Transparency is Optional, Authenticity is Not

In the last few years, I’ve been in the enviable position of sharing most of my personal life online. I have shared much of my weight loss journey, I debate politics and theology, I share off-color jokes and videos, and most recently – I shared an evening out where I had quite a few drinks. I’m still not totally transparent online, but I’m absolutely authentic.

My so-called transparency is a luxury. I’m approaching 50 years old, I have my own business, I live a quaint life with no desire to accumulate millions. My friends love that I share so much online and the businesses I work with know and love me. Other acquaintances sometimes don’t appreciate it… with murmurs of foolishness and buffoonery. I have enough friends and clients, though, so I don’t care about what others think.

I don’t regret sharing anything I have online. I feel strongly that other people should hear my struggles and see the good and bad of life. I believe too many of us maintain a false persona online. We post photos of our perfect family, our perfect meal, our perfect vacation, our perfect house… and I’m not sure it actually helps. Imagine being a struggling professional or business owner and just reading update after update on how the world is rosy and business is good day after day, one might wonder if they’re actually cut out for this.

My transparency is not me trying to ruin nor build my reputation online, it’s simply me. I share so much to let other folks know that I have good days, bad days, terrible days, and sometimes other little wins that I want to celebrate with others… or failures I could use some advice on. I want to be authentic so I share as much as I can within reason. (No one shares everything!)

When I see someone’s online life and only see perfection, it loses my interest and my belief that there’s any authenticity to the image they’re manufacturing. I grow bored and their words have little influence, if any. If they’re willing to lie about their life online, they’re probably willing to lie to me on other things.

The Transparency Scale

I will add that others are simply guarded because they do have to manage a tight ship… I respect that. If you’re rising in the industry and your goal is to advance in the boardroom, you don’t have much of a choice. We live in a very judgmental society and crafting a professional persona may be a necessity. And it may very well just be part of your personality to keep private things close and share the general things. In both those cases, it can still be authentic, though. I’m only criticizing the false personas.

Businesses rarely discuss the negative online and I don’t know any that are transparent. While half of all businesses are failing, you rarely hear anything online about a corporation’s struggles until it’s too late. In a difficult economy, that’s unfortunate. I think we need to share more about the challenges in our industry so more companies don’t have to make the same mistakes we’ve made.

My point is simply this… if all you share to your social network, customers and prospects is a false persona that everything is perfect, you’re not being transparent and you’re not going to be trusted. You are not authentic. If you share too much you run the risk of minimizing your opportunities because people are judgmental. You have to find a range of transparency that benefits you and/or your business. Mine is pretty open, but yours may not be. Proceed with caution.

Perhaps we should call our online strategy translucency, it might be a more accurate description.

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