When you work in the ‘online’ world, the concept of authenticity is always amongst the chatter. To succeed as an online writer, you have to be ‘authentic’, prove your authenticity. It’s overuse is becoming somewhat tiresome to me, and when I hear someone spouting how authentic they are, I struggle to stop the sneer from ruining my happy-selfie face.
The thing is, by virtue of working online you must orchestrate, curate and create in order to find your place. And you must convince. This is why it is also known as the ‘virtual’. So why bang on about being ‘authentic’ when the concept of online authenticity is an oxymoron? It automatically leaves me skeptical.
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” – Hamlet, Act III, Scene II
I recently read an article in Flow magazine on why imitation is a good thing, and that no person is ever truly original. It is in the emulation of others that we find our true voice, or talent or new ideas.
Yet, the cliche ‘fake it till you make it’ rings true in a sense, because you can’t be an artist or a writer or entrepreneur (or what ever you are trying to be) unless you embody it – and that comes with practice. One of the barriers for creative people is publicly naming themselves – “I am an artist” or “I am a writer” – we feel fraudulent and self-conscious. But if you don’t name yourself – who will?
No wonder we’re all a bit tormented – we are told to ‘fake it till you make it’, but balance that with being authentic, please. We want to see authenticity!
The rise of the selfie is something I find really uncomfortable. I don’t do selfies of just me (only of myself with others, only occasionally and only ever after too much champagne!) I find it weird that so many people happily take pictures of themselves, alone, and then share them. And I think that this is all part of the ‘authenticity’ race – the race to try and convince. “Look at me, I am real…I am authentic”. But the thing is, it’s not – it curated and contrived, and dare I say it, it’s a bit narcissistic.
I have a real interest in identity. More and more, in the virtual world that we all inhabit, people are portraying their identity as something fixed, something concrete and the selfie seems to be a vehicle for this. But identity is fluid; it’s ever-changing and evolving and I think true authenticity reflects this dynamic self. And this is why I just don’t buy it – the whole “I’m real, this is me – see, here is my picture, me at my computer, with my coffee and my pen…”.
So I’m battling with the conflict of this modern obsession with ‘authenticity’. I really feel that it has no substance. The idea of ‘personal brand’ is somehow gaining traction. There are some poor sods out there who have been duped in to believing that this is necessary to succeed. Its pursuit is hollow, and the end result is just a collection of flat, 2D images that say nothing but ‘sucker’. As harsh as this sounds, I really feel it’s true.
When people do their ‘thing’ with commitment and honesty, the truth of themselves emerges without effort – this is what creates authenticity – and this is what will convince others.
Authenticity is a feeling, not a statement.
There is no need to curate. In Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project one of the rules she keeps coming back to in her pursuit of happiness is ‘Be Gretchen’ – so she has to keep reminding herself to be who she is – who she really is. She is open about wanting things to be a certain way – she wants to like classical music and fine art, but actually she doesn’t really enjoy either. She knows that by being honest, she will be happy (or happier).
While I’m certainly no expert, I’d say abandoning this idea that you can prove to people that you are the real deal, just being you will prove more than any perfectly curated selfie. It will prove that you are the real deal – just by virtue of being yourself – not some manufactured version of yourself.
By being honest and true to your purpose, you won’t need to convince anyone of anything.
What are your thoughts on authenticity?