Authenticity On The Internet: Selling The Real You


I once learned that when introducing yourself to someone new, the person they’re actually meeting is your “representative”. This version of you is postured to represent what you think others want to see. Whether it be in a job interview or when networking, we strategically and subconsciously decide what parts of ourselves to display.

This is common on the internet and, quite frankly, exacerbated on forums like Instagram, particularly because content is generated with aesthetics in mind. You will win the game of social media if your platform can draw the eyes of viewers. The way content is displayed, from the flow of posts to the color schematics, can literally make or break how successful you are in building a brand.

At some point though, you will burn out trying to produce “ideal” content — sometimes at the cost of your own integrity. So, when do you draw the line in saying “enough is enough?” When must you be willing to break these outlines we’ve drawn for ourselves?

Tackling Instagram

When I started my Instagram, I got caught up in doing what I thought would get me followers, likes and engagement in the hair community. In many ways, I was very successful. In just a year, I was able to gain new clients, build a community of new hairdressers around the globe and, most importantly, be exposed to work outside my immediate bubble.

However, I can’t say that I really stood out from the sea of talent as an individual. At some point, I had to decide that if I was going to make any headway in my career, I would need to change.

Fast forward to a global pandemic and massive civil rights movement. Covid-19 took away our humanity and paused our lives so that we had to sit still. The viral death of George Floyd engaged us back into civility for the lives of Black Americans. As a Black artist, I could not sit by idly and not speak my peace. My algorithm broke when the pandemic took away my career. The death of Black Americans shattered it.

This is when I began to speak the only truths I knew how to speak: my own. Now, I’m no longer confined to posting what I assume my followers want to see. In fact, that’s become the least of my concerns.

The Real Secret to Success

I’ve found that being my true, authentic self, I’ve been led to more of the success I want in life. That is personal growth, genuine conversations with people I respect and admire and followers who not only enjoy my work, but support the kind of human I am.

Success is what you make of it. But, it’s also up for grabs when you are led by what social media wants from you. Instead, define what success looks like for you and do it with the utmost of integrity. Authenticity is hard to come by in a visceral world. But, if you allow vulnerability and authenticity to a part of your strategy, you will always win.

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Aja Hamilton

Aja Hamilton is a stylist and color specialist. She’s been in the industry for 18 years and currently works as a PulpRiot artist.

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