social media honestyA report in the Telegraph today discusses how Twitter and Facebook has been found to increase anxiety and feelings of inadequacy amongst users.

If you’re active on social media either personally or professionally, you’ve probably experienced this at some point. It’s easy to get “sucked in” to the feeling that you must keep on top of everyone’s updates. Then and when all those updates seem to point to a perfect family, glamorous social life or cabinet full of business awards, it’s easy to start wondering why your own home / social life / career doesn’t match up.

Just last week, we were “discussing”** THOSE facebook friends in the office. The ones who you know are ruthlessly editing their lives to glossy perfection.

The “loved up” holiday updates from couples you know are on the verge of divorce. The poolside cocktail photos taken on a quick break from being bullied into submission during a sales conference.  And possibly most irritating of all, the coy, attention seeking status updaters of the “Wow, what a life changing day” variety.

When we stop to think about it, we all know that nobody’s life is like that.  Providing such a skewed view of what’s happening with their lives means that the updater is missing out on some of the best aspects of social media – being able to access support and advice, and connect with people who want to help them. They’re also depriving their real friends of the opportunity to offer a shoulder to cry on over the crumbling relationship, or moral support in the face of the bullying sales manager.

How much honesty is enough?

The same dilemma applies to updating your business Facebook page or Twitter account; does everything always have to look as though you’re conquering the world?

A business-based social media account is, by its very nature, going to demand a certain level of self-censorship – although we tend to call it “professionalism.” In the same way that your office colleagues don’t need to know the details of your bout of gastroenteritis at the weekend, there are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want to reveal doubts, fears, failures or outright cockups in your business.

But. Sometimes a little honesty can go a long way. Social media is a brilliant channel for asking for help or looking for expertise. Giving others the chance to help, or even just sympathise, is going to make your account  more attractive and human than a constant barrage of “look how great we are”.

In general, more people identify with difficulties and struggle than they do a neverending stream of “wins”, so not being scared to admit when things aren’t perfect will help you build much more meaningful relationships – and perhaps even find solutions to some of your challenges.

What do you think? Are we all self-censoring too much these days, and is it possible to be more honest?

**OK, ranting insanely about