Social Media and the Quest for Authenticity


Social Media and the Quest for Authenticity Photo

Lately, quitting social media in a “powerful way” has become even more interesting than social media itself.

Take Essena O’Neill, who is an Australian-born model with over half a million followers on multiple platforms. Fox 8 recently wrote that she “surprised her followers when she deleted her Instagram account and re-emerged with a revamped one. She deleted thousands of pictures and instead, edited her posts to reiterate her message, ‘social media is an illusion.’”

O’Neill went on to explain, “I no longer want to spend hours and hours of my time scrolling, viewing, and comparing myself to others. I want to do something, anything, something radical, something a little different. I want to use my imagination, my individual mind, my unique take on this world.”

The model isn’t the only embodiment of the Internet’s desire to escape perfectly curated narratives.

The Huffington Post’s new favorite Instagram account is @youdidnoteatthat, a collection of photos calling out models and bloggers who post pictures of donuts, ice cream, and In-N-Out burgers that seem just a little too perfect. The person who runs the account is anonymous, and tells The Cut that the formula for a perfect Instagram photo is getting just a little too simple: “People buy a box of macarons, or doughnuts, or an ice cream. They photograph it in front of some big landmark, like the Eiffel Tower, and there’s always a calculated stack of rings and bracelets, maybe a French bulldog, and it’s like Boom, I’ve got a successful Instagram post.”

Granted, @youdidnoteatthat is targeted to a fairly specific audience: Bloggers, lifestyle companies, and anyone who finds themselves holding a box of macarons in front of the Eiffel Tower. But @youdidnoteatthat’s account has over 150k followers. It’s striking a chord with people fed up with a lack of authenticity, or social media’s “illusion.” I found myself scrolling through the Instagram feed for way longer than I should have. It’s compelling to see behind the curtain, into the lengths people will go to for a beautiful photo.

As a brand, it seems to me that the way to counter this quasi-revolutionary, counter-narrative movement is with a little imperfection. I’m not talking about spelling errors (please, no) or mistakes that you feel could actually hurt your credibility or reputation. But with my clients, I’ll be advocating for a strategy that includes a photo or post once a month that departs from lingo, buzzwords, keywords, and rather, portrays something that’s really happening in their business. That Instagram feed can look perfect 99% of the time, but for at least 1%, pop in a photo that makes your team laugh or of when someone spilled their coffee during a meeting.

The moral of the story is that your audience is not interested in perfection—not anymore, anyway. Brands need to respond to the growing desire for authenticity on social media. For both individuals and corporate social media presences, find what it is that makes you a little imperfect and a little more real.

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Bryan Ochalla

About the author: Maggie Happe

Maggie Happe is a recent graduate of Creighton University and a contributor to Social Media Contractors.

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