Imagine this... it's a Saturday morning. You just left the gym. You're sweaty and ready to go home and take a shower. However, your fridge and cupboards are empty. On your way home is both a Wal-Mart and a Target store. Your shopper brain wants to go to Target. Your stinky self chooses Wal-Mart. You figure "I'm stinky plus I can save a few bucks!"
Does this mean Wal-Mart or target is more authentic? Or does it simply mean we can be more authentic entering Wal-Mart over Target. Isn't working out and getting sweaty part of life for those wanting to be healthy? At the core is it Target that makes us feel uncomfortable being our stinky selves? Or is it Wal-Mart that enables us to feel more authentic? Or is it neither?
Is it within ourselves? Is it what we feel more comfortable with?
I host a #GetRealChat on Tuesday nights where we "Get Real" on many topics that some avoid or don't like to talk about. We get real on the good and bad of social media, business and social relationships. Dan Perez chatted into one of our chats a couple weeks ago with some interesting comments on the topic of social relationships. He followed up with a blog post Authenticity, Transparency, & Hypocrisy: An Observation. Although I don't agree with his every thought, he made me think.
I believe authenticity can exist in social media. I believe we can start and nurture online relationships into something meaningful and real. Are there fakes out there, yes. Will there be people who will scam us and fool us into thinking they are real, yes. However, it doesn't change the hope we have to believe in real people and have real relationships.
Let's take a look at the definition of authenticity.
authenticity - adj
1. of undisputed origin or authorship; genuine: an authentic signature
2. accurate in representation of the facts; trustworthy; reliable:an authentic account
3. (of a deed or other document) duly executed, any necessarylegal formalities having been complied with authentic-
authentic - adj
1. not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.
2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence authenticated; verified: an authentic document ofo the Middle ages; an authentic work of the old master.
3. entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy
Authenticity becomes real in the heart of the receiver. You can make yourself believe you are authentic but if I don't believe it too, then it doesn't matter. The question is do I believe your motives are genuine? The way you make me feel is going to influence how genuine I believe you are. If you make me feel secure, peaceful, inspired, trusted, etc. and you do such in a genuine way then I may believe your motives are real. Do you make me feel good? Do you put me at ease? Do you enable me to trust you? Chances are if you do these things then we have a chance at a real relationship.
Authenticity does not equal inspiration. There is more to an online relationship than being authentic. We must connect. You must inspire me to look past the avatar on a Twitter feed. Just because I don't do the double click on your profile doesn't necessarily mean you are or aren't authentic or real. It simply means you didn't or haven't yet inspired me to do such yet. It may or may not happen today or in the future.
Authenticity and transparency are not the same. What does it mean to be ourselves? What does it mean to be real? Yes, there is only one me. However, that one me has bad days, good days. I have different tones of voice that enable me to connect with different people. The true gift of a real relationship online or offline is being able to peel back the onion layers even when they're stinky. It's the ability to talk about and share the flower filled days right along with the stinky onions and not feel guilty or insecure doing such.
Transparency enables us to foster the real & deep relationships. Just because we are authentic with one another doesn't mean we have the same level of transparency with everyone. There is no relationship that is the same. Transparency differs with each relationship based upon trust and many other factors. Of course I don't expect to have the same relationship with my Twitter friends that I do with family. However, the level of "realness" and transparency will determine how close we get and what happens with that relationship in the future.
Authenticity does not require the same level of transparency with every relationship. Just because we may not have the "same" relationship with each person, doesn't mean it's a fake or that either one of us is being un-authentic. We all connect in different ways. We share different onion layers with one another, differeent layers of transparency.
Do I want to see and smell every onion layer of every Twitter contact and Facebook friend? Heck no! Do I want every client to dump their closet of personal skelatons on my table? No! However, do I have existing clients, partners and Twitter friends I share tears of joy, laughter and sorrow with? Absolutely! Are there people I have met on Twitter who live across the globe who I know better than the neighbor across the street? You betcha!
Social media tears down walls. Who cares if we meet on Twitter or at a neighborhood event? We may have more in common with many people we meet online than the neighbor next door. The power of social media enables us to find and connect with people across the globe who we'd likely not meet otherwise. With searches, tweets and follows we can find the gems. We can find the people who share similar interests, goals and life objectives.
Social media enables us to start our relationship on a common foundation of knowledge and interests which might be more than the neighbor you know nothing about and have always had a hard time connecting with. We can talk openly for the world to see on tweet streams or Facebook wall. Or we can talk behind social doors in Twitter DMs and Facebook private messages. We can choose to double click or keep it at a tweet stream read. It's up to us how real we want to get with the people who cross our social streams.
Let's quit bantering over the semantics & get real with people. Authenticity is a word being over used in social circles. Does it begin to lose meaning to some? Absolutely. However, just because we may be tired of the word "authenticity" does it change the importance and ability to embrace, desire and appreciate real relationships both online and offline? Absolutely not.
Authenticity is not black or white. It is is not on or off. It can't be nailed down like a dictionary word. Authenticity to me is my ability to be real with you and you with me. It could be my problem if I am not real with you or it could be yours.
Bottom line, people buy from people. If I can't trust you I am not going to buy from you. I believe this is true regardless of the price tag of the purchase. For example, there is a restaurant chain in our city that has very differing customer service levels. Our family does not visit one of the restaurants due to the poor service and disrespect from their service staff. It's not an expensive restaurant. It's simply we don't like how the people there make us feel. We don't trust that they aren't doing bad things to our food in the back kitchen.
Finding the needle in the haystack online relationships where I am real with you and you are real with me is the greatest gift of the social ecosystem. Finding people you can "be real" with are what fuels life into Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If we were all fakes and not in it for the people then it wouldn't be as addicting as it is. It's addicting because we are connecting in real ways with people. We can voice opinions, we can share information. We can inspire. We can connect. We can achieve more together.
I'm not giving up on real people. Authenticity, smauthenticity, transparency, schamparency. I don't care what you call it. I still am not giving up on the hope for people to be real with me, me be real with them. I am not giving up on knowing that those relationships are what is and will fuel my business and life. If we can't believe in people, if we can't enjoy people then what's it all for? Why don't we just go back to coupons, email spam blasts and billboards? No thanks. I'll take the thousands of fake Twitter accounts for the few gems that touch my tweet stream with knowledge, inspiration, giggles, and life.
What are your thoughts? Do you believe in real online relationships? How does someone earn your trust and business? What criteria do you set for purchase, friendship and other decisions?