At some point we have ALL worked alongside a phony. They take credit for someone else’s work. They laugh at the boss’s jokes. Or they claim to be interested in things they aren’t. It’s frustrating, it’s annoying, and thanks to social media, it’s taking a new twist.
Welcome to the era of the image crafter. Where one can now carefully and easily control the way they are viewed and judged by everyone, including their colleagues.
‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ is the image crafter’s motto, and their goals are simple: To seek acceptance and attention from others. And hopefully, if done right, to quickly (and deceitfully) ascend up the corporate ladder.
Image crafting is everywhere. We see it in Linkedin posts. We see it in Instagram photos. And sometimes we see it in internal chat or intranet posts. At a glance you’d think we live in a utopian society of perfect people where nothing bad ever happens to anyone. But as we all know, nothing could be further from the truth.
For many, image crafting can become an addiction. The worst offenders are so dependent on the validation and praise associated with the crafted image that they completely lose their identity. For younger generations who grew up with Facebook, image crafting can feel like second nature. Especially if one is desperate for acceptance, and hasn’t yet figured out who they really are.
To some degree, we are all guilty. Think back to a job interview where you truly wanted the job. Were you really revealing yourself? Or were you saying what you had to say to land the job? Or what about the time you were tagged in an unflattering photo? Did you quickly untag yourself to avoid showing a less attractive version of you?
In the workplace, image crafting can appear in many forms. Here are a few you might recognize:
The compassionate image. The one who grew a mustache to raise awareness for a disease we already knew about–yet shaved it off the minute it interfered with his social life. The real motive wasn’t so much to raise awareness for the disease, but to symbolize their caring and charitable nature.
The healthy image. The one who is constantly posting about the negative effects of sugar, gluten, or whatever else is the latest food trend. Not because they have intolerance or allergies, but because they are eager to show that their diet is superior to yours.
The spiritual image. Their desk and social media posts are littered with quotes from the Dalai Lama, Tony Robbins, or Oprah Winfrey. The image this person is creating is one of spiritual enlightenment, or depth of soul. Yes, spiritual awareness may be a good thing, but it isn’t doesn’t happen from randomly displaying quotes.
The esoteric image. You will often see strategically placed books in online photos or on the desk of this image crafter. But not just any book; one that infers wisdom. Books like the The Wealthy Barber or 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This image crafter desperately wants you to know they are well read, intelligent, and ‘in the know’.
The internet may be making image crafting easier, but altering one’s image and pretending to be something you aren’t isn’t new. Look at Dale Carnegie’s book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. While informative, the mere suggestion of ‘winning friends’ suggest a cynical strategy with motives. But I have to wonder if Carnegie himself would be in favor of us evolving to a society lacking authenticity.
So how will we know when we are being genuine? Well, next time you post something personal online, ask yourself:
Are you really sharing something that is thought provoking and positive? Or are you instead crafting an image to create envy or acceptance from others? And, is your post realistic of who you are right at this moment? Or does it suggest a happier or more successful version of yourself?
It’s time to go back to keeping it real.