The Perpetual Lie: When your Online Persona Precedes the Real You


I believe all humans were created with a reasonable sense of integrity. We are on this earth to do good, right? But along the way, we were misguided. Our egos got the better of us and we lost our way.

The real life that we lead can be easily masked, however. We have the haven of online to safeguard who we really are.

Integrity and Fakery: Are Some People Invincible?

I’ve witnessed this on more than one occasion. In my specific circumstance, I have followed people online who seemed reputable, who had the perception of being the epitome of integrity.

I felt honoured to be in the company of such people, who have built a loyal following because of their magnetic words of wisdom, how inspirational they are, as well as through the hypnotic, emotion-laden stories they share.

I, too, have been taken in by these masters.

One person in particular, in my eyes, could do no wrong. When we connected, I felt lucky she made the time to talk. She had been on a pedestal in my mind for many years, as well as in the minds of her many loyal followers. This gal had integrity!

But the community wasn’t privy to the relationship that I was building with this amazing person. No, this wasn’t a Jim Jones cult (although it does eerily feel like I was programmed).

I brought this person into my life and we became fast friends. It took some time, but I started really figuring out this individual. The persona that had been so carefully crafted was slowly crumbling before my eyes. She didn’t reveal herself readily, but nuances of the real person came out.

The person who she claimed to be — the persona the world knew — wasn’t the person who sat before me. She was a sham. She was a hypocrite. And I had been fooled. Shame on me.

Reputation is Absolutely Everything

We carefully shape the way we want to be perceived. There are those among us who are calculated in the way they approach situations and people, always mindful of how others will react, and how they will be judged.

When I met people who know (knew) of my affiliation, they couldn’t believe how “lucky” I was to be in the company of such a great individual. How little they know. And how desperately I wanted to shout, “You have no idea!”

In real life, we falter. My mother says all she has to do is look into my eyes to see the window to my soul, and when she does, I know I’ve been found out. I can’t hide the truth. My actions speak louder than words.

Online, Somehow, Seems So Much Safer

For those who have built their reputation online and have carefully honed it to perfection, the online space is a safe haven. The words on their blogs hide their true selves.

Words can easily manipulate and influence the human spirit. We cannot see the eyes of deceit as these words are carefully crafted on the keyboard.

And so we continue to believe the lie.

However, this “keyboard” that unites individuals across the social space cannot – and will not – ever be substituted for face-to-face contact.+

I’ve come to believe that.

Hypocrisy is Perpetuated by the Community

When I opened my eyes to the truth, it didn’t seem real that I, alone, could have discovered this false integrity.+

The reality is, there are so many instances of people portraying false personas of themselves.

They continue to walk among us. We can easily point them out. But we don’t. I wonder why.

And there are many naive individuals who buy into these falsehoods.

They follow in droves and they are the very ones to come to the defence of these manipulators again and again – because they’ve been programmed.

Perhaps Online is the ONLY Place to Hide

I’ve come to believe that those who exist mainly online, are there for a reason.

The fairy tale they’ve built around them is enough to properly shield them from the reality of who they actually are.

If there is disparity between who you are online and offline then there is something very wrong.

As much as I believe in transparency, I also believe we do not have to fully disclose every part of our being to the world.+

But, at the very least, have some integrity. Be true to who you really are.

I’ve become more pragmatic these days. I live online but I also have a balanced and healthy life outside of the Internet.

It’s what keeps me real and keeps me grounded.

These days, I’m not as easily fooled by gurus and online pundits. Because sadly, I’ve learned the hard way to be more judgmental of my online relationships.

I’ve come to believe in the value of meeting people in person. And the value of a gut check. It tends to go a long way towards revealing the truth.

This article was originally posted on

photo credit: Rickydavid via photopin cc

Managing the Gray Lines of Reputation

I was intrigued by the following post from Peter Kim’s Reputation Matters. At its core the post makes sense indicating that your online conduct, who you associate yourself with and how you engage in those relationships have a strong bearing on your credibility. I agree that your number of followers is not a correct measure of your credibility but the quality of the relationships you’ve built with your network.

The quote that caught my attention from Peter Kim’s post was: “Thus we require personal interactions to help bridge the trust gap. These consist of content and quality within direct conversation. Recency and frequency matter here which should temper the “monetary”/intangible risk of any action. Behavior bundles in here as well.” In a space where relationships have been traditionally built through honest and authentic interactions, this should ideally be the norm. But we have to realize that this space is changing everyday. Marketers are starting to see the true value of social media and the wealth of brand conversations and opportunities to engage with customers will set the ground for another wave of change.

This leads me to Peter’s response to sponsored posts in which he said, “I believe that monetization leads to loss of objectivity sooner or later.” He referenced David Charbuck’s post entitled “Shooting Fish: Blog Sluts”. I read David’s post and I think he has polarized the view of bloggers. It’s nice to idealize a world where writers/bloggers have integrity and do not, in any way, prostitute themselves for the almighty dollar. The reality is that it happens with the emergence of the blogs. Everyone has forever been trying to figure out the monetization of new media and inevitably 100 ideas will unfold and a handful will be tried. Writing used to be a profession, a craft that required strong skills that were honed overtime. Today’s reality is that everybody and his brother can easily create a blog and can, with the plethora of social tools, spread their own messages to the world. That being said, Social Media 101 has provided some rules about acceptable behaviour.

This space is continuously evolving and the new media is now the sexy new channel that’s enticing to marketers because they’ve been told it’s a great way to engage directly with your customers, get immediate feedback, and build long-lasting relationships. Social media proliferated in an effort to flee spaces where advertising dominated. Now, it’s not so easy to hide from the throws of the large corporate dollar.

As a marketer I counsel clients on the value of social media to their brand but I also make them aware of the DOs and DON’Ts and the rules of engagement. The spiralling economic conditions are drawing more companies to this space to begin figuring out how to manage their reputation and start engaging with their customers. The reality is that ROI and defined timelines do not create the luxury of time to engage and develop these relationships from scratch. In most cases, companies need the help of influencers to help them make those introductions and accelerate those messages.  But those relationships have to be real from the beginning. I agree that “money” cannot play role in the relationship.  The friendship has to evolve naturally. But introducing marketers to influencers can evolve into trusting relationships, even if the initial introduction was to to help drive business. The influencers I have reached out to must, on their own, believe in and buy into the vision and activities of the advertiser. It is incumbent upon the influencer to walk away from the initiative if he cannot authentically and sincerely advocate the advertiser’s brand.  It’s not clear black and white. What I’m seeing today as a result of the initiatives we’ve created, are true relationships beginning to form between influencers and advertisers. That is also helping fuel the positive conversations about the brand and change perceptions in the meantime.

The true social media advocates have to also evolve as this space evolves. Understanding where to draw the line has to be taken on a case by case basis. Your actions will be scrutinized and your reputation will be judged by others but ultimately if you conduct yourself with integrity even your loudest detractors can’t fault you.

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