#januwordy: Authentic

Authentic. It’s a word that permeates the public life of social media. Newbies are advised to “be authentic.” Some established account holders talk about the imperative to be their “authentic selves.” But what does that mean?

Authenticity generally implies a certain level of openness and transparency. It’s the feeling that you have a good sense about the person from the words and actions that you see. To borrow another cliche, it’s “being true to yourself.”

But what does that look like in a world where put parts of our lives on display for acquaintances and strangers around the world? In spheres where engagement is measured in clicks and likes? There’s an underlying suggestion that authenticity will bring followers and connections, perhaps even attention and opportunities, maybe even financial gain one day.

Here I stumble. Do we really want authenticity? Or do we want performances of “authenticity”? #humble #blessed 

I can’t help but wonder about the many factors that contribute to our interpretations of authenticity.

How much of our expectations are driven by gendered, racial, ethnic, age, religious, and other stereotypes? She cares too much about money and power. He poses too hard as a feminist. She doesn’t post about this topic enough. They talk about that thing too much.

How much of our read of authenticity is about seeing trauma or pain? Certainly talking about struggles can be valuable, letting other people know they’re not alone and creating an opening for support from a virtual community. But there are pieces that many of us keep to small private circles, maybe even just to ourselves, at least for a while. That was true before the internet and remains true now. Failing to broadcast our anguish doesn’t make a person/a any less authentic, and may in fact be more so for a given individual.

True authenticity takes many forms, no matter which ‘verse we’re moving in. Some forms will resonate with us, as individuals, more clearly than others. And perhaps it’s worth a few moments of self-reflection to examine the ones that do and don’t.

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