When you face criticism on social media, remember this:
There’s a real person in there somewhere.
Even the worst troll, the one who pummels you with criticism all day long and seems to have a grudge against society still has a soul and is still redeemable. When we are truly honest with each other, we reveal that the world is a tough place, and being a human is not easy. Some of us admit that more easily than others.
Curiously, social media is a place that—as in the real world, and in our real relationships—being authentic can help you find and connect with like-minded individuals. It actually “works” as a way to make connections.
I noticed this recently when I “spilled the beans” about how hard it is to write a book. I changed my entire approach, especially in my email newsletter but also on LinkedIn and Instagram, and explained the intense research process. I touched on how hard it was to isolate myself in a remote cabin for a week at a time, away from friends and family, to crank through a few chapters.
I was surprised and even a bit relieved to hear from a notable speaker, author, and business owner named Elena Cardone that she has a similar view.
Authenticity really does win. I had a hunch about her perspective when I watched a few keynote messages and read her always-interesting LinkedIn posts about the reality of being a mom, running a business, and staying busy.
“Honesty is one of the most powerful ways to connect with others both online and offline,” she told me recently. “In the context of social media, I have learned that people resonate and identify with me when I show my authentic self.”
Cardone explained that people are drawn to authenticity. It’s what all of us crave, because we also want to be real with each other.
Interestingly, being authentic and honest is a way to show empathy to others. Cardone says being authentic is what empowers others to also be real and to grow in confidence, to reveal your own skills and talents to an audience that most of us do not always perceive as welcoming or supportive.
The most startling revelation, though, is that our own authenticity is what helps us reach a wider audience, because we’re not hiding behind a veneer. Think of it this way: If you really want to make connections with people who will support your cause, or buy your book, or listen to you on a podcast, it makes perfect sense to reveal who you really are because that is also the type of audience you want to attract.
When we are fake, we attract other imposters who never stick around anyway. “You can’t fit into everyone’s mold,” says Cardone. “So, stop trying. Be you and let it roll.”
Of course, there is a limit to how much each of us can take. Cardone suggested avoiding the trap of gossip and sharing your dirty laundry, which opens you up to criticism.
“Handle your affairs behind the scenes,” she says. “You can be authentic when you tell people how you handled situations. You can use these bad times as a way to educate in a positive and very real way. However, no one needs to see the real live train wreck. That is not inspiring.”
Also, authenticity is not the same as revealing every detail about your life. In my book example, I decided I wanted to stop making it seem like the process was easy and without any bumps in the road. Since my book is about productivity, I stopped trying to convince people that it was all smooth sailing and I’m perfectly productive at all times. When I made that switch, and stopped trying to impress people with what proved to be the hardest project I’ve ever done, I started seeing more comments on posts…from people who could relate to my journey of imperfection.
For me, being authentic means I can find my crowd, and when the criticism comes, I can at least rely on those people who understand my point of view and my past history. I can choose who is allowed to give me feedback.
“People’s words don’t define you,” added Cardone. “Oftentimes, they are saying more about themselves than they are about you. The thing to do is, keep putting out content and let it influence whom it may. Don’t stop at the first sign of criticism.”
In the end, when we find like-minded people who are drawn to the same real-life situations and topics, it helps because we can enjoy the wisdom of the crowd, not the finger pointing of trolls.