It happens. Sometimes people fudge the truth a bit. Whether it's posting a "congratulations -- you're perfect together!" message to a couple you don't think will survive the first year of marriage, or you told a friend you love her new haircut (when you think she looks like a 14-year-old boy,) or you embellished the "results" you achieved on a job when creating your online profile, or the extreme claims of "stolen valor," lying never pays off.
Consequences of Lying Online
While lying itself is bad, lying online can have dire and lasting consequences. What happens online stays online. Increasingly, we see examples of employees exposed for exaggerating resumes on LinkedIn, friends misleading friends with their intentions on Facebook, and professionals claiming expertise and capabilities they are not qualified to handle on social networking sites, websites, and blogs. When the lies are exposed, they can damage reputation beyond repair.
Reputations, after all, are fragile. Your word is gospel in the land of trust and relationship-building. When someone is found out to have lied, trust is broken and it can be very hard – if not impossible – to regain the relationship, whether it's between employer and employee, colleagues, consultant, and client, or otherwise.
The Power of Authenticity
Relationships and trust start with authenticity. I define authenticity as "living the core values that guide your emotional, spiritual and intellectual self and that present themselves through your behavior." In other words, when you are your most genuine, humble and real self, you are being authentic.
Being authentic requires consistency. Most anyone can "fake it" from time to time if they've been scripted or coached to behave a certain way. But true authenticity dictates that you consistently show up as a certain way, enabling your audience to believe that to be your genuine self.
Since your personal brand is a promise of an experience, an authentic personal brand is one that is consistent and dependable. Each time I interact with you, I know I can expect you to be yourself (i.e. qualities such as friendly, honest, collaborative, inquisitive, etc.) I don't have to worry that you will try to be someone you're not just to impress me.
The Online Space Demands Authenticity
When considering authenticity online, there can sometimes be a thin line between truth and lying. The online space demands we show up in a genuine way. When someone only gives us their rehearsed and scripted personality, we don't trust them. We might enjoy reading their posts and viewing their photos, but we don't feel that we get to know the real person. People who represent themselves genuinely -- sharing their passions, fears, goals and talents -- enable others to know them as genuine (even flawed) human beings.
The next time you consider lying to your online employers, colleagues, contacts and friends, try focusing on being genuine instead. Ignore the scripts of what you should do/believe/want/love/think, and listen to that voice inside you which knows what is right for you, above all. This is your authenticity coming through.