One thing that has begun to really get all up in my craw is the illusion of authenticity that social media creates. I know this topic has been discussed in many different formats and many different ways, but I feel as thought many are not listening.
I am a fan of social media and use it maybe more than most, so I am not a guy waving a flag of war against social media. I’m simply a guy that knows the power of the authentic who is watching people believe a lie about “being real” on social media. Many people feel, that since their lives are on constant display with social media they are being authentic and genuine. Many feel that they “air their dirty laundry” and take honest “selfies” that portray themselves in a not so fashionable state to prove they are being genuine…yet it’s all still an illusion.
I know a fair few folks who will share more things about how they feel, think or act via Facebook than they ever would in real life. They say things like: “It’s easier to be real on Facebook”, or “I feel like Facebook allows me to really spill my guts out, you know!?”
Yet, these feelings are still just an illusion, a very strong illusion, but none-the-less an illusion. Look at the picture used for this blog post: you’re senses would swear it’s moving, but I promise you, it is not…it is merely a JPEG image. It can seem so real, so tangible…but in reality be totally fake.
Here’s where it breaks down: relationship. One of the most important things to an authentic conversation or relationship is reaction. How is this person reacting to my: dress, statement, comment or attitude. We can then have a better judge of how this person feels about us, which gives us the ability to adjust or remain the same in our dress, statement, comment or attitude. Without this sense of “honest reaction” we don’t actually know where we stand with this other person or persons. Some may say: “I don’t care where I stand, I just want to be myself” which is complete bull.
Many people using Facebook, Twitter, Google + or whatever rarely, if ever share their honest reaction to something posted on Facebook. They don’t want to be perceived negatively, so they adjust their reaction accordingly and if they do share their honest opinion they have a vindictive motive many times behind it. When you are in a real life conversation and a face-to-face relationship, our facial expressions and body language give away our true positions. We rely on these ques as humans in order to build a true, authentic relationship.
Another way we set ourselves up for this illusion of authenticity is in the typical vague posts. Here are some examples:
“Oh I am so Mad right now!”
“The real story is right here, just ask it!”
“I hate empty promises”
“I can’t believe that just happened”
There are a plethora of these types of posts, that I’m sure you’re all privy too and like myself are guilty for using them. What makes these so un-authentic?
I want you to imagine a scenario with me. You walk into a room with about 400 people. People are milling about and you simply walk into this room without an announcement, or even much recognition. All of the sudden you shout one of those statements above out loud, maybe as loud as you possibly can. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? What would the purpose of that be in such a room? The people in that room may or may not be people you are particularly close to, what could drive a person to do something like that?
That image is exactly what happens on social media when someone state something like that. It is simply a ploy to get people to ask you questions. It’s your “out loud” body language. You see, if we were struggling with something and really needed consoling why not pick up a phone and call someone? Why not drive over to your friends house and share with them whats going on? Why not exploit the ENTIRE situation in a single post rather than have people guess at what is wrong?
We need personal community, digital community can not and will not give us what we need, even if we pretend it does. Digital community is a poor imitation of the real thing. People see their value in how many “likes” they get or how many comments to a vague post they generate…instead of feeling personally valued by presence. Community is a present affair, not a far off, across the wire one.
We all need real community. Let’s stop faking ourselves out thinking we have real, authentic community online…that is simply an illusion of authenticity.
Where do I go from here?
1. Use social media as a resource, not a community
2. When in pain, or anger call someone or go hang out with someone
3. Understand that community is 90% about Presence, not just words
4. Spend less time obsessing over the “likes” you have and more time with real, physically present people