From obscenity to serenity; how I use honesty to build an online identity.

Just me, fresh out of the gym, revealing myself at my sweatiest, reddest and least-attractive time in the name of realness.

My online identity has been rather fluid over the years, however something that I am utilising more and more frequently is honesty and my own version of authenticity. Although it used to be something I somewhat avoided for the sake of my own insecurities, transparency has become one of the most constant aspects of my online persona across all platforms. While the decision to open up to the world wide web about some of my deepest and most internalised thoughts and issues was an intimidating one, it brings multiple benefits to my overall online identity when it comes to sustainability and audience engagement.

The transition to a more honest and vulnerable online-me can easily be tracked through my Youtube channel and Instagram page. What sparked this sudden shift? A feeling of extreme disconnect and high anxiety regarding what I was creating. I was using social media in a way that felt shallow and isolating, where I had to uphold a certain image that wasn’t reflective of my ever-changing self. I had too many ideas for the unspoken ‘rules’ of social media that felt so stiff. I felt the pressure of what you are and aren’t supposed to share online and these limitations caused my content to become noticeably shallow and stale, causing inconsistency in my audience engagement. I figured out that the most efficient way for me to get the most out of my social media experience was to ignore Instagram aesthetics and Youtube regularities and to just post what I want, when I want.

The process and results of my progression from having an ‘aesthetic’ Instagram feed to having honest, authentic posts; displayed in this graphic by comparing an old post with a newer post
Designed with fotor

This began an adventure of broadcasting things that were quite personal and speaking to my audience as though they were my closest friends. My choice to be entirely vulnerable to the judgement and opinions of the outside world brought about a new form of engagement with my readers; one that felt much more intimate and fulfilling. From Tweets about my issues with procrastination and irresponsibility to Youtube videos discussing failed weight loss and my eating disorder, I found consistently found that the intimacy of honesty opens an avenue for increased relatability for my audience. My social media content that portrays authenticity that can be empathised with and understood by others on a personal level, has been some of my most successful in terms of legitimate and thoughtful engagement.

A graphic highlighting the increase in success as a result of me posting with more honesty and authenticity, comparing my most viewed video with my most recent/honest video
Designed with fotor

It’s not only me who has found this sense of genuity to be a useful tool online; businesses have also embraced social media influencers who develop trust in their audience by sharing personal details about their lives. In fact, a study from Elon University has found that “social media influencers’ success does not rely solely on their follower count, but their ability to influence followers through authenticity, confidence, and interactivity to create a connection between the follow and the brand.” (Glucksman, 2017). A very key result of this authenticity is something that has been referred to as ‘The Markiplier Mentality’ on Youtube (The Markiplier Mentality, 2019) it is thought that maintaining a very intimate, open and relatable line of communication between influencer and audience creates an overall higher level of positivity when regarding the creator, leading to a sense of community. As opposed to popular creators like Jake Paul, Markiplier has consistently shown honesty and vulnerability to his audience over his many years on Youtube, growing a massive amount of respect from both those who watch him and those who don’t.

This is important for my own online identity as I will build a stronger following before I build a larger one if I address my audience with complete transparency, rather than attractive but shallow content. Through authenticity, I will become more alluring to brands and businesses over time as my follower base becomes highly interactive and engaged. This will allow me to produce income from social media and spend more time creating the content that I enjoy. An element of this authenticity is building a realistic and honest intercommunicative self by creating bridges between my social media platforms; such as Tweeting about my Youtube video that addresses my eating disorder. This ensures that my Twitter followers know me as well as my Youtube followers and that a comprehensive understanding of who I really am can be built. Honesty has therefore become the most important aspect in the shaping of my online identity.

References:

Glucksman, M 2017, ‘The Rise of Social Media Influencer Marketing on Lifestyle Branding: A Case Study of Lucie Fink’, Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, Vol. 8, No. 2, pg. 4, 12/04/2019, <https://www.elon.edu/u/academics/communications/journal/wp-content/uploads/sites/153/2017/12/08_Lifestyle_Branding_Glucksman.pdf>

The Markiplier Mentality 2019, Youtube video, Just Jargon, 1 April, 15/04/2019, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3roRrLc65s>

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