When I teach executives about social media, I observe that companies need to be authentic in their interactions with customers on social media. It is important to say what you do and do what you say. In fact, one definition of social media goes along the lines of “real people having real conversations about real things, ideas and people”.
Then I paused to reflect – are we “real people” on Facebook? And the irony struck me – while we are asking companies to be “authentic”, we are anything but. Like the cover photos on fashion magazines, we carefully airbrush our lives to post the prettiest pictures, happiest moments and funniest jokes on Facebook. Like mannequins in department store windows, we market the best facets of ourselves and our lives on Facebook. We are as real online as Kim Kardashian is on reality TV. If our carefully curated looks, lives and loves were real, the world would be an awesome place!
How many profile pictures show us in our pajamas or having a bad hair day? How many posts on Facebook talk about our fears, foibles and follies? How many dark and depressing thoughts do we share with our friends? How many moments of loneliness and ennui do we expose to the world?
Before I accuse the whole world of being hypocritical, I want to begin with myself. While my Facebook posts portray a picture of glamorous travels, great friends and good living, they don’t tell the story of the painful divorce I have just been through. I don’t talk about the struggles my kids have gone through. I don’t post in moments of sadness and reflection. For in sadness, there is depth. In smiles, often there is superficiality.
But then, is there a market for truth? Isn’t news also airbrushed by the biases of the broadcaster? Aren’t TV shows featuring the “Real Housewives” unreal? Don’t we present our best facets in face to face friendships and relationships? Don’t we sweep the ugliness and the tears under the carpet except when we are with our closest friends?
Points to ponder, as I touch up my next glamorous picture on Facebook. I wonder how many “Likes” it will get?