My first experiences online came before the web, and before most of the modern “nettiquette” was written. It was the days of ultra nerdy folks (like me), librarians, and academic PHD types in lab coats.
When people were not doing serious science type stuff there was a lot of socializing going on. There were hippy hangouts like “The Well”, where big brains were going to change the world, and hacker communities who were going to change the world in a different way. I was a teenager who didn’t fit into either class, I just wanted to chat about science fiction and download demo programs. When I discovered the internet I did the same things, and again when I discovered the World Wide Web.
Back then most people used a nickname when interacting online. I went through a few in the BBS years, and in my early dabbling in Usenet Newsgroups. I made my best online friends back then in the Red Dwarf newsgroup, and by that time I had abandoned using cool-sounding nicknames and just used “chrisg” or my full name. One friend who stands out in my mind from then is still a friend now over 15 years later, even though we interact now via Twitter. I only knew him by his nickname for over a year. In fact I think we might have met in person before discovering his actual name.
In all that time I stupidly didn’t really take any care over my online privacy. My online friends were much more cautious, but just because they used fake names does not mean they were faking anything else.
Psuedonym does not mean fake
Here is the distinction. I made real friendships with people who were being real, just without using their own names. Their intention was not to mislead. For some they wanted a cool name, for others it was just seen as the “done thing”.
If anything they were more “real” than a lot of people I am coming into contact with now.
I have been doing a lot of research about introverts for my forthcoming product, “Shy Networking”. One of the things I want to show and prove is that introverts can and do perform just fine online and in business networking without trying to be something they are not. As anyone who has met me knows, this is drawn from personal experience
The issue of people feeling they have to be something they are not in order to succeed troubles me, hence this post.
It’s not just the familiar story that Darren and I tell a lot, about people coming to us wanting to create “Make Money Online” blogs before they have earned their first dollar, though that is bad enough. It could apply to people creating fake personas for their online presence, but as I say above, I have no problem with that (though that is not my own preference), and I understand there are underlying reasons why people do that.
There are a few points I would like to make:
- You are good enough – Never feel like you are not “good enough”, “worth enough” or any of that self diminishing stuff.
- People want to connect with the real you – The real you is what is interesting and approachable, masks are just another barrier to people connecting with you. The more fake the mask, the more inhibited you will be.
- Get out of your own head – By focusing on the other people you will find that a) you can be really useful and b) lots of people have stuff in common with you.
Most of all, being yourself does not mean exposing everything personal and revealing any deep dark secrets.
You draw the line at what you do or do not share.
After I had been playing around online for a while, and had started to get serious with my side business of building websites for organisations, my wife and I decided some ground rules. Later when our daughter was born, more rules were added. In fact, from my daughters birth, I pretty much dropped offline for around a year, apart from work and small appearances here and there. When I have broken those rules it has been for good reason, and with full consultation and consideration from the both of us.
There have been only a tiny number of people who have not respected these specific areas of privacy, and those people were never the kind of people I would want to know or deal with anyway.
Share part of what makes you you
The fact is you do have to share something, but it does not need to be intimate or potentially damaging. It is these divulgences that form bridges between people. Things like your favourite author, team, band, movie, stage show, artist, are all things that people can make small talk with you about.
By being an authentic you there is much more potential for creating real connections with people, and through these connections opportunities and friendships. If you are faking it then you will either be found out at worst, or at best be unable to have great face to face meetings and successful joint projects.
Real people rock. If anything, I would always rather meet an imperfect human being than a fake robot. Be proud to be you, mistakes and all.
What do you think? Do you feel you have to hold back on your personality? Are people being fake around you? Does comparing yourself to others or expectations hold you back? Please share your thoughts in the comments …