3126124170_da01234924_o Here's a simple suggestion when considering whether your profiles and activity online are "authentic": if someone who only knew you online met you in person would they be surprised?

No one should ever be surprised by your appearance or your behaviour because you are the same person online and as you are offline. The online you matches the in-person you. I think it is unwise to risk deceiving and likely disappointing people who otherwise had no expectations of you except for the inaccurate and inauthentic version of you that you carefully cultivated for them.

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” ― Donald MillerA Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

Why is authenticity important?

Many people are complaining that the word authentic is over-used and has lost its meaning (here are a few). That may be true but words often lose their impact when their meaning is forgotten.

Here are the first definitions for the word "authentic" from Dictionary.com:

  1. not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.
  2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified...

Relationships are investments we ask others to make in us and no one wants to make a bad investment. So, like it or not, we carefully choose who we'd like to get to know better based on the evidence we have and we invest accordingly. And just like buying a product that doesn't match the marketed promises, disappointment can lead a person to devalue their investment and invest no more.

Who wants that? Some even define the difference between expectations and reality as stress! Who wants to cause stress to a potential friend?

By removing the filters and presenting ourselves as authentically as possible we can have confidence that few will be cashing in the investments they have made in us. We can trust that they know the real us and that our relationship won't be undermined by some revealed truth in the future. Authenticity puts our relationships on a more sure footing.

We all do it.

We have all written resumes that embellish, put on clothes, makeup, or a hairstyle that skews our appearance, and changed our vocabulary to match the person we're talking to.

Most of us find it hard to talk about ourselves. A few years ago when reviewing my online profiles I found it hard work to come up with creative ways to explain myself. So I decided to stop it and make it simple. I started with "culture change excites me", because it does, and I went from there. My avatars turned into simple pics of my face in the kind of clothes I wear every day (I wear a suit and tie maybe a dozen times each year) and my most recent pic was taken by my wife, unplanned, on a day I hadn't shaved (which is once or twice a week).

The goal is to be you. We are already interesting and attractive to people who we would want to get to know better and possibly work with or else why would we? The effort to deceive always backfires.

Take a look at your profiles and some of the things you have shared recently and ask your friends to do the same for you. Then ask; would someone be surprised by any of it if they met you and spoke to you in person?