Level: Can be customized for writers at all levels.
Context: This activity asks students to consider the concept of “authenticity” in social media writing, and in their writing more broadly. Through this activity, students will learn to identify and interpret writing “personas,” personal and business, as well as consider goals and purposes in online writing. It also asks students to grapple with their own online personas and representations. Instructors might ask start the conversation in class by asking students how they interpret the two quotes below. The individual writing and reflection piece can either take place immediately after this discussion in class or can be assigned as homework.
The topic of “authenticity” is one that troubles many writers, particularly those writing online. Two of the interviews in the Archive of Workplace Writing Experiences mention the struggle of being “authentic” on social media:
A Freelance Illustrator states:
“I try to really write from the heart and connect with my audience, and along with that comes the writing that I do on Twitter and Instagram, both social media writing, but I try my best to be relatable and to be authentic instead of somebody that is just trying to sell herself. So I would say that is my most important writing, trying to forge a connection with another person just by being who I am, without manicuring myself.”
A Business Development Director at a creative agency explains that:
“…we all know what social media looks like, and we know what the popular people on social media post and the copy they write, and you just try to mimic something that looks and feels authentic to you, and is still obviously, you know, lighthearted.”
Considering the quotes above, as well as your own social media experience, answer the questions below:
- What does the concept of “authenticity” on social media mean to you?
- Why do you think these two writers place importance on trying to craft authenticity? Why is “achieving authenticity” challenging?
- Many writers have an online writing “persona,” which may or may not represent them truthfully as they are in real life. How would you describe your own social media persona? What does your online persona’ life look like, and does it adequately represent your own? What does your persona care, as evidenced by how and why you post?
- Businesses also, ideally, craft a “persona” related to their brand that they work to show consistently online. This persona may be formal and business-like or it may be more casual, appearing to interact “like a friend.” Find a brand that you follow or interact with on social media. How would you describe the “persona” of this organization? How did you come to that conclusion? (You might cite here language, tone, images, etc.)
- Using this same organization’s feed, can you determine the audiences you think they’re trying to reach? How can you tell?
- What purposes (yes, multiple!) do you think they’re working to achieve? What clues you in to these goals?
- Would you say that the brand is “authentic” online? Why or why not?
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