When facing criticism on social media, remember this:
There’s a real person in there somewhere.
Even the worst troll, the one who hammers criticism at you all day long and seems to resent society still has a soul and is still redeemable. When we’re truly honest with each other, we reveal that the world is a tough place and being human isn’t easy. Some of us admit it more readily than others.
Oddly enough, social media is a place that, like in the real world and in our real-life relationships, being authentic can help you find and connect with like-minded people. In fact, it “works” as a way to build connections.
I noticed this recently when I “tipped the wick” on the difficulty of writing a book. I changed my whole approach, especially in my email newsletter but also on LinkedIn and Instagram, and explained the intense research process. I talked about how difficult it was to isolate myself in an isolated cabin for a week at a time, away from my friends and family, to read a few chapters.
I was surprised and even a little relieved to learn from a speaker, author, and business owner named Elena Cardone that she has a similar view.
Authenticity really wins. I got a sense of her perspective when I watched a few primers and read her always-interesting LinkedIn posts about the realities 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’ve learned that people resonate with and identify with me when I show my authentic self.”
Cardone explained that people are drawn to authenticity. This is what we all aspire to, because we also want to be real with each other.
Interestingly, being authentic and honest is a way to show empathy towards others. Cardone says being authentic is what allows others to also be real and gain confidence, revealing your own skills and talents to an audience most of us don’t always perceive as welcoming or supportive.
The most surprising revelation, however, is that our own authenticity is what helps us reach a wider audience, because we don’t hide behind veneer. Think of it this way: if you really want to connect 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’s also the kind of audience you want to attract.
When we are fake, we attract other impostors who never stay anyway. “You can’t fit everyone’s mold,” says Cardone. “So stop trying. Be you and let it roll.
Of course, there is a limit to what each of us can take. Cardone suggested avoiding the trap of gossip and sharing your dirty laundry, which exposes you to criticism.
“Manage your business behind the scenes,” she says. “You can be authentic when you tell people how you handled situations. You can use those bad times as a way to educate in a positive and very real way. However, no one needs to see the real train wreck live. It’s not inspiring.
Also, authenticity is not the same as revealing every detail of your life. In my sample book, I decided I wanted to stop making the process look easy and without any bumps in the road. Since my book is about productivity, I stopped trying to convince people that everything went well and that I was perfectly productive at all times. When I made that change and stopped trying to impress people with what turned out 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 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,” Cardone added. “A lot of times they say more about themselves than about you. The thing to do is to keep posting content and let it influence whoever it can. Don’t stop at the first sign of criticism.
Ultimately, when we find like-minded people who are drawn to the same real-life situations and topics, it helps because we can tap into the wisdom of the crowd, not the pointing finger of trolls.