This past year I have been catching up with the series Mad Men that tracks the protagonist Don Draper as he goes about his life becoming more entrapped by a web of lies. Every episode he falls deeper into a pose, an act that is far from who he really is. One episode highlights how far from reality he has strayed and ends with him taking his family trick or treating. As they stand on the steps of one of the houses, the neighbor cheerfully asks the children “now who are you?”. The Camera pans up to Draper’s face and the question becomes truly haunting as you see in his expression that he really has no clue.
This subject of identity surfaces when I am having conversations about privacy. I think it is more about the pose. People seek my advice on content, sharing and building influence and community in business. I often get the privacy question: how much should I or my business share online?
Before I answer that question I first ask how much they are comfortable being themselves. With the latest run of Facebook changes, many have found that they are no longer comfortable with the content they have shared presumably behind a wall of protection. Timelines expose their photos or likes freely on their friend pages. While I enjoy seeing what people are up to there are two types that I would prefer kept silent. Watching a person in a pose can be painful. Like Mad Men’s audience, the world is aware of our pose. Our lives are played out, some in public, some behind closed doors, but all on a stage.
Don Draper is an example of someone who is able to fool those around him, for a while. Others take on an almost clownish behavior afforded by wealth or fame. Take Megaupload’s founder and now jailed Kim Dotcom as a prime example. Even before his fall anyone could tell he was hiding his true identity behind fast cars, women and loud bragging.
Being ourselves doesn’t mean we have to bleed our issues all over the internet either. I share my workflow and personal life everyday. I invite others along on my journey and enjoy seeing others post as they go about their work and life. I don’t share every intimate detail of my life though. I have an inner circles of friends, each one with which I trust with more confidence as the circles tighten and reach the center.
This also means that I take time to self reflect and change the things in my life that are out of balance. I also ask a select group to be candid with me if they see anything in my life that is not in character with the person they have come to know. They are my trenchmates and I listen to them.
So when you ask, I encourage you to first know yourself, reach that place where you like who you are and change the things that you are unhappy with. Next I encourage you to find a balance that you are happy with when it comes to sharing you life with the world. I believe we are meant to learn and be inspired by the stories of peoples lives. We can’t do that if you hold back your own life. We have a lot to learn from you.