I’ve been busy these last few months. Therefore, I haven’t had time to do lots of things. I did, however, scan a few posts on the three social media sites where I uh maintain some sort of presence viz, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
There’s one thing that’s bugged me; a pattern that emerged from the chaos of the morass that is social media, especially since the USA is bent on heading down into the Medieval Era at the speed of a speeding bullet or thirty.
Authenticity seems to be a particular favorite subject of loads of those homilies that make up about 48.46723% of social media. People like to provide advice, for free, in the form of pithy sayings, usually made up in a framed poster or something, with curlywurly fonts, with a quote attributed to some wise person, who, being dead, lo these many years, cannot, therefore, sue. And, authenticity is a particularly virulent form of advice these days. These homilies usually show up on special occasions, such as every morning, and are accompanied by a “Good Morning, fiends”. The spelling error is NOT an error I have made. Please don’t write in to tell me that. Thank you!
I know what you’re thinking, what about the other 51.53277% of social media? (Don’t bother checking, I cheated and used a calculator….).
Well, 50% is made up of insults, due to differences of opinion on religion, food habits, politics, race, privilege, SloWord, authenticity or lack thereof, and other reasons for hate, disdain and scorn. I shall deal with that at some other time. Right now, we’re talking about Authenticity.
What is Authenticity?
If these “nice people” are to be trusted then Authenticity is being yourself on all occassions. I know what you’re thinking. “What? They want me to be myself?? Do they not live in the real world?”
Sadly, faithful readers and all you other hapless people, it seems that we are none of us living in a real world. Our world is fake as fake can be. Social media is one big fake. Why? Because, everyone is paid for, by some person, some cause or some faith or belief.
Most of all, we are driven by that monster we call “love, affection and being accepted”. In our quest for being part of the tribe, we do everything we think will get us that membership. We forsake ourselves for this pressing need to be “liked”, to be considered to be accomplished, talented, wealthy, loving <insert a few more adjectives>.
And in doing so, what do we do?
We stop being Authentic. We don’t show up as who we actually are; sad, downtrodden people, crushed under the yoke of expectation, conformance and tribal and social norms driven by the most vocal who, deplorably, tend to be most removed from reality.
Try being authentic on social media. Try getting pity instead of awe. See how it feels to be shunned by all and sundry, including the Mean Girls Club. Bet you won’t like it. (I actually liked that movie).
The worst offenders, in being the cruellest advice bandied about, is at work. Try being authentic at work. “Show up as your authentic self”. Just for a week, a day, an hour. Whoosh! That’s the sound of your future in the corporation flying out of the window.
Unless, your authentic self is what the organization needs. Then, examine Groucho Marx’s famous words – do you want to be a member of a club which accepts you as a member?
A real-life example
Let me give you one recent example.
I was added to a reader’s group on Facebook. A very serious group, a very active group. I was added by a kindly Facebook friend who thought I would benefit from the company of strangers who read. Since the guy who owns my body had just published my first book, a play in 3 Acts for the stage, he felt I would benefit from the company of readers. (You can read the play, too. Link on the right hand side –>)
Now, I like to read a few books every now and then and I like to think I’ve read a few books in my life. Here, however, I was confronted by Competition.
And not just Competition with a Capital C, but Fierce with a Capital F Competition. Here was a spreadsheet. There a document. Anon, an app. All these served to document daily scores of books read, chapters devoured, words consumed. These were brandished as one would brandish the Golden Sword of Thor. Or Hammer. Excuse my mixed up mythology. It’s another subject I have failed at consistently. (Yet another, one should rightly say.)
It wasn’t enough to read and discuss. It was necessary to state “How Much”. Clearly taking the tack that everything must be quantified if you are to be taken seriously, the serious ones tracked their lessons. For lessons they were. Art Appreciation, a qualitative exercise was subjugated to Art Quantification. I made some footling remark saying I’d be hard-pressed to keep such a database. It would take away from the joy of reading and, frankly, I was way too lazy to keep it up.
By the end of the week, I realized that (some) authors were venerated. No day went by when a familiar ghost did not raise its head. The same six or seven authors and their six or seven magnum opuses (opi?) appeared as a question. The question usually took the form of a humble brag.
“I read this. I’m such a strong reader. Have anyone of you simple people read it?”
I found that you were supposed to gush over Rand, Coelho, Marquez, Murakami, chiefly.
My views on Roark and Randian philosophy were definitely not appreciated. I put up a defence. I recalled how I had first read Rand as a teenager. Then in my 30s. I recalled how, on my 25th wedding anniversary, on a coolish evening in Lake Placid, NY, I had spotted a Rand Box Set and promptly bought it. I recalled how I re-read all the volumes on the cusp of my 50s. I thought I was qualified to state that, after nearly 3 decades of a professional career, I could sigh wistfully and dream about being called to the Valley of the Givers and Serve the Takers Right! And dream for no more than 12.57296 seconds before realizing how absolutely untenable and selfish such a view is.
I found Paulo Coelho too preachy. Marquez’s Cholera? All I remember is the description of the shit floating in the harbor and can we please get on with the story already???!! Murakami? Haven’t read anything but excerpts and those do not evoke any feeling in me.
The lesson was swift and unrelenting. I was not supposed to offer any criticism. Mine not to offer feedback, mine but to nod and sigh, as it were, and gush.
And then, regrettably, my ugly sarcasm reared its head. Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The next day was a post that said “Please suggest me books by Ishiguro”.
I remembered the silence when Dylan won the Nobel and a couple of comments on his unsuitability for the prize. I asked if they’d read any Bob Dylan. Answer came there none. I gathered from comments in the thread that Bobby was not worthy of the prize because he was a “pop singer” and the prize committee had made a grievous error. I cleverly and safely managed not to raise the ironical nature of this opinion given their veneration for the prize and awardees.
I then made the grievous mistake of calling out the pattern: everyone was supposed to venerate the admin approved gods.
Well, here I am, very much in the “else”.
My authenticity meant that I broke all the rules of the club and was, ejected, with forthwith. Actually, it was more like a fifthwith or even an eighthfith. (It’s an inside joke, I’ll tell you about it some day)
I like to believe that I complied with my Policies.
Authenticity is the root cause of Unpopular Opinions. Unpopular Opinions are, how do I say this, guaranteed to make you unpopular.
If you’re ok with that, you’re courageous. Or stupid. Or arrogant.
I’ve been accused of all three. So, there you have it. Don’t be like me!
That’s the lesson!
I am not telling you how many books I’ve read.
Because I don’t know.
Also, I’m not telling you what kind of books I read.
Because, it doesn’t really matter, does it?
Also, also, I don’t care if you don’t read this, share it with your friends and enemies or not.
Because, why should you?
Also, also, also I’m not trying to be anything other than what I am.
Because what you get is what you see.
Any other way would be fake and I refuse to be fake.
That’s my particular band of defiance.
Here’s a photograph to excite the senses and show you what the Path to Authencity looks like.