Social media is about honesty and authenticity.
Now, where have I heard that before? Oh, that's right, everywhere. People are more honest when they share their instant thoughts in real conversations. Posting a comment on a blog. Posting a review on a hotel ratings site. Posting photos of their cats on Twitter. It's all honest, right?
Except, not. Because we're all running scared of honesty. Too much honesty can come back to haunt us.
More and more, we're all acting like we're all going to run for office one day. Where having any kind of opinion – good, bad or otherwise – could be harmful, sometime down the road. Where the brand you eviscerated today on your personal blog for bad customer service could wind up as your client in five years. Where those drunken photos on Facebook that your old boss had no problem with could hurt your chances at your new job. And social media becomes less about honesty and more about being inoffensive.
It used to be that you were "on" in the outside world, and "off" with your family or close friends. But as more of our relationships become publicly visible in the digital space, "always on" has taken on a whole new meaning. You can't say something one day and apologize for it the next. We're becoming less spontaneous, more calculated.
We don't say that. It's one of those unspoken truths. Those elephants in the room.
Anyone who has ever conducted even so much as a focus group knows that the act of being observed changes that which is being observed. It doesn't even matter that most of us aren't being observed by anyone other than a few friends. Sure, most people don't care about what most of us have to say. But by publicly posting anything – an opinion, a blog post, even a movie review – we're acknowledging the possibility that someday, someone might care. And you better believe we're watching our step.
And then we become a world of cardboard cutouts in the place of human beings. Because everyone is too afraid to actually care about anything. And isn't that a depressing notion?
We don't say that, either.
There's an answer. Say what you want. Talk about what you care about, what you're passionate about. In fact, don't just talk about it, shout it. Scream it from the rooftops. Get as many people as you can to care about the same things. Engage in intelligent, impassioned debate with those who disagree. Own your passion instead of hiding from it. And turn that into what you do.
We can't all be so lucky, you may be thinking. We can't all say whatever we want. And I agree, there are certain times when you can't just hit the "post" button without thinking twice.
But if you believe that character is fate, then with a healthy dose of passion, you can make your own luck.