How to be REAL in an age of digital perception

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Perception is everything. All the good. All the bad.

In the social media world, for instance, perception can be formed in the blink of an eye. Or the glance of a scroll, I suppose. Each photo or caption is carefully crafted. Lies can be told, or the truth can be told, and no one the wiser.

We can actually purchase Instagram graphics, pay someone to write our captions. The imagery isn’t even of our real lives. The work in the photo isn’t even ours. It’s a photo of a top knot on someone else’s head, the shoes on someone else’s feet, goodies arranged on someone else’s desk.

So long as the imagery and verbiage is perceived as our own, no one the wiser.

However, it’s also this form of perception that can be intriguing. The perfectly curated, color coded, planned out feed is what followers are looking for. It’s what begs the popularity, the sponsored posts and affiliate links.

We work so hard to be perceived properly.

Just today, here are three examples of things I’ve done in order to better my digital perception:

  1. I curse like a polite sailor in real life, but if I put cuss words in my caption I might turn off some of my followers because I’m too crude for their comfort level.
  2. My toddler is wearing a diaper that is sagging so low that it’s painful to look at, but he won’t let me change it, so I’m just not going to show him in my Instagram stories today. I don’t want to see the DM of someone telling me to change his diaper.
  3. I AirDropped a photo of myself and Adam from my sister’s phone to my phone, then to my computer so I could edit it in Lightroom so it followed my “feed’s color story,” and also fixed my double chin, then AirDropped it back to my phone, then uploaded it to Instagram. I then opened a website to generate some hashtags on my computer, copied them and emailed them to myself, then opened my email on my phone, copied them from there, and posted them in a caption on Instagram. This is a lot of work for one cute photo of me and my husband.
  4. I am only 2 pages into my second book of 2018, but haven’t posted it on my blog yet because it was an impulse by from Target and I didn’t have it on my 2018 Reading List blog. Hence, isn’t following “the plan.”
  5. In an effort to get my posts set for the week ahead, I hid all of Joey’s toys behind the couch to my living room photos wouldn’t show the mess.

Also, I’m drinking a beer at 2 pm while I write this and my son is making lots of noise in his crib in the other room because he doesn’t want to nap and my dishwasher is full but not running because the noise bothers me and there are booger smears on my pants that I have no intention of scrubbing off anytime soon and I’m totally winging this post because it’s on my mind and I need a post for Tuesday.

Real life, but unseen.

It’s hard to be real in the digital world and not put a damper on the perception you’ve strived so hard to earn. To be honest, I wanted to prove that I could post “real” photos (unedited and technically bad) with great captions and still build an audience of engaged followers and blog readers and affiliates. I was wrong. As soon as I started curating my posts, from imagery to caption development, that audience became much more engaged, larger and best of all, a group of friends that I don’t even know!

However, I still strive to be undeniably authentic, raw and minorly edited.

Every time someone tells me that they love the realness in my posts, the little girl inside me does a happy dance. Because once upon a time, someone told me that I could be myself when I grew up. And then I grew up, and society seemed to scream “Don’t be yourself.”

Here are some of my favorite tips on how to be REAL in a world where digital perception reins all.

  1. Don’t try to please everyone. When you begin to focus more on quantity than quality, you lose your own quality. Sure, my swearing may turn off some people, but those people probably wouldn’t love me in real life either. My friends, both digital and real life, know I like to curse, and will either love me for it or call me out. Both is good. And like Jenna Kutcher says, you can’t make everyone happy – you aren’t Nutella.
  2. In regards to photos, edit edit edit. Find a style and STICK TO IT. To be honest, it really doesn’t matter what your photo is of, so long as it looks like yours. Especially as a business, branding is everything. And that includes the style of your photos. My best tip for this is to find and use a Lightroom preset. There are millions out there, and finding one that fits your style and brand vision will help tremendously. The goal is to have someone scrolling or reading, and know immediately that it’s you, simply because of the style of your photo.
  3. Post real life in the midst of the perfectly curated. On my Instagram account, this happens often. I post a lot of real life intermixed with the curated. On my blog, it’s a little bit less (more planned, less candid), and my Facebook is VERY real life every day. And as my business is found from all three of these platforms, each has its place. It’s important to remind those who already follow you, and tell any new tribe members, what your life is really like. That’s not to say that you should ALWAYS post real life mess, but the reminder that you are real is VERY important.
  4. Be brave. This, in my opinion, is the most important one. Be brave with yourself, your audience and your platform. Don’t be afraid to post or write and share. It can be terrifying to share the most intimate parts of your life. But society is craving real. Craving candid. Craving other vulnerable ladies. It’s ok to look and act and be scared. It makes your realness even better.
  5. Finally, digitally treat others how you’d like to be digitally treated. Complimentary comments, follows for your likers, sharing their names and handles, posting their blog, adding them as a Facebook friend. All these things matter, and make you so much more human than you would be if you didn’t. If the goal for your digital business is to grow, and find an engaged tribe, you have to be engaged too. Communicating makes you human, makes you real, makes you approachable.

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