Looking for Authenticity in a Social Media World

In a social media-saturated environment, college has lost a sense of authenticity and emotional sincerity. Rather than being in-tune with genuine experiences and real identities, we are left with a college culture of fabrication.

College students are constantly on social media, checking and rechecking, posting a fair amount here and there and I found a big number of people worrying about how their posts are received. The truth is, if you don’t play this social media game, you get left behind.

According to a local California newspaper, social media allows college students to separate themselves from their sincere selves and meticulously build a deeply conscious, deeply calculated image of how they wish to be perceived. Suddenly, people are associated with a particular “aesthetic” that they have successfully built for themselves based on the pictures, the statuses and the persona they have posted online, rather than with the actual inherent character that sparks and swells between their ribs that is waiting to be shared with others but suffers in ignored futility. They mask themselves in a self-made brand, commodifying themselves in a socially and professionally desirable way, whether that is making themselves seem hip, quirky, adventurous or hilarious. It is all utterly phony.

We feel the need to duplicate ourselves, split our identity in half and live in two separate universes that successfully diminish the wholeness of who we are.

When people sit alone in their rooms, behind their screens, spiraling down into a troubling feeling of jealousy when they see a picture of their friend having “an amazing time” and then tormenting themselves over the exact caption, the exact filter and the exact smile for the picture they want to post to reassure people that their lives are also unbelievably awesome, they lose sense of a vital piece of existence. This behavior places a premium on the surface, the appearance of how things are, creating an outer shell to hide behind as the emotional, inherent stirrings that create the true human experience take a back seat. It makes the college experience a competition, it makes it superficial and, mostly, it makes it less real.

It seems like people believe that if something happens in the real world and isn’t documented in the digital world, then its existence is less valid. The phrase “pics or it didn’t happen” is said in a joking manner quite often, but it seems to have become a widely accepted truth. At concerts, events or social gatherings, people frantically take out their phones in an attempt to capture the moment so everyone knows they are doing something cool or that they have friends, effectively building up their social cache. Or, while studying abroad, I witnessed people so eagerly trying to take pictures of themselves in various iconic European locations so that they could show people that they’ve been to the Eiffel Tower and went on that gondola ride in Venice. But, through all these attempts at preserving and capturing the moment, the moment quickly passes by in evasive forgetfulness, as the deep, emotional fulfillment that could be gained by soaking in the moment is replaced by an image of emptiness. Potentially amazing times are turned into inauthentic representations of the human experience rather than being the concrete foundation of it.article-2589750-1C94A7F000000578-581_634x424

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2 Responses to Looking for Authenticity in a Social Media World

  1. sydhavely says:

    Great post, Hyder. One of my favorite comedic renditions is Louis CK’s stand up on parents with cell phone cameras at their kids’ play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS3jbaeseT8. So true.

  2. Bruce Warren says:

    Excellent post, Hyder. The issue of authenticity is really at the heart of our personal interactions with each other, and as brands. This article in Forbes, from 2011, addresses some of the business related issues around authenticity http://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferleggio/2011/10/13/the-battle-for-social-media-authenticity/#6eac7c808008

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