
For some people, they may need an alter ego to get them through tough times. That’s cool, provided neither your alter ego nor your authentic self is a horrible person. Social media is about transparency. It’s meant to add clarity. So if you’re uncomfortable with that, social media isn’t going to make it better.
I was reading an article in the New York Times this morning about Louis C.K. It was an interview and he was asked how he has learned to adapt to his celebrity status online. Sometime, ad hoc comments can be taken out context or can spiral out of control. Louis C.K.’s replied:
It’s a desperate thing to need everybody to be really happy with everything you say. To me the way to manage is not to have 50 versions of yourself — I do this thing, and the next time you’re going to hear me is the next time I do another one. As soon as you crack your knuckles and open up a comments page, you just canceled your subscription to being a good person.
I’ve noticed that sometimes people reserve one platform for their true self, in which they feel safe to rant, rave or otherwise make off-color remarks. Obviously, feeling comfortable is great — but it’s not a safe space. Online is not private. If you’re okay with being called out or having those comments revealed to others, fine. But for many, they are not. Who you are in real life — when you’re tired, frustrated, angry and vulnerable — may not always be exposed to others — you have more control over when someone interacts with you. But online, you’re on display. Your words are available 24 hours. And it can be much harder to explain yourself in 140 characters.
What’s my point? I guess it’s that, like Louis C.K. says — whether you’re representing yourself or an organization, don’t have 50 versions of yourself. It’s exhausting and hard to maintain. If you’re trying to be too many things to too many people on too many platforms, you’re not living up to the transparency of social media, nor are your being true to yourself (or your brand). If people like you, they’ll want to work with you. Also, if you’re a good worker, but have a tired personality, they’ll still work with you because you’re good at what you do. What won’t work is if you’re being disingenuous or over-compensating for something.
Are you a nice person? Do you treat people well? Do you do your best to be a good person? Then you’ve got nothing to hide from the world.
Photo credit: culturelabel.com