A World Without Flaws – The Social Media Stepford Wives

An email with a subject  line of “You Made Me Cry” gets my attention!

And that is exactly what Jamie Lee Wallace wrote to me last week after reading the post “Social Media and the Big Conversation Fail.”

I guess it hit upon some profound feelings as she thought about the importance of the social web as a lifeline for a single mom trying to make it with her own business. With Jamie’s permission, I have taken excerpts from her message to me to share with the community …

As a single mom who works from home, I don’t have a lot of time or opportunity to develop and nurture the kinds of deep, relationships I’d like to have.  I know it sounds like a cop out, but – at least for right now – my life is moving at such a pace and scheduled so tightly that one glass of spilled milk can throw the whole day off.

So, I have the Internet – Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. It’s a godsend, really. My mom has told me how she wished she’d had access to a virtual community when she was young. My dad was stationed in Texas with the military and mom spent long, solitary days at home in their apartment with me and my younger sister. She had no car and no prospect for friendship within walking distance. I can hardly imagine the loneliness.

… except that, sometimes, I can. Even though I’m wired up to my eyeballs, even though I’m active on all these virtual platforms and engage in dozens of conversations each day, I sometimes feel so lonely. As one of the {grow} community members explained, I’m longing for “life beyond 140.”  I love my “virtual” friends, and many (if not all ) of them know more about me than my Real Life acquaintances, but there’s something about a real, human connection that gives more.

And, of course, that’s missing from the Web. There’s also a sense, for most of us, of keeping up a certain appearance. Even when we’re being personal and honest, we’re still able to control what people see. It’s not the way your true friends get to see you – the bad parts, the snits, the tears, the flaws.

And that’s what is missing from the social Web – flaws.

I know people share them, but even the confessions are “managed.”  Sometimes it seems we’re an online community of Stepford Wives.

Our flaws and human failings are a big part of what bring us closer to each other. A “real” relationship is one in which both people are not only aware of each other’s flaws, but experience them on a daily basis … and love each other anyway.  A real relationship is one that has value of its own, without having to exist in the context of some larger community.

I don’t want this to come across as being anti-social Web, it isn’t meant to be. I love the connections, opportunities, and magic that happens.  I guess your post just reminded me that there’s another world of relationships right outside my door which, despite or maybe because of their flaws, deserve as much attention as my virtual relationships.”

I like the way Jamie brings her heart to her writing and calls out the fact that we often try to be super-human on the web.

Ironically, I’ve found that in the few instances where people are “human,” something special ignites. Sharing honestly seems to connect much better than a cold topic like “the Five Biggest Mistakes on Twitter.”

What are your thoughts? Are you a Stepford Wife on the social web? Or something more?

All posts

  • There are probably many more factors than this, but I see two primary ones that play into people smoothing over, or just not showing, flaws…and in a sense, a fuller picture of themselves. One is that you don’t have to. You don’t have to tell people that you have an odd birthmark, squeaky voice, or anything else if you don’t want to. And, the other is that what you do on the web is recorded & can be brought back up to haunt you, so you might not want to talk about that traumatic childhood experience, fly off the handle at someone, etc, etc, etc if you don’t want the chance that you’ll hear about it again sometime in the future.

    As Jamie notes though, it’s the flaws that make us more human and relatable. I believe that the more you are immersed in working with people online the more you either become very practiced at covering up that full picture of yourself or the more you become comfortable with sharing the three dimensional picture of your personality.

  • Mark

    @Eric — Heck, I’ve been as guilty as anybody else. Why would I offer up flaws willingly? : )

    Yet, without exception, when I do reveal something, in the context of making a point or trying to help somebody, I cannot deny the powerful impact it has had. So, I have been a little less hesitant about just saying what I need to say because when I do, I seem to get a positive response.

    Plus, I really have nothing to lose. There is no benefit in portraying myself as a social media superhero. I get a lot more benefit out of just being part of this cool community and connecting in an authentic way. I have said time and again that I am truly humbled and amazed at the wonderful people who flow through the comment section of this blog. I learn from all of you every single day.

    When Jamie and others have written so personally and passionately, it simply inspires me to dig deeper and do better.

    Thanks so much Eric!

  • Thank you Mark for your courage and tenacity in leading the way for me and others in this community. Your authenticity is encouraging, enlightening and extremely contagious 🙂

  • @Mark – Thanks for opening the floodgates & holding my hand. 😉

    @Eric – It IS a big temptation to recreate ourselves in our own best image, so to speak. It’s almost like we get to play Cyrano to ourselves … constructing a personality of carefully chosen words. The image is formed not only by what is said, but by what isn’t said. I love the idea that there’s a choice to be made – covering up or opening up. I wonder how many people make that decision consciously and how many just “fall” onto one path or the other.

    @Dr. Rae – I second your appreciation of Mark’s work. I love how he goes beyond the SEO and ROI to talk about the personal and cultural impact of the technology and marketing trends. Always a treat. 🙂

  • A wonderfully told story by Jamie as was your original post about Jenn. And what did each one do? Cut straight through to touch our hearts and enable an emotional connection. We didn’t need to be there “in person” even though we may have wanted to. The flaws are the story obstacles that really pave the way to being able to evoke those emotions. Great stuff from you both! Thanks.

  • @Gregg – Just visited your site & I am overwhelmed with the abundance of excellent storytelling resources. I can’t wait to dive in. 😉
    “The flaws are the story obstacles that really pave the way to being able to evoke those emotions.” … as a fiction writer, that really hits home for me. We need ways to relate to each other and reasons to care – that is where the richness of the story – and life – live. Thank you.

  • Andria

    Jamie and Mark,
    Thank you for sharing this. Mark, I think you have the makings of your guest appearance and the discussion with my class with this column if you haven’t already decided how you want to approach it. Look forward to discussing more of your ideas soon.

  • @Andria – Thanks. I wish I could sit in your class during Mark’s visit. I’m sure it’ll be insightful and idea-stirring!

  • Awesome story Jamie, thanks for letting Mark share it. Just the fact that you did allow this to be shared is an example of what makes the {Grow} community so different than so many others. As a society I hope we never lose the “human” connection as that is the only reality.

  • Andria

    @Jamie – If a road trip to TN is in order, I’d be thrilled to have you there, too!

  • @Steve Dodd – Hello! 🙂 I’m grateful to Mark for taking this conversation to a more public forum and for making {grow} the unique community it is. My “over sharing” 😉 has sparked some great offline conversations with some of my virtual posse. There’s a lot here. I think there may be a follow-up post on Savvy soon!

  • @Andria – Wish there was a road trip in my future, but – alas! – not the case. I’ll have to get the virtual 411 after the event is all over. 🙂

  • Jamie, maybe Andria could film it for all of us who’d like to see? 🙂

  • @Gregg … We all know how much Mark LOVES being on camera. 😉

  • Jamie ~ for what it’s worth, I would give much to participate in a Book Club with you.

    Several years ago, I made a conscious decision to surround my Self with two types of people: those who mirror Who I Am and those who reflect Who I Desire to Create Myself to Be.

    Those who mirror who I am wake up qualities, talents and virtues within me that I either did not know I had – or that had gone dormant from lack of use, notice or recognition. Experiencing aspects of others that connects with me in a meaningful way awakens those parts of me, giving them courage or motivation to rise and be shared with others.

    These are the people who make me better off for having met them.

    Those who reflect who I desire to create myself to be model potential and possibility in an inspiring way. The Essence of who they are far surpasses the role they are portraying at the time. And the significance of their actions and contributions shows me that I, too, can rise above the limitations I may be operating within at any given time and I, too, can make a difference in the life of others.

    I’m an online Nomad. I seem to find my way to places where my Presence makes a difference, to show up where someone may need me in some capacity, or where exactly what I’m looking for happens to be. As a result, I tend not to wear the cloak or badge offered by most Communities or Tribes, because somewhere inside I know – my time there is finite.

    Then, I wander into the odd place where the atmosphere is lit with prisms of light – bouncing off all the mirrors arrayed in no particular order, each with the remarkable reflection of Who I Am or Who I Desire to Create My Self to Be.

    This is such a place (Mark) and Jamie ~ the potential I see in my Self when I look at the mirror that is you renders me very beautiful indeed.

    Thank you for that.

  • Well said Sally! I think that storytellers are ‘life poets’. I believe you might be one of those! 🙂

  • Thank you Gregg! I’m actually accumulated talent in search of a direction right now. Life Poet feels like something I could wear with Integrity for some time!!

  • @Sally G – Poetic, indeed. 🙂 You highlight some of the deeper reasons we long for authentic connections with other human beings. Though we may seem to be longing simply to be in the company of true friends, on a primal level I think we realize that our relationships are a huge part of what shapes us – our minds, hearts, and souls. Each meeting, interaction, and relationship changes us in some way. Whether for better or worse, it is all growth … for both parties. I treasure the watering holes of the Web where I can make connections that – though virtual – help me become more myself. We are lucky to have access to such places & I’m glad to have met you in one of them! 🙂

  • Mark

    OK, the last few blog posts have made me overdose on emotion.

    Starting tomorrow, I am re-creating myself as the Viking Blogger. No more emotion allowed, just raw meat and grunting. The blog is being re-named {growl}.

    Andria, you may want to re-think the class unless we change the topic to, “One man’s journey to becoming a Viking.”

    My next post will be: “Why the social web needs more aliens and gun battles.”

    Also, I would like to introduce three new sponsors: Nascar, Budweiser and beef jerky.

  • Quick everyone. While Mark isn’t looking. Take your heart off your shirt sleeve and replace it with a likeness of Richard Petty and then take ya’ a BC powder, so ya’ can “come back strong!” er, like a Viking.

  • Mark

    @gregg — Now yer talkin’

  • I’m donning my horned helmet and swigging my mug of mead. Ready when you are! 😉

  • ROFL!

  • Mark

    @Jamie — No girls allowed. Well, maybe if you bring the mead. How far can you spit?

    P.S. Hurray! Sally’s comment was number 5,000 on {grow}. I’m pleased to announce she has won a smoked turkey leg. Chick’s in the mail.

  • @Mark –
    Far enough.

    PS – Are you sure you’re not a comedian? “Chick’s in the mail” … holy cow. (Hey – let’s put that on a spit and call it dinner!)

  • Bring it on!!! Especially the beer….*S*…

  • Wow, I NEVER win ANYTHING! This is sooo exciting!!

    It is tinged with guilt though ~ it’s going to hurt my heart thinking of you hobbling around on one leg Mark. Maybe you could be a Pirate instead of a Viking. They {growl} too.

    As it happens, I’m a big fan of NASCAR and Beef Jerky. Forgive me for passing for that tainted water you all call beer. I’ll wear my Tony Stewart hat and manage my temper as I roar laps around you.

    As for Jamie’s spitting capacities – I’d say she spat far enough to shine up this post.

    Gentlemen, start your engines …

    (Proud sponsor of Comments 5,000 and 5,010)

  • @Sally G – Oh, honey. Those boys don’t know WHAT they’re in for! 😉

  • @ Jamie – likely but can’t wait to find out!

  • @SuddenlyJamie ~ you’re not just whistling Dixie. In addition to being the Queen of NASCAR – I also own and manage significant acreage in Valhalla. *passes Steve a beer*

  • @Jamie – thank you for sharing something so personal and for allowing Mark to publish it. As a single mom, myself, I resemble your comments.
    @Mark – I feel that blog post coming on, don’t you? 🙂
    @the rest of you – I love being part of this community and if I have to {growl} to continue contributing, so be it, but don’t be upset when ye timbers are shivered or yer spit ain’t up to snuff. I’m sponsoring Jamie.

  • @Steve – Post is queued up for tomorrow & you’re cordially invited. BYOMead. 😉

    @Sally G – I have a great aunt on my mother’s side who grew up in Valhalla. Beautiful place, though I try to avoid it during the NASCAR season. Who knew demi-gods could get so nuts over racing?

    @Arminda – So good to meet you! 🙂 The single mom path is a challenging one, but I’ve met some of the most amazing women along the way. Thanks for sponsoring me – I look fwd to shivering some timbers with you! 😉

  • Mark

    @ Y’all — Sorry, I had to go out and get a new spittoon. I sure go through those things.

    I have not had much time to work on the blog today because of my work on the Knoxville Mead Fest (first annual). I have been named the grand marshal. If you all are good I will bring you something home from the festival.

    I will probably post a video of me in my festive Viking garb as I lead the crowd in Scandinavian folk songs such as “Pillage Ye Well” and “Look, I see Land”

  • Now, THAT, I’ve got to see!

  • @Jamie – thank you for allowing Mark to share your email! It’s great to connect with you. I must admit, when I was finishing up college in a rural town, I moved my entire social life online and the result was wonderful, real-world friends who I treasure. No shame in that. Perhaps we should schedule a road trip to take you out for a beer? We can wear the previously described helmets.

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  • @Jenn – Thanks for the comment! 🙂 (Just followed you – btw, I’m a recovering project manager … still working at cleansing the spreadsheets and gannt charts after all these years!) 😉 Love your insight about combining the on and offline worlds – I really think that’s the best way to create the kinds of relationships that last a long time. I’d love a road trip one of these days (though my drink of choice is whiskey) … and I’ll definitely wear my helmet if you wear yours! 😉

  • @Mark – not quite sure what you”ve started here but when we finally figure it all out it’ll be one heck of a party. Whiskey, Beer, Mead and horned helments! Now all we need is a location. Sally’s spread in Valhalla certainly has promise!
    @Sally G. – thanks for the beer – great start!
    @Jamie – really looking forward to tomorrow’s blog!

  • Mark

    Remember when this blog had some dignity?

    Great quotes, taken out of context that I will use against you in the future:

    Jamie: “I’m donning my horned helmet.”

    Arminda: “Yer spit ain’t up to snuff.”

    Sally: “I’m a big fan of NASCAR and Beef Jerky.”

    Jamie again: “I look forward to shivering some timbers with you.”

  • Oh,man.

  • I think it’s safe to say the gauntlet has officially been thrown down. Bring it on. 🙂

  • @Suddenly Jamie. Good question. If my experience is any indication, I would imagine most people think initially about whether to cover, not mention, etc something and then only have that thought in the future when it comes to something big. Otherwise, I bet whatever choice you first made just becomes your habit.

    @Mark. Ha!

  • @Mark & @Jaime,
    This is a wonderful post. It cuts through the formulaic B2B marketing crap that so many of us get stuck in if we work in this space. First and foremost, we’re people. And people don’t really remember what you say or do; they remember how you make them feel.

    And this makes me feel proud to be part of a wonderfully intelligent, spikey and, yes, supportive community. Despite being a business blog !

  • @Eric – Funny. You made me think about those comedies where the protagonist starts out telling one little, white lie; but – by the end of the movie – has gotten himself in so deep just by rolling along with that original deceit. I bet that happens to people on the social Web ALL the time.

  • @Jon (or should I just call you “j” … love the avatar!) – Well said (as always). I’m so glad Mark shares his “home” with us and enjoys letting the conversation go WAY off the beaten path.

    No matter if it’s a personal, professional, or customer relationship – you’re right: it does always boil down to how you make someone feel. Did you connect on a personal level that makes them want to know you better? Did you instill a sense of trust, or did you make them feel uncomfortable and doubtful? At the end of the day, we are not titles or labels or avatars, we are human beings. The best way to relate to us is to treat us as such.

  • Karen Bice

    I love postings like this where people confess to being only human. Personally, many of the people I follow on Twitter & FB are pretty human who don’t see their connections as just numbers. I prefer connecting with people who will talk to me. The ones who don’t I usually end up unfollowing or defriending. In this hectic techno world today, I think it’s difficult to truly connect with many people whether in person or on the net. And I so know what it’s like to be a parent at home with small kids with no transportation or much outside contact. I can still remember being thrilled to see the postman, who I think wanted to run the other way when he saw me. 🙂 Great posting, Mark and Jamie!

  • @Karen – Thanks. It feels good to be real.
    I’m right with you about focusing my time on people who respond. We each have only so much of ourselves to give & I think the most satisfying relationships are those in which the attention flows in both directions.
    Thanks for coming by!

  • Mark

    @Karen — So nice to see my new Twitter buddy in the community! Thanks Karen! I appreciate you so much for taking the time to pass along your thoughts.

    @Jamie — Thanks for being patient with me during this post! : )

  • @Mark – Patient? Honey, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the chatter – both the “deep” and the “idle.” They both enrich my day & make me smile. 🙂

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  • “Starting tomorrow, I am re-creating myself as the Viking Blogger. No more emotion allowed, just raw meat and grunting. The blog is being re-named {growl}”


  • Very interesting article that struck a cord. While I feel close with many in my online community, it’s always at a guarded level.
    I think the nature of the medium excludes us from true moments of really “letting free”. Most prominently is the fact that our live missteps are usually fleeting moments of embarrassment; whereas, many of us fear that any virtual faux pas will live in infamy, forever captured online.


  • @Nathan – It’s the best, right? I may have to get a Viking tattoo! 😉

    @Andrew – Excellent point about the “living in infamy” thing. I bet that does – whether consciouisly or subconsciously – make us a bit more careful with our online interactions. Thanks for the addition.

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