As with so many things in life, this dichotomy presents itself as a series of contradictions. Do what you love and the money will follow, but you’ve got to take responsibility and do what pays the bills. Birds of a feather flock together, but opposites attract. And you should always be open and honest with your audience, but no one likes a Debbie Downer. As an “online personality,” how should you approach the problem of authenticity?

The Casting Call

In life, we are oftentimes encouraged to put our best foot forward, to present ourselves as our best selves. When you get called in for a job interview, you probably take a few extra moments picking your outfit and fixing your hair. You play up your best qualities and downplay your shortcomings. You play a role.

Indeed, life is like theater and we tailor ourselves to fit the parts we’re playing. All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. We all wear our masks. The person you are in that job interview isn’t quite like the person you are at the pub with your mates or at grandma’s for Thanksgiving.

This phenomenon is perhaps even more pronounced online where we are empowered to present a much more curated version of ourselves, the Facebook version if you will. We show off our happiest moments and fanciest adventures, not the dull humdrum routine of the daily grind. It’s a constant game of one-upmanship.

Do you follow any “influencers” on Instagram or vloggers on YouTube? So many of them appear so overwhelmingly positive and cheerful all the time. But is that just a mask?

Everyone Struggles

The truth of the matter, as I’m sure you already recognize, is that life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. We’d like to think that celebrities lead a charmed existence and they have no excuse not to be happy all the time, but it’s not that simple. Everyone has a tough time with something. Even the “Fresh Prince” Will Smith. He once said:

Never underestimate the pain of a person, because in all honesty, everyone is struggling. Some people are just better at hiding it than others.

A great example of this is Jim Carrey. He always played this over-the-top funnyman and he was raking in some rather hefty paychecks, but he was still suffering inside. He was still fighting his personal demons.

Myself, while I gratuitously share my lunches and vacations with everyone online, I also struggle with a lot of things. For the past year, I’ve seriously contemplated whether I’m going through a midlife crisis, even if I’m probably several years too early for that.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand and appreciate that some people are going through much more challenging hardships than I am. That’s undeniable. But so-called “first world problems” are still problems and many of them are viewed as social taboo.

The Problem with Authenticity

You see, here’s the thing about maintaining an air of authenticity online. As much as people say that they value honesty and authenticity, they’ll also consciously avoid negativity. No one really wants to follow so-called “negative” personalities who have fallen deep into the pits of depression and despair. Put another way, no one wants to see how the sausage is made.

Instead, a big reason why certain influencers have achieved the level of success that they have is that they have the uncanny ability to put on a happy face, even when they don’t really feel like doing it. They recognize that people really just want someone to aspire to or to look up to. They tap into the “law of attraction,” because surrounding yourself with positivity will lead to more positivity in your life, right?

But what if it’s a false positivity? What if we are worshiping false idols?

Stay Positive or Keep It Real

No matter how good you have it objectively (if you’re reading this blog post on the Internet, you’re already better off than nearly half of the rest of the world), there’s always going to be someone else who appears to lead an even better life. But it is utterly unfair and unrealistic to compare your full, authentic life with the “Facebook version” of others.

So where does this leave us if you want to a blogger, influencer, or any other kind of so-called online personality? I’m not sure. As much as people may seek out these beacons of hope, I’m going to do my best to “keep it real” in this space. Because real life is hard. You are not alone.

And sometimes, that means having to learn how the sausage is made.