The term “authentic” gets used a lot in social media. It gets used all over the place. We tend to use “authentic” to mean something like this: a person who says what he or she feels and who shows you all aspects of his or her life.
None of us are authentic, unless we suffer from some serious mental disorders. We all filter. It’s part of what makes the world work. If we were completely and utterly authentic, we’d have no friends, no loved ones, no business.
So What Do We Mean?
When we say authentic, I think what most people are really seeking is some kind of “closer to reality” experience. For instance, if I have a bad day, I talk about it. If I’m feeling a bit hurt by something, I might talk about that, too.
But there are limits to what people want with regards to authenticity. What if you presented your business idea to me and I said, “I really feel it’s not sustainable, and won’t really serve you well.” That wouldn’t really help you much. First off (and I learned this from my brief flirtation with seeking VC money), maybe I don’t see the value in your project, but that’s a fault of mine. So if I say something like that, I’m not doing you any favors. Second, if I’m going to dissuade you, then that’s not really helpful in your business pursuits.
When we say authentic, I think people want some sense that we’re not just all business all the time. I think sometimes what we’re asking for with authenticity is a sense of what happens behind the curtains, so that we better understand what influences one’s opinions and thoughts.
But that doesn’t really equal authentic, just like a restaurant called Three Gringos isn’t ever going to be authentic Mexican cuisine. Authenticity shouldn’t be the goal. So, then, what should we choose for a goal?
There’s a lot that goes with true authenticity that isn’t helpful. Instead, the people we connect with would be much better served if we chose to be helpful instead. “Helpful” is a far more useful frame of reference than authentic. But there’s more.
Be Clear and Disclose
Often times with authenticity, people really simply want to know what biases have led to something. When I talk about how much I love the Genesis WordPress theme platform (affiliate link), I’m quick to disclose (as I did just there) that I stand to make money from any sale of that product. This tells you that I have a bias that you should consider, and that I stand to benefit from your purchase.
Does that mean that I don’t like the product and I’m just selling it? Of course not. Some people could do that, but what I have tried to do over years (and by the way, “repetition” is a lot closer to what people perceive as authenticity, too) is to show you that I’ll promote products and services that I’ve used and that I believe in, because I believe they’ll be helpful to you.
Don’t Strive For Authenticity
In fact, the phrase “authentic” should set off alarms, just like the phrase “to be honest” often makes us wonder if the person who says that is rarely honest otherwise. Instead, be honest with yourself and filter that into whatever it takes to be helpful to others. Present your most helpful side to the people who need it, and do so with as much genuine interest in other people’s success as you can possibly muster.
It will serve you far better than the goal of being authentic.
What do you think?