“This is one of those ‘personal branding photos’ I used to make fun of people for posting. Who the hell has the time (and the ego) to do personal branding photoshoots?
But then I realized that it was either spend two hours every half a year getting photos taken OR agonize during every *real life* activity about getting a usable photo of myself to post on social media.
I’ve only got about 5 ‘organic’ photos of me from the past five years, because I’d rather enjoy whatever I’m doing than stop, whip out my phone, and ask some poor friend of mine to snap a quick (ha! it’s never quick!) photo of me.
So, paradoxically, while I DO feel silly posting these branding photos on Instagram…. it also allows me to relax and be present in real life without worrying about having images of my face for Instagram. (So that people get the idea that I’m a person, not a boring ole’ company.)
Here’s my point: The problem with being relentlessly ‘authentic’ on social media is that you must constantly mine your lived experience for content. And gah, I’m just not on board for that, man.
Instead, I’m going to try to be authentic in the same way I am in all my writing: By asking myself before sharing—‘Is this bullshit? Is this just parroting what other people say? Is this something I’m only pretending to think?’ If I can confidently say, NOPE THIS IS REAL, then and only then can I hit publish.”
Since then, I feel like I’ve slowly come to understand that…
… I was right. …And wrong.
And I’d like to break down why in more detail than an Instagram post will allow me to.
Why I was right—there is a problem with being authentic on Instagram:
If authenticity is measured in how many unpolished “candids” you share on your Grid or how often you speak in off-the-cuff videos for your Stories….
If it means trying to capture as much as your unvarnished (or at least, what appears to be unvarnished) life on the platform…
Or if it means sharing posts on a whim rather than planning or strategizing…
Then aiming for authenticity is a trap.
Like I said in my Instagram caption, constantly mining your life for shareable content is awful.
And it actually (probably) means you’re living a less authentic life off screen. Not only does constant sharing force you to be more of an observer of your life than an experiencer, but it also robs you of the time needed to think deeply and critically about much of anything.
Why I was wrong about the Instagram-authenticity problem
Back in October, I mistook the “authentic aesthetic” for actually being true to yourself.
When I wrote that post, I was thinking about the accounts that weren’t heavily “branded,” which didn’t feature exclusively professional photographs, and which didn’t seem to be following much of a clear strategy.
“Authentic” accounts that showed more mirror selfies than curated personal brand images (like those of influencers Courtney Trop and Reese Blutstein) were appealing to me because they felt more honest.
But when I joined Instagram myself, I quickly realized I didn’t have it in me to show up on Instagram like they did.
However, since then, I’ve slowly realized that you can be your honest self on Instagram while maintaining a planned-ahead, branded account and keeping much of your private life behind closed doors.
This is where the last part of my October caption comes in. As long as what I’m saying online is what I really think—not something I’m imitating for likes or shares—then I’m being authentic.
Here’s some other ways you can be true to yourself on Instagram (even if you don’t have the time or energy to maintain the “authentic aesthetic”):
- Only following accounts/people you genuinely think you’ll get value from—not accounts you just want to follow you back
- Not posting “share-bait” content that doesn’t provide anything new to the conversation
- Commenting on posts because they moved you/made you think or because you have something real to add—not because you think it’ll somehow raise your engagement rates
- Creating posts that offer value to your followers or that share a unique, totally you take on something
- Sharing as much of your personal life as is comfortable for you—not oversharing because you feel like you should
- Not striving for some arbitrary follower count number
While I don’t share many candid images of myself (who’s taking those photos, anyway?) or even share all the sides of my personality on Instagram, I do feel like how I interact with the platform is genuine.
At the heart of it, I now understand that authenticity doesn’t mean sharing everything, from every angle, all the time. No, being authentic, even on Instagram, simply means not pretending or pandering—and honoring what feels good to you to share.
Content courtesy of Krista Walsh, creative copywriting for purpose-driven companies and passionate people
CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR, KRISTA WALSH
Krista Walsh writes website copy, blog posts, and product descriptions for small eCommerce companies and service-based solopreneurs. Her writing and messaging strategies help her clients speak to their customers’ values and emotions, for meaningful sales.
In her free time, she writes about purpose-driven business and freelance life at kristawalshcopywriter.com. On the off chance she’s not writing, she’s volunteering to walk the big ole’ dogs over at the Dog Café LA or watching (pretty bad honestly) TV dramas on Netflix.