Yet, the bizarre fact remains: we gain friends and form communities online with people we’ve never even seen, or met. It’s awesome, and I actually adore it but the burning question still rages on: who do you trust, and who don’t you trust?
Before I delve any deeper, I want to clarify I’m not talking about the unfortunate (and albeit, a little funny) theme of being catfished. I also don’t intend to open a huge can of worms, but if that happens, it happens.
So what the deuce am I trying to impart?
Come, let’s chat.
1. Authenticity Is Everything
Authenticity is integral to everything we must do, both in real life, and in our online circles, yet so many seem to skip over this seriously important issue as if it’s irrelevant online. Whether you’re a creator, contributor, follower or reader you must maintain your bona fides as a human being.
At this point I always like to say, you know what, I’m not perfect and it’s honestly such a freeing thing to say that. When we step out into the light in life, vulnerable in our own rawness, embracing who we are and acting as we really are, that’s where the magic happens.
When we connect with each other online, let it be out of sincerity. The more we strive to be wholly real in our everyday lives, the more this filters into our online presence. Take the time to connect with people you genuinely enjoy talking to, but also take the same amount of time to open up and just be yourself. No frills, no fluff and no emulating someone else.
There are so many girls (and guys) out there striving to be someone else online.
Each image is handpicked in an attempt to copy said person they obsess over, the captions are structured to create a certain illusion and sadly, all too often their outfits, locations and products used are handpicked specifically because they genuinely want to allude to a life they wish they were living.
Like I said, I’m seriously not perfect and I’ll hazard a guess and say you’re reading this also nodding saying, nor am I. You know what? That’s awesome. It really is. In a world of airs and graces, it is fantastic to just click with a group of people who want more from life, who want to appreciate it and equally, to be real in a platform that is often far from honest.
Side note: If you’re reading this as a blogger struggling to find your voice, style or ‘niche’ then the best advice I can give you is to figure out who you are first. Once you know who you are, accept it and then run with those feelings, beliefs and impulses online fuelled by a passion for what you’re doing, you’ll step closer and closer towards a wholly authentic blog.
Just be you, don’t constantly check out how everyone else is blogging, instead focus so intently on what you know in your heart is right for you, and everything else will flow, I promise.
2. Create & Partake
Arguably a blasé quote, yet it still holds a heavy weight.
Just think about this.
The average person probably follows between 400 and 1000 accounts on Instagram. Each day they flick through their feed they’re bombarded with content of various kinds. From interest based communities they plug into, to intriguing celebrities, and of course, to the bloggers they admire or feel connected to. We all do it.
The more accounts we follow, day in, day out, often the more influence said people hold over us. The ironic thing is the fact we forget we hold the key to accepting, or rejecting this impact.
A part of me laughs at myself for typing this, but my gut shouts NO, it’s serious. Influence is real, and whilst it’s genuinely brilliant as it helps us to spread joy, goodness, raise awareness and promote important issues as well as sharing together in the frivolous things in life, it often leads us to want to buy a truck load of stuff we don’t even really want.
– If you’re following a bunch of people that provoke feelings of negativity, contempt or a longingness to be someone you know you aren’t, then disconnect. I really respect people that step back and say, no, I don’t want that in my life and know when to draw the line.
– The internet can be used for SO many mind blowing and amazing things. We can donate money to people struggling in life, we don’t need to know them or have met them, yet we have the profound ability to aid their plight. It can be harnessed as a source of encouragement as we move through life together, and also as a place for likeminded individuals to connect and simply just ‘be’.
– Create and partake in social media out of a place of realness, and do so boldly. Be who you are, be thankful for that and choose to uplift, inspire and encourage others rather than using your unique voice online trying to emulate someone else.
3. Don’t Fake It, Don’t Force It
The single most disheartening thing about online communities is the simple yet all too frequented option of cheating the system. It’s a young market, and as a result of that so many people think they can buy influence.
It’s wrong, and it’s unfair.
As someone who pumps both their heart into writing, creating and reading other blogs online, I really can appreciate how much time and effort it takes to create something you’re proud of.
You sit back with a heart full of gratitude for the awesome people you’ve found online, you smile because you feel in your soul you’re somehow helping to encourage others and above that, you know you’re just being yourself and are receiving such humbling kindness from strangers in return. Yet, they aren’t strangers anymore and that’s mind-blowing in itself!
Why is it upsetting?
Firstly, because life is short and cheating is deceiving. Not only does it make people question the authenticity of individuals online who are actually so lovely and genuine, it makes all of us question the entire system behind blogging.
Secondly, influence can be yielded for good, or for bad. Let’s strive to use whatever voice we’re given for good. Pretending you’re something you aren’t to people that aren’t even real doesn’t say much.
Thirdly and finally, it discredits the authenticity behind communities. I’m so humbled to have met so many incredible people online, it actually fills my heart with such sheer joy. When users decide they’ll buy likes, followers and pay for apps that continuously follow void accounts (and unfollow the ones that don’t follow them back) in order to appear influential, that’s when you know it’s time to step back. It’s simply upsetting because it’s the polar opposite of authentic and undermines the unique transparency that should be created, promoted and valued in communities online.
I just want to say a huge thank you for being you. I mean it when I say I am so overwhelmingly humbled that people actually read along here, partake, encourage and support. It’s just so crazy, and so heart warming.
Many mornings are spent bouncing into work with a smile on my face as I ramble on about how I met this person, and how lovely this lady was and this or that. It’s simple, I’m just dumbfounded by how fantastic authentic communities are. I feel so inspired by your voices, so encouraged to know we think alike and so completely and utterly humbled that you support what I do here.
This is a quick but sincere kind word to say, you are fantastic and I genuinely appreciate you. It’s important for me to be clear that I’m wholly me online, and whilst not everyone will appreciate it, that’s okay. I equally want you to know that I am so driven to create, write and push content on this blog that goes beyond emptiness.
Whilst I love light-hearted, easy to read and often jocose posts, in my heart, I strive to create a blog that promotes kindness, true joy, awareness and empowerment as we walk through life together. I said from day one in October that The Small Town Girl would be a place where people could come and read along, yet feel they were learning something, or taking something onboard in the process. A place where posts are for the reader, and not for the creator’s superficial gain and importantly, a place for pursuing a better way of life together.
Finally, you are a talented, smart and unique individual. Remember that.
Now I am typing this with one goofy smile on my face. You, my friend, are awesome!