The Importance of Authenticity Online

by Kristen Abell

Recently, I’ve been struggling with this idea of being authentic online – not because I think I’m not authentic, but because I know for a fact that there is someone who isn’t. Every time this person tweets or blogs about being professional, I have the strong urge to punch something because I know it’s completely inaccurate. I know that in person, this individual has demonstrated a number of unprofessional behaviors, and the fact that this same individual is touted for their professionalism online just burns a little bit – okay, a lot.

But what can I do? I can’t control this person’s online behavior any more than I can control their offline behavior. Nor is it my job or responsibility to do so. So why does this bug me so much?

The reason it bugs me is that it tends to throw a pallor over everyone I’ve met online but have yet to meet face to face. How do I know they’re being authentic online? If it’s this easy for one person to convince those who follow him/her that they are the real deal, wouldn’t it be just as easy for someone else to do the same thing? And frankly, doesn’t this throw a shadow over my reputation online and off, as well?

But again, I can’t control this person’s online behavior. So here’s what I can do…

  • I can be the most authentic me online that I know how to be. This doesn’t mean sharing every detail about my life, but it does mean that I share my faults as well as my successes. It means I don’t have multiple Twitter or Facebook identities, and I’m both a person and a professional on whatever I do have.
  • I can choose to unfollow and not promote those who I know to be false online personalities – even if they’re popular or the flavor of the day.
  • I can trust people – if I choose to not trust anyone on the basis of this one person, I’m falling prey to their behavior just as much as if I believed and praised their online behavior. Truthfully, I believe that most of us are pretty authentic online, and there are a few people who choose not to be, who choose to use this medium to be someone else. I don’t need to base my trust on those few.
  • I can encourage and educate others on being authentic online in the hopes that the scales will continue to balance towards us instead of those few who aren’t.
  • I can quit letting this person get to me so much – fine, that’s easier said than done, but it’s something I can work on.

No, I can’t control this person’s online behavior, but I can continue to work on authenticity online.

How do you build trust and authenticity online?

The Importance of Authenticity Online