Six Blind Men and an Elephant

I was reflecting on the story about The Blind Men and the Elephant. As the story goes, each man touches one part of the elephant and describes what he thinks an elephant looks like.  The first man touches the leg, and feeling how straight and sturdy the leg is, says “an elephant looks like a tree trunk.”  The second man, feeling the sharp point and hardness of the elephant’s tusk, says “it looks like a spear.”  The third man runs his hands over the elephant’s side, and feeling its towering height and solid build, says “it looks like a wall.”  The fourth man, tugging on the elephant’s tail, says “it looks like a rope.” The fifth man, grappling with the thick squirmy trunk, says “it looks like a snake.” And the sixth man, touching the elephant’s ear, says “it looks like a fan.”  Each of the blind men only “see” reality based on their limited experience.

I started using social media as part of my job search strategy. (Check out 7 Secrets to Getting Your Next Job Using Social Media by Dan Schwabel for some ideas.) I jumped into Tweeting and Linking-In and Facebooking with gusto, but since, I’ve begun to ask myself “Am I showing people the whole me or just the side of the elephant I want them to see?” Someone who follows me on Twitter sees the side of me that is interested in corporate social responsibility (#CSR).  Or Social Enterprise #SocEnt.  They also see me tweeting about OpenAgile, which is a way of applying agility to environments beyond software development.  And I tweet about the persecution of members of the Baha’i Faith in Iran, which is an injustice that I am very concerned about. Do these tweets paint a whole picture of me?

My LinkedIn profile says that I’m a “Communications and Marketing professional with a passion for Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Innovation”.  This is true. It is also incomplete.  I am also more than a “Sustainability practitioner with an international development education, strong business acumen, and a passion for human rights and the environment. Successfully delivered results in both corporate and non-profit organizations. Experienced in business development, marketing, community relations, and project management. Interested in contributing to the sustainability of organizations that are committed to doing ‘good’ while doing ‘well’.”

I believe it is tempting for people going through a career transition, and who are trying to use social media to network and build their online “brand”, to show others what they think others want to see.

The truth is every one of us is like the elephant in the story. We are all so much more than our online profiles, Twitter feeds, Facebook photos, and blogs. And although we’re not always aware of it, we are whole beings. We are one, and we live one life. True “friends” and “followers” want the real you. Be authentic.

*Note: Thanks to Berteig Consulting for the use of the elephant image and for introducing me to the story in the OpenAgile Primer.