With so many different services on the web and the blurring of the lines between personal and professional identities it means that we play even more roles on the web. As we make this move online, and switch between different roles – how do we remain authentic?
For me, authenticity is the ability to be yourself, and not try to be someone else. This is easier said than done, we spend our lives learning from others, copying patterns & language, as a result it is easy to become a photocopy of someone else.
Occasionally you will come across an individual who is different! In a face to face world, there are some people who are comfortable in almost any given situation, they seem to be able to talk to anyone, and seem to instinctively know what to do – essentially they are just being themselves. How does this translate to digital.
There is a great book, Leadership Presence (Belle Linda Halpen and Kathy Lubar) which helps explain what authenticity is all about, whilst this book primary focus is about presence, within it, there is a model for authenticity. This model has 4 dimensions to it:
- Being Present – the ability to be completely in the moment and flexible enough to handle the unexpected.
- Reaching Out - the ability to build relationships with others through empathy, listening, and authentic connection.
- Expressiveness - The ability to express feelings and emotions appropriately by using the means of expression – words, voice, body, face - to deliver one congruent message.
- Self-Knowing - the ability to accept yourself, to be authentic and to reflect your values in your decisions and actions
These dimensions are helpful in the offline face to face world, they help us to see why that person is different, and they start to explain the skills we need if we want to grow our presence and be authentic – the question is, how do these translate to our presence in the digital world?
My hunch is that this is harder in a digital conversation, than it is face to face. Especially if you consider the number of different simultaneous threads of comments / conversations that an individual can be involved in at one time. In a digital world, this is considered to be acceptable, in the offline world people tend to expect you have one conversation at a time.
I suspect being present is still relevant, it could be as simple as keeping up with the thread, answering questions / comments that come your way, or knowing when you need to step out / away from the debate.
It has never been easier to reach out and connect with people, places and organisations, new channels are opening up every day, so it should be easy to build connections through the social media platforms. For me, an interesting twist in reaching out is the field of influence – it is not just about the number of connections you have, influence is about how “content” shifts and your role in the conversations. Ultimately, this is not just the number of connections that you have, its the conversations that you have with those connections that are important!
This is just hard online – in many instances the words on the screen have little or no context and it is almost impossible to know whether these words are congruent with what is really going on – face to face, you hear the inclination in the words, you see the expression you can read the body language – these senses can be lost in the written word. You sometimes see the use of emoticons, whilst these can, in a humorous way, convey the intent of a statement, they do not give any indication of whether that is true to the sentiment – There is a lot to learn about the expressiveness – especially in a world of 140 characters…!
As you learn why you do the things you do, how you do the things you do, and what you do, self knowing in the context of a digital journey is about how you translate yourself from the physical world into the virtual world. They why, the what, the how are all still important and the way in which we translate these across our various roles on the web may ultimately determine how authentic we are.
Moving on-line is a journey, there are new tools, new languages and new protocols that we need to learn, we need to become literate, we need to learn what is acceptable and we need to translate our true-selves into that world, and rediscover the why, the what and the how…!