Are Authentic Social Relationships Over Rated?

are authentic social relationships over rated?Imagine this… it's a Saturday morning. You just left the gym. You're sweaty and ready to go home and take a shower.  However, your fridge and cupboards are empty. On your way home is both a Wal-Mart and a Target store. Your shopper brain wants to go to Target. Your stinky self chooses Wal-Mart. You figure “I'm stinky plus I can save a few bucks!”

Does this mean Wal-Mart or target is more authentic? Or does it simply mean we can be more authentic entering Wal-Mart over Target. Isn't working out and getting sweaty part of life for those wanting to be healthy? At the core is it Target that makes us feel uncomfortable being our stinky selves? Or is it Wal-Mart that enables us to feel more authentic? Or is it neither?

Is it within ourselves? Is it what we feel more comfortable with?

I host a #GetRealChat on Tuesday nights where we “Get Real” on many topics that some avoid or don't like to talk about. We get real on the good and bad of social media, business and social relationships.  Dan Perez chatted into one of our chats a couple weeks ago with some interesting comments on the topic of social relationships.  He followed up with a blog post Authenticity, Transparency, & Hypocrisy: An Observation.  Although I don't agree with his every thought, he made me think.

I believe authenticity can exist in social media. I believe we can start and nurture online relationships into something meaningful and real.  Are there fakes out there, yes. Will there be people who will scam us and fool us into thinking they are real, yes. However, it doesn't change the hope we have to believe in real people and have real relationships.

Let's take a look at the definition of authenticity.

authenticity — adj
1. of undisputed origin or authorship; genuine: an authentic signature
2. accurate in representation of the facts; trustworthy; reliable:an authentic account
3. (of a deed or other document) duly executed, any necessarylegal formalities having been complied with authentic–

authentic — adj
1. not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.
2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence authenticated; verified: an authentic document ofo the Middle ages; an authentic work of the old master.
3. entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy

real social relationships require trustAuthenticity becomes real in the heart of the receiver. You can make yourself believe you are authentic but if I don't believe it too, then it doesn't matter.  The question is do I believe your motives are genuine?  The way you make me feel is going to influence how genuine I believe you are. If you make me feel secure, peaceful, inspired, trusted, etc. and you do such in a genuine way then I may believe your motives are real.  Do you make me feel good? Do you put me at ease? Do you enable me to trust you?  Chances are if you do these things then we have a chance at a real relationship.

Authenticity does not equal inspiration. There is more to an online relationship than being authentic. We must connect. You must inspire me to look past the avatar on a Twitter feed. Just because I don't do the double click on your profile doesn't necessarily mean you are or aren't authentic or real. It simply means you didn't or haven't yet inspired me to do such yet. It may or may not happen today or in the future.

Authenticity and transparency are not the same. What does it mean to be ourselves? What does it mean to be real? Yes, there is only one me.  However, that one me has bad days, good days. I have different tones of voice that enable me to connect with different people.  The true gift of a real relationship online or offline is being able to peel back the onion layers even when they're stinky. It's the ability to talk about and share the flower filled days right along with the stinky onions and not feel guilty or insecure doing such.

Transparency enables us to foster the real & deep relationships. Just because we are authentic with one another doesn't mean we have the same level of transparency with everyone. There is no relationship that is the same. Transparency differs with each relationship based upon trust and many other factors. Of course I don't expect to have the same relationship with my Twitter friends that I do with family. However, the level of “realness” and transparency will determine how close we get and what happens with that relationship in the future.

Authenticity does not require the same level of transparency with every relationship. Just because we may not have the “same” relationship with each person, doesn't mean it's a fake or that either one of us is being un-authentic. We all connect in different ways. We share different onion layers with one another, differeent layers of transparency.

Do I want to see and smell every onion layer of every Twitter contact and Facebook friend? Heck no! Do I want every client to dump their closet of personal skelatons on my table? No! However, do I have existing clients, partners and Twitter friends I share tears of joy, laughter and sorrow with? Absolutely! Are there people I have met on Twitter who live across the globe who I know better than the neighbor across the street? You betcha!

social media tears down wallsSocial media tears down walls. Who cares if we meet on Twitter or at a neighborhood event? We may have more in common with many people we meet online than the neighbor next door. The power of social media enables us to find and connect with people across the globe who we'd likely not meet otherwise. With searches, tweets and follows we can find the gems. We can find the people who share similar interests, goals and life objectives.

Social media enables us to start our relationship on a common foundation of knowledge and interests which might be more than the neighbor you know nothing about and have always had a hard time connecting with.  We can talk openly for the world to see on tweet streams or Facebook wall.  Or we can talk behind social doors in Twitter DMs and Facebook private messages. We can choose to double click or keep it at a tweet stream read. It's up to us how real we want to get with the people who cross our social streams.

Let's quit bantering over the semantics & get real with people. Authenticity is a word being over used in social circles. Does it begin to lose meaning to some? Absolutely. However, just because we may be tired of the word “authenticity” does it change the importance and ability to embrace, desire and appreciate real relationships both online and offline? Absolutely not.

Authenticity is not black or white. It is is not on or off. It can't be nailed down like a dictionary word. Authenticity to me is my ability to be real with you and you with me.  It could be my problem if I am not real with you or it could be yours.

people buy from peopleBottom line, people buy from people. If I can't trust you I am not going to buy from you. I believe this is true regardless of the price tag of the purchase. For example, there is a restaurant chain in our city that has very differing customer service levels. Our family does not visit one of the restaurants due to the poor service and disrespect from their service staff. It's not an expensive restaurant. It's simply we don't like how the people there make us feel. We don't trust that they aren't doing bad things to our food in the back kitchen.

Finding the needle in the haystack online relationships where I am real with you and you are real with me is the greatest gift of the social ecosystem. Finding people you can “be real” with are what fuels life into Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If we were all fakes and not in it for the people then it wouldn't be as addicting as it is. It's addicting because we are connecting in real ways with people.  We can voice opinions, we can share information. We can inspire. We can connect. We can achieve more together.

social media real relationships I'm not giving up on real people. Authenticity, smauthenticity, transparency, schamparency. I don't care what you call it. I still am not giving up on the hope for people to be real with me, me be real with them. I am not giving up on knowing that those relationships are what is and will fuel my business and life. If we can't believe in people, if we can't enjoy people then what's it all for? Why don't we just go back to coupons, email spam blasts and billboards? No thanks. I'll take the thousands of fake Twitter accounts for the few gems that touch my tweet stream with knowledge, inspiration, giggles, and life.

Your Turn?
What are your thoughts? Do you believe in real online relationships? How does someone earn your trust and business? What criteria do you set for purchase, friendship and other decisions?



See this post syndicated on B2C Business 2 Community


About the Author:

CEO / Founder Marketing Nutz, full service social media, digital marketing, experiential brand, conversion optimization agency. Ranked by Forbes as Top 10 Social Media Women and 10 Social Media Power Influencer. Keynote speaker, author, strategist, consultant, coach, & trainer. Helps businesses of all sizes integrate social media into the DNA of their business, connect with target audiences to nurture authentic customer relationships. 15+ years experience working with Fortune 500, Franchised corporations with 4000+ local franchises to entrepreneurs and startups.


  1. Peggy Fitzpatrick May 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    “Transparency differs with each relationship based upon trust and many other factors.” This encapsulates the topic for me, you can be transparent at different levels depending on the relationship and still be authentic.

    Great post – loved the #GetRealChat that inspired this post and look forward to peeling back more layers with you.

    • PamMktgNut May 27, 2011 at 3:07 pm

      Peggy – I can’t believe how long it took me to get my thoughts half in order after the last couple #GetRealChats and Dan Perez’s post. I don’t think I’m even 1/4 of the way there yet but this is a start. If there were different words we could use them. However, at the end of the rope, it’s people, right? There are no right words that can ever describe what we feel in our heart when it’s real, when we trust and we truly enjoy the conversation, relationship and banter. 

      Yes, there are many layers to transparency. Really stinky, stinky, lil’ stinky and not so stinky! Ha! 

      I know you already know that you are one who crosses my tweet stream and makes me smile. Thanks for that!

      • Peggy Fitzpatrick May 27, 2011 at 4:56 pm

        Pam – This continuing conversation about transparency and authenticity proves that there can indeed be powerful connections via virtual relationships. You, Dan & I were so inspired to continue the dialog with ourselves and others that we are still sharing weeks later. I agree with you, it is people and connections. I believe that transparency and authenticity have gone beyond adjectives to true character traits and that it where they are being judged. You can be 100% transparent in a conversation, but that does not mean that you are showing your full hand of cards to a person in which you are at an outer layer of trust. It is a multi-level topic with many opinions.

        Looking forward to continuing to discuss. Thank you!

  2. My name is Cd May 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Pam, this is really good.  And I am providing this link to my students in my upcoming class Authenticity, Transparency, Honesty and Truth in Storytelling Your Brand.  I think this is a very good read for them as you make a lot of the points I plan to bring up in class.  I will make this “required reading.”  

    • PamMktgNut May 27, 2011 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks CD! I am honored. I would love to hear their feedback. 

      As I mention below in the comment to Peggy, these thoughts are still coming together for me. It’s such a hot topic on social streams. Many are bashing the words of authenticity. I can live with that. However, I am not giving up on people. I am not giving up on people like you who I have never met yet face to face but know when we do it won’t be a handshake but a big ol’ twitter bird style bear hug. There are neighbors on my own street that I wouldn’t hug like that. 

      Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Maybe we could have your students join one of our #GetRealChats one night. You could moderate with me and we could integrate the content with your course material. Open to any ideas. 

      Have a wonderful weekend! 

  3. Copy Grove May 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    If you ever had a pen pal, then you know the extent of a social media friend or contact.

  4. Copy Grove May 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    More to the point, to answer your questions:

    Do you believe in real online relationships?
    Yes, real online – the operative phrase. It’s still online.

    How does someone earn your
    trust and business?
    By demonstrating credibility and integrity.

    What criteria do you set for purchase, friendship
    and other decisions?
    Reputation & example

  5. Anonymous May 27, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Believe it or not, there’s not much here I disagree with. Your first paragraph just about says it all: “Authenticity becomes real in the heart of the receiver” – either I believe it or I don’t. The views I expressed in my post are personal and clearly do not apply to everyone. Ultimately, my business is [A] Not dependent on social media to thrive, [B] I’ve already have all the “tried and true” friends I need (friendship has great value but the friendship of many is way overrated IMHO) so anything else is gravy, [C] I’ve got a great wife and family who support me (even on my cranky days) and inspire me. It was from that place where I expressed my views.

    Some people have all their eggs in the social media basket and have to look at things differently, act differently, tweet differently, be different than who they really are because they need people to believe some sort of “perception” that will benefit them. They blog on the topics they feel they “need to” write about, use language they wouldn’t normally use, etc. Now, I got no problem with people doing what they got to do to make a living or to create a “personal brand” because ultimately (and this is the point of my post), I just don’t care. If I’m enjoying the “engagement”, I don’t really care if you’re real or fake – I’ve got nothing invested in the relationship; its just “social”, a pastime.

    Now, when we take the relationship to another level (the “real world”), things become a bit more risky. Now I need to know whether you are who you say you are because I’m about to invest time meeting with you, or we’re about to discuss a business transaction, or we’ve decided to go out with the wives for a drink. Now there’s something at stake. But until we get to that point, I’m on social platforms to have fun. I’ve met some interesting and engaging people who’ve made me laugh, I’ve engaged in pleasant (and unpleasant, for some) debate (which I also enjoy), met several people IRL (yay!) and will continue to do so until I get bored of it.

    So should authenticity or transparency in social media matter? To me, no. To others, perhaps. So, like you say, “Let’s quit bantering over the semantics”, especially in the social space. But as for “getting real” – I could really care less – just don’t say anything stupid :)Thanks for including me in your post. Quite an honor for a small-time blogger like me. Hugz.

    • PamMktgNut July 11, 2011 at 3:34 am

      I am really not surprised you agree with me on this Dan. I think at the core we agree, yet symantecs get in the way of us being able to explain it 😉  

      I like your use of the word “perception.” I think you hit the nail on the head. If you’re having to worry about a “perception” too much then in reality you’re not being real. Being real is simply being real. Of course we have to follow norms, laws and business guidelines for what we can share when etc.  However, at the core we are human beings and if we simply behave and communicate like such it all becomes a bit more simple! 

      Your post has made me think for weeks and still is, darn you! 😉 

      Thanks for always challenging me, making me think and simply engaging with me in a real way. 

      Appreciate your comment and the thought you put into it. No matter what people say I got your back Perez! 😉 <>


  6. Maria Papadopoulou May 30, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    I do believe in online relationships.Internet has provided tons of opportunities for everyone out there. What people need to realize though, is that they should think twice what they say on the net. 

  7. Rachelle Goldenberg June 1, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Very well said. I think that people have mixed concepts of what their authentic self is. Is it the you that you are at home in the casual element, or is it the you that you are when you leave the house with makeup on? I think people have a hard time determining who their authentic self is…. and that it doesn’t have to be the un-showered version of themselves, and it doesn’t have to be the dressed to the nines version…. the truth lies somewhere in between. Thanks for this great post!

    • PamMktgNut July 11, 2011 at 3:29 am

      Very well said Rachelle. One of my son’s teachers had written an end of year card stating something similar in that my “real son” was something in between what he is at home and what he is at school. I think she is right as are you! 

  8. John Westra June 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I believe the subject of authenticity is extremely important.  Let’s be honest, “Social” relationships come in a host of flavors.  When I attend an outdoor concert or festival I’m being “social.”  I’m also being “social” when I have an intimate conversation with a few family members or friends and share life challenges, fears, hopes and dreams.  This latter type of “Authentic Social Relationship” and dialog, whether conducted in person (best) or made possible via some type of Social Media tool like Facebook, is tremendously UNDERRATED!

    Do I believe in “real (online) relationships?  Yes & No.  Yes;  I believe it is possible to meet and get to know new people online who share common interests and express support for shared values.  No; I personally require extended verbal and ideally physical interaction to “vet” the potential relationship.  Human beings were created with the powerful instinct (genetic memory)-enabled senses of sight, hearing and yes, even smell, to help us evaluate those we come in contact with.  The 2D web (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc.) largely isolates us from these important clues about who a person really is.

    People earn trust by demonstrating they are trustworthy.  You learn who has demonstrated they are trustworthy from other people you trust, who have direct experience with their character and virtues, including integrity, fairness, humility, etc.  One of the greatest under-reported tragedies of the Social Media scene is the large-scale devaluation of LinkedIn’s “closed” social network model.  So called “open networkers” are ruining the major “Trust Authentication” advantage that LinkedIn has over other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

    For “Real Online Relationships” to flourish, we need to constantly look for ways to better vet and rate those we interact with online.  In the meantime, I will continue to use social networks as an acquaintance generating tool and form “Real Relationships” over coffee, lunch and through other in-person social interaction.

    • PamMktgNut July 11, 2011 at 3:27 am

      John, I think you hit the nail on the head with the “demonstration” of real. For you, demonstrating trust requires that face to face interaction. I agree in that is nice to look someone in the eye and be able to feel if they are being real by sight, body language, tone of voice. Much of that can not be seen in a tweet. 

      I do have many good friends I have met on social networks such as Twitter. However, many of these I also have met face to face which has helped nurture our relationships beyond what we could obviously do online. 

      Thanks for taking the time to comment in such a thoughtful way. 

  9. Anonymous August 11, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    The POWER of Like can be overated if it isn’t authenic. If it isn’t backed up by loyalty, respect, pure raw realness of a true character.

    Its earned by real effort. You can buy social relationships. But those who are pure stand out like a sore thumb.

  10. Steve | September 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    First thing i want to say is “Really great article”.
    I’ve started using social media for my company and in my industry, it’s important to build real relationships. Whether it’s first in person or if i meet them online.  At the end of the day, if i can help one person with a service or help answer their questions in the hopes of building trust and community, i am happy.  Sometimes, one has to give in order to receive!

  11. garious1 January 16, 2012 at 6:42 am

    Fantastic post, Pam! It’s interesting that most of your definitions of authenticity included the word “genuine”. I once wrote an article about authentic branding and defined authenticity as:

    Authentic = genuine + original

    To me, if you interact with people with a sincere intention to be giving and loving, your sincerity will shine through and people will feel it online or offline. You don’t even need to take communications skills courses! Mastering some skills can help for sure but if your words reflected how you feel deep down in your heart, people will love you for it.

    This reminds of a great advise Susan Jeffers said once that when see people on the street, keep saying to yourself: “I love you. I greet the light in you”. Can we cultivate this loving spirit with people we meet on social media?

    These are some of thoughts you beautiful post “inspired” in me 🙂 I would to love to know your opinion about them.

    Interestingly, one of my teammates at Garious loves your #GetReal chat. I haven’t had a chance to participate yet but I will try in the future because I would certainly love to get to know you better.

    Heba Hosny – @Garious1 rep.

  12. CAL_Living August 17, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I have come to believe that “Social Media” is a friendlier way to state the obvious: “We Want Your Business”  as you stated in the article “Bottom line, people buy from people. If I can’t trust you I am not going to buy from you. I believe this is true” 
    If this was not so accurate, then who in their right mind would try to become friends with the whole world? when most folks don’t have many “Likes” in the real world… 

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  14. Mr_Madness October 17, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Great post, Pam.
    Re: Authenticity, going beyond semantics, is about “keeping it real in real-time”. Simply being who you are. I can tell you’re a WYSIWYG person. Def among the gems in my stream!
    Re: Trust in the world of commerce: Pre-social, it was try/ buy first, develop trust later over time. Post-social, it’s develop trust first, buy/ recommend later. 
    To trust a person or brand online, you need to believe in the positive power of social media. Love your “I’m not giving up on real people” stance. You’re a believer. So am I. Takes two to… tweet 🙂

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  27. Rajendra May 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Pam does original work. Works hard too.

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