Disclosure: This post about living authentically online was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal domains that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Whenever I am asked by digital influencers new to the space or get emails from people contemplating starting a blog or becoming a digital influencer, my first word of advice is to be true to yourself; be authentic in the version of you that you present to the world. The bottom line is that there is only one you and that is what makes each person’s voice online special. Why even try to be someone else? Imitation is not flattering and you are almost always guaranteed to fail at trying to be someone else.
Of course, it is hard to be yourself in life and even harder in the digital space these days. I speak from experience. In fact, just this week, two separate posts landed me in hot water. I spoke my truth, my opinion on what turned out to be a very controversial subject and then, I had to put on my big girl panties and live with the consequences. After all, if you chose to live your life openly and authentically online there will be repercussions, at some point.
Still, I choose to be who I am, flaws and all. Sometimes I rush to snappy judgements or let my emotions guide my writing. This is not always a good thing. There is authentic, then there is too much information and that’s what happens a lot of the time with me and the fact that I lack a filter. People who know me can be forgiving of a rash jump to a conclusion or one time lapse in judgement, the general public who don’t know by by anything other than one singular loud, opinionated post are not usually so forgiving.
In one way, it’s awesome because if you follow me on social media and my blog you know the “real” me but at other times, when I make snap judgements or speak out before I know all the facts, it’s bad because I’ve already put that bad first impression out into the world. I think, it’s only one bad choice but to someone who doesn’t know me, I am just that one bad choice. I think it’s best to find middle ground.
Don’t over edit yourself and write in the way that you speak. No one’s life is sunshine and rainbows all the tie and no one speaks like Shakespeare in real life.
Be honest but hold the nasty.
Put your real thoughts out there. You are allowed to have an opinion. My only word of advice is if it is a heated topic, go ahead and write it out. Mull it over. Come back to it in a few hours and then hit publish if that’s still what you want to say. Believe me, this is the thing I still struggle with.
Develop a thick skin.
If you decide that you want your brand to be all in your face, all the time, then be prepared for backlash. Someday, some time on some topic, someone will disagree with you. In fact, you may just have the most unpopular opinion out there and when you do, the public will let you know. They can be cutting with their words and sometimes they even go for the jugular by attacking not only you personally but your family, thoughts and beliefs. My advice, if you choose to be 100% authentic all the time be prepared for this and either let it roll off your back (easier said than done) or don’t read the comments.
Be a Big Girl.
If you still decide to put your views online to be scrutinized (and they will be) be a grown up. If someone calls you ugly and stupid (and at times much worse) for having a contrary opinion, the best response is not to hurl insults back at them. Be a professional. If you can’t respond civilly, then walk away from the conversation. I don’t like to delete comments because I feel like if I put a topic up for debate, it is my reader’s rights to be heard too. However, sometimes reading the comments can become so consuming and overwhelming that I just have to not read them anymore. I am a professional, this is my job but I’m also a human and, not going to lie, sometimes my feelings suffer collateral damage as a result of my opinions and choice to live authentically online.
Last but not least, don’t take it personally.
I know this bit sounds crazy because, after all, if you are living online authentically, it is all very personal for you. When people attack your opinions, your choices, your beliefs it definitely feels personal but remember this, they’ve never actually met you. They don’t know you. They are disagreeing with your stance on a topic, not you the person even though it usually feels like they are. This is a very important thing to remember always.
These are my tips for staying authentic online. There is an understanding of culpability when you live your life online. You have a venue to broadcast your words and thoughts to people all over the world, so even when you are being authentic you should still consider the effect your words can have on those around you. There are ripples to every action we do in the world and online is no exception. Be yourself, but be responsible. Obviously, this too is something I still struggle with but I’ve come to a point where when I make mistakes, I am adult enough to admit it and say sorry if need be.
Living authentically online doesn’t mean you have a license to be mean, judgmental or bully others. It means you have a responsibility to be true to yourself while being watched by the world. So be yourself but remember you are a part of something much larger than just your thoughts from behind a computer screen.
A fun way to let people know who you are and what you’re about from the very beginning is to obtain a .ME domain name as the perfect way to stay authentic online. For example, if you are a homeschooling mama from the south how about SouthernHomeschoolingMama.Me. See it’s fun and it lets the world know what you’re about before they even click into your site.