How Anyone Can Practice Authentic Self-Expression Online
Struggling to show your true self on social media? Read on for some influencer tips on how to express yourself authentically online.
With many social connections online these days, it’s always tempting to present your best life/version of ourselves. But what’s the point of being liked only for the persona you project?
On the other hand, you may already be expressing your true self, even more than you realize. Want to make sure you’re always authentic online? Here are some tips on how to stay beautifully and unabashedly you– with authentic self-expression.
Battling The Need to Be Liked
We have this innate need for approval, for affirmation, to “be seen,” and social media feeds that desire. According to a Harvard , social media notifications provide a rush of dopamine to the brain, thus creating a pleasurable feeling and rewiring it into craving likes, mentions, and other digital positive reinforcement.
The problem arises when we are so obsessed with cyber likes that more than just curating our feed, we start to exaggerate, or worse, fabricate a life. How do we draw the line to ensure authentic self-expression?
OG Filipina blogger, style icon, and Hinhin.com founder Tricia Gosingtian shares, “It starts by actively choosing who or what to give power to. It’s easy to fall into the trap of outward appearances – fixating on other people’s perception of you, worrying if an outfit or photo is good enough for the feed, or building a life that should be exciting and entertaining enough for the vlog or gram.”
Conscious about genuinely connecting with her audience more than simply growing her following, Tricia has and always takes a reality check. “Whenever I feel lost or on the verge of doing something inauthentic, I take a step back and go back to where I started.”
Having built a cult following from back in the heyday of LiveJournal, she shares, “My digital footprint started as an escape from the ‘real world.’ I had a little secret that my IRL friends and family didn’t know about, and it was so much fun to create meaningful connections with like-minded introverts (from all over the world!) looking for a safe and quiet place to express oneself.”
Self-expression tip: Reconnect with who you are offline. Tricia says, “Nowadays, who is *not* online? I often revert to ‘real world’ things to drown out the information and stimulation overload from my screen. In the end, it’s just like how I started. I feel the most authentic when I am hanging out in a safe and quiet place that allows me to and holds space for me to just ‘be.’”
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You take a or document a proud career highlight, but then second-guess yourself, typing, deleting, then storing it in your drafts folder. Should I post this? Is it too vain/cringey/humble-braggy? The thing about social media is that it creates this wall between you and your audience – sometimes giving you a (false) sense of anonymity and security. But in the same vein, since you can’t see people’s honest and immediate facial expressions, it’s also hard to gauge how they feel.
Self-expression tip: When in doubt, popular food blogger Joey Blanco of 80breakfasts.com shares this rule of thumb: “Don’t say or do anything online that you wouldn’t do offline as well.”
She adds, “The same rules apply online as off: Be honest. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be kind. Don’t steal. When you want to borrow something, ask permission. Don’t be a bully. Say please and thank you.” After all, Joey stresses, staying authentic online is the same as in person. There shouldn’t be a difference.
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Find Your Purpose
How often do you catch yourself something “for the ‘gram?” Be mindful of whether the choices that you make are your own or fueled by the need to post content. Guilty of ordering food that is “aesthetic” over something tasty, reading (or pretending to read) a popular book instead of a title you like, or blowing your budget just so you can flex on your socials? And then it gets even more complicated if your work is tied to social media.
With over 221k followers on Instagram, Filipina influencer Kelly Misa admits it can be challenging. “Coming from my work as a commercial model and constantly being featured in magazines I know how important it is to keep a clean image and be a good role model. But being exposed to social media helped me reveal different facets of my personality,” Kelly shares.
“Instead of being one dimensional, I love that I can share many things about myself and my family, and I’ve learned along the way that the more authentic I am, the more people respond and relate to my posts. Each of us is unique and special, and there’s no other person like us. That’s our special power, I guess.”
However, Kelly also stresses the importance of keeping grounded. “Likes can mess up your thinking, I must admit that. But in the end, what should matter is that you were real, and you shared something that will hopefully inspire and make someone’s day. Or maybe learn something new.”
Self-expression tip: “What I do when I post is share something – an experience, an item I love, a thought or inspiring idea – and I share it with the hopes it will help someone. There has to be something bigger than me, I guess. And I hope that my posts can connect me with the rest of the world.”
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Don’t Give In to Peer Pressure
Ever post something just to join the bandwagon, only to feel silly, guilty, or dishonest about it later? Or do you tend to do the exact opposite just to rock the boat? Expressing your authentic self is even harder when you feel pressured to fit in or to stand out.
Artist and nature advocate Cynthia Bauzon-Arre has built a following for her art as well as the way she champions earth-conscious living. “I don’t know if everything I post is relevant to everyone watching, but I only try to share art and things that I care or feel deeply about. And then if that thing I shared resonates or inspires another person, I’m happy to have made that connection.”
Self-expression tip: Before posting anything, ask yourself if it represents your taste and thoughts or if you’re doing it just doing it for show. Shares Cynthia, “You don’t have to post about some trendy thing just because your friends are doing it. If it’s not aligned with your beliefs, or if you’re faking your interest in it, it could trap you into a world – or community – that you don’t want to be a part of.”
Stay true to your convictions, no matter what others say or think. You probably have more influence in your social circle than you realize, so be mindful when you post/rave/diss. P.S. Not saying/posting anything at all is also a valid form of self-expression.
Own Your Vibe
Despite impostor syndrome and online anxieties, social media does a great job of linking people we never thought possible. The more genuine you are about your values and interests, the deeper the connections can be. When words fail, even the photos, collages, or music you share can reflect your unique vibe or point of view. Don’t you love it when you hit it off with people who share the same taste for, say, pineapple on pizza, vintage fashion, or formative childhood cartoons?
Seemingly random connections can grow into supportive communities, and that amazing feeling of belonging is most rewarding when you are liked for you – not who you pretend to be.
Self-expression tip: Authenticity truly begins when you , no matter what the perceived standards may be. Cynthia attests, “Pull from what makes you uniquely you and share that with those who are willing to listen.”
Like life, social media is easier to navigate when you face it with confidence and self-resilience. Let your online presence be a space for authentic self-expression. Be unabashedly yourself and feel the anxiety fall away.