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Remember when the only images you couldn’t trust were those in fashion magazines or grainy Bigfoot videos?

We live in a world where everything can now be (and usually is) edited, and everyone can change their image with a few clicks.  Some apps even change it in real time while you’re taking a selfie; your skin looks like porcelain and your unicorn horn is shiny gold.  Our world has shifted dramatically and now, more than ever, image appears to be everything.  Entire days can be absorbed by creating the perfect post to one-up our digital relationships. We use social profiles for everything from job seeking to dating, and our social personae now determine how others see us.

The problem? Our “vulnerability factor” is being lost. Think of a politician admitting fault or lack of knowledge on any topic, or that another candidate might have a better idea.

When was the last time you saw anyone in leadership say “I don’t know…I’ll have to consult an expert on that.”  We gravitate naturally to leaders, but if they can’t present themselves in a real way and don’t have the confidence to be vulnerable, we lose trust and must start fact-checking everything.

Vulnerability has been categorized as a weakness; overcome instead by arrogance due to insecurity and the need for everyone to be impressed…to like us…to think we’re perfect.

But the reality is…well, reality. As much as we’d like to fight it, human beings are anthropologically attracted to truth, so the world as we now see it is confusing us.

What is real?  Who can we really trust?

Even journalism – the supposed last bastion of unbiased truth – has been overwhelmed by the need to please and entertain vs. report what is actually happening.

As people (and consumers), we desire deeper relationships than what we can find in the digital world. We cannot fully trust someone or something that is too perfect.  We need a balance of reality, and showing vulnerability is a huge part of that balance.

Phone with fake news graphic

Because vulnerability takes confidence, it takes guts – it’s a strength, not a weakness.  Admitting vulnerability makes the other things you are confident about that much more attractive.

Mind you, there’s a big difference between authentic vulnerability and insincere self-deprecating behavior.  I don’t condone the latter because it’s negative and, frankly, gets really old, really fast.  But someone who can’t make fun of themselves or pretends to be all-knowing is truly missing out on real interactions and personal growth.

No, vulnerability and transparency aren’t weaknesses. They’re a true sign of connection.  They’re human and build trust.  No one is perfect.  No one looks like a photoshop project.  No one is right 100% of the time.

What’s driving this contemporary God complex?

Man smiling and standing with arms extended

Why does everyone feel the need to exude perfection with complete and utter knowledge of all things at all times?  For one thing, social media makes it too easy to put only positive stuff out there; to post your views as ultimate truth and not give heed to anyone else’s opinion (for fear of being chastised or “unfriended” or “unfollowed.”)  When you think about it, using social media in this way flies in the face of what human beings ultimately find attractive. So many of us have fallen into the trap of Perception over Reality.

Here’s an idea: Let’s make vulnerability and transparency the “new black.” I’m not suggesting we overshare or inadvertently sabotage our credibility.  But let’s be confident, strong, truthful, realistic. Let’s go back to being human to connect with our audience in a more meaningful, influential way.

Michael Priem

Author Michael Priem

Somebody’s got to lead this group of crazy, creative people. Michael does just that – and more – as CEO & President of ModernImpact. He’s a life-long innovator with a keen eye for digital technology, strategic planning, new business and corporate development – all done with an approachable, entrepreneurial spirit. Michael brings a brain full of ideas and excitement to every challenge, and there’s never (and we mean never) a dull day when he’s around. He inspires us to dream, create and get it done right. Of course, he also moves pretty fast – so if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss him.

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