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Is it Possible to ‘Be Yourself’ Online? No. And Stop Pretending It Is

Girls writing on laptop with watch and coffee mug

If you follow my Instagram stories, you may have noticed I took a little road trip with some close friends to Buffalo last weekend to catch the Bills game. It was 24 hours full of chicken wings, beer, tailgating, and football. I had SUCH a great time. This kinda weekend is totally my jam.

But I second guessed whether or not I would show it on Instagram. “Does this speak to a high end wedding client?,” “Is tailgating cool enough?” “The Bills colours are TOTALLY off brand!”

When you have a personal brand, you curate EVERYTHING you put on social media. Very carefully. And hey, in a sense, don’t we all have a “personal brand”, even if we’re not trying to sell something? We are all trying to put a version of ourselves out into the world that’s consistent, put together, and damn pretty.

So it begs the question.

Is it possible to truly be yourself on social media?

Here’s the thing. I love a good football game. But I ALSO love a fancy dinner at a nice restaurant. I love my Blundstones as much as a great pair of  leather ankle boots, and a can of IPA as much as a glass of Shiraz (well, almost). These likes and dislikes are all “me”.

But it’s hard to distill a personality, in all it’s nuances and contradictions, into a branded, consistent, colour coordinated online brand. In fact, its impossible.

So you can make a choice. You choose to hide certain parts of yourself because they don’t “fit” your brand.  You have to in order to be taken seriously as a business, especially as a photographer where your social media feed is expected to be extra, extra beautiful. And that’s okay.

But it’s NOT okay to pass your social media feed off as “the real you and your real life”. Not only is it simply a misrepresentation, BUT IT’S MAKING EVERYONE ELSE FEEL BAD.

According to this CNN article, Instagram is the worst of the social media apps when it comes to increasing anxiety and depression. Using it causes people, especially young women, “to compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality.”

Um, yeah, no kidding.

You see these people with their luxury vacations, their flawlessly applied make-up, and their impeccably designed living rooms and you feel like an inadequate, incompetent failure of life. What those people didn’t tell you is that vacation maxed out their credit card, they applied that make-up 6 times over 4 hours, and their 2 year old threw up all over the living room that they paid someone to design 30 minutes before that photo was taken.

What’s worse, there are services that supply “photo packs” of professionally taken, super cool and trendy images that you can buy and pass off as your own. So chances are a lot of what you see out there is not only curated and unrealistic, but straight up fraudulent.

Real life isn’t very Instagramable.

I’m not going to stop putting out polished, pretty content. It’s part of my job and I can’t do it any other way. But I can share a little bit about what goes into creating that content. Trust me, it doesn’t just happen naturally.

  • Those photos of a coffee mug placed nicely around my computer? Yeah, I probably took that shot about 15 times in the best light in my apartment.
  • The ones of me in front of the white wall? I had to take down the wall hanging, and Photoshop out the holes.
  • The ones of me outside? Taken by my assistant, a professional photographer, and then edited with professional software
  • The cover image of this very post? Taken in 3 separate locations around my office before I found a place I liked

Is it possible to truly be your authentic self on social media? To show every part of who you are, including the bad and the ugly? Well, kinda, I guess. But straight up, no one will follow you. As business owners, that’s not something we can afford.

Social media is not an accurate, full picture of anyone’s life or true self. It’s not designed to be. And the moment we realize that, the moment we will all start to gain more security in ourselves and our lives.

No one has a perfect life, not even the “influencer” with 150K followers.

 

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