When I first started using social media to document my journey from graduate school to professional soloist, I wrestled with how exactly I would represent myself online. I constantly went back and forth about whether I would show what was really happening, or whether I would doctor it up a bit in order to appear more “professional.”
So I experimented with both:
At times, I’d show extreme vulnerability—a graduate student figuring out how to make his dream a reality, learning something new every day. An openness and honesty that was relatable and authentic.
And at other times, I’d hide all of that—a percussionist trying hard to look a certain way to impress people online. A “fake it ’til you make it” attitude, covering up the flaws in an attempt to look enviable.
What did I learn?
That there’s a time and a place for everything, and that context is important. Concert presenters don’t want to see you looking like an uncertain graduate student, so maybe a more “professional” (read: inauthentic) look is better (you know, that “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” mentality). But the majority of your audience wants to see the day-to-day of what it means to be you, so being forthright about your insecurities (read: honest) might be best. The stage of your journey (read: context) is also crucially important—if you’re a sophomore in your undergrad, you should probably steer towards honesty, but if you’re on the precipice of your dream career, you might embellish just a bit.
It would be easy to write a preachy blog post that screams HONESTY OR DIE, one that completely avoids the idea that it might sometimes be best to censor certain personal details from your posts. And of course, I thought about writing that, because it sounds idealistic and wonderful. But it wouldn’t have been honest.
What am I getting at?
That it’s complicated. I do firmly believe that there is more power in honesty, but sometimes you might have to puff your chest (or hide some doubts) in order to get that big gig.
And eventually, the career that you wanted to show (read: fake) a few years ago might actually be the career that you have now. And maybe now, you’re not faking anymore. That’s the goal, right?