Staying Authentic and Real

a.j.k. o'donnell
4 min readMar 25, 2019


Speak your Truth without becoming inauthentic in the digital age

Being a young, woman of trans experience, creative from Nebraska — trying to navigate national literary conversations and movements I care about— can be difficult and isolating. When I first started utilizing my social media presence to promote and engage my work with people across the world, I was extremely overwhelmed. I do not naturally love social media, and I have struggled with how to engage people while remaining fully myself at all times. Where I currently struggle, is wanting to share extremely dynamic aspects of myself, that might be seen as too personal or disruptive in current social structures. I am working on that, and I am getting better at not caring what judgment I might receive.

Since I have been on Twitter, I’ve had some really amazing conversations with people I’ve looked up to for a long time. Twitter is great for dialogue and authentic sharing. But it wasn’t authentic sharing at first in my case. It was, in the sense that I shared things I was working on or passionate about, but it was not always done in an authentic way. Dumping information, posts, and asks for promotional aid into people’s DMs is not authentic. I realized that, and have proactively stopped being that person. If your platform is relatively small compared to another person’s who you look up too, open a dialogue and discuss how you can support one another — you might be doing something that a person wants to support, and vice versa.

On Facebook — where I am most comfortable being completely raw and authentic — I have witnessed a phenomenon where people will “mass-tag” others when they have an event, announcement, or post. The issue here is you are forcing yourself into someone else’s space without getting consent. We might forget sometimes, while “digital”, timelines and profiles are people’s “space” and we should always be asking for permission when we post something like a “mass-tag” if we have to do one at all.

While I use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn the most — there are ways to be inauthentic on all platforms, and it is important to be mindful of them.

Here are some pointers in how I have learned to be authentic on social media and engaging with people in general.

1. Know who you are

If you do not first know yourself, authenticity will continually allude you. Knowing who you are is an ongoing experience, but if you are not even walking that path, then you will always struggle. You might struggle anyway, but you will know who you are, your worth, and how to exert your presence authentically. That is of the utmost importance.

2. Open dialogues, not network asks

Having dialogues with people you admire, the work they are doing, and how impactful it is, is far more rooted in authenticity than simply asking them to engage with your work. Since changing my mindset to doing this, I have had the chance to collaborate with and amplify people doing vital work. I have made companions in the pursuit toward Goodness, not just “social networking capital.” People are not currency, they are not capital. If you see them that way, you will never have an authentic relationship — ever.

3. Recognize when you are engaging marginalized communities and how that is different

As a white person, it is important for me to be intentional and authentic when I evaluate who I am sending my information to, why I am, and if I am compensating emotional and physical labor in some way. Many of the people I follow on social media have marginalized identities, and many of them are people of color. If I am not internally asking myself who, why, and how I am engaging with people of color — I am perpetuating a system where white people benefit from the labor of people of color. Same goes for all white people — and anyone asking individuals with identities that are marginalized, in other ways than you, for things.

4. Reach out and apologize

If you have faltered in the past, reach out and apologize — intentionally — and don’t do it anymore. Learn from the mistake, while correcting your behavior and mindset. If someone checks you, sit in it. Be uncomfortable, acknowledge that it is a part of learning, and don’t become stagnate in a sense of guilt so much that you become inauthentic. That doesn’t benefit anyone.

Being authentic takes work. You have to do it, to be it.

Speaking and sharing our Truth is an innately human experience. It can also be a deeply empowering connection between Souls, but it must be done with authenticity. In an age of digital interaction, we must always be critical of ourselves, learning and unlearning, and bringing our Truth closer to Goodness through how we engage with others. That is how we will live and build a world that Listens, Shares, and Uplifts. Intentionally.

a.j.k. o’donnell is an American author, activist, and artist from Omaha, Nebraska. Her second collection of poetry This Void Beckons is available now at, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. She has a podcast about her book and Goodness, forthcoming.

Follow her @ajkodonnell



a.j.k. o'donnell

wordsmith, activist, and artist. She is the author of the collection "This Void Beckons".