(this is a post that is completely rambling out loud with little direction, but I’ve been hearing the term “authenticity in blogging” used a lot recently. It was even the the subject of the final keynote at a recent woman’s blogging conference, as presented by Karen of Chookooloonks and Brené Brown. “Authenticity” is one of those terms that makes me uncomfortable, especially because I don’t really understand it, and you’ll notice that this post is a little edgy when I discuss it. But I am also self-aware enough to know that when something makes me uncomfortable, there is usually a reason I am fighting with it. So, I hope if either of these two bloggers end up coming here, they don’t think I am being a downer in questioning the idea, but being authentic in taking it seriously, in my own way.)
OK. A “dating” question for women, single or otherwise. It is all hypothetical, and has really nothing to do with dating, and more about the subject of directness and authenticity. If you’re a straight man, put yourself in the man’s part of the scenario. Unless you are gay, and then you’re on your own. Or change the gender.
Hypothetical situation: You’re a woman. You’re at a bar. You’re single. You’re wearing your best dress and sexy shoes. I approach you. Or some other studly guy approaches you. But let’s assume it is me. Which encounter would be more endearing and/or successful?
1) Me (indirect and inauthentic): “Sure is crowded in here tonight. Must be the World Cup game on the TV. Didn’t realize that there are so many Brazilians living in LA. You into soccer?…”
2) Me (direct and authentic): “I was looking at you from across the room. I don’t usually say this to a woman immediately, but you have a nicely-shaped ass. I’m hanging out at this hot, noisy bar, hoping to meet someone, and I’ve picked you out of everyone else here tonight. I would like to get to know you better. Boy, I am nervous asking you this. But that ass! Wow! Would you want to go to the Chipotle next door and talk? I know it is only a fast food joint, but I’m a writer and not making a whole lot of money, so I’m hoping that isn’t a big concern to you. What do you say?”
Should I use approach number 1 or approach number 2?
Of course, this is a rather silly example. #2 borders on the rude, even if “the guy” is being more “authentic” in his dumb reason for going over to the woman, and even more direct with his request to leave and go to Chipotle. Why spend a half hour talking about the soccer match when it is all just small talk?
I frankly think the best approach would be somewhere in between the two. I think we need directness AND artifice to effectively communicate with each other, especially in the beginning of a relationship. And I’m not just talking about male-female relationships.
When brands online start talking about being “authentic,” I say bullshit. Social media is hardly authentic. We speak to each other in 140 characters. Very few people come out and directly express their motivation. I know when I write dialogue in a script, the biggest sin is “on the nose” dialogue. I know that what people say and what they mean are usually two different things. Sometimes they don’t even know WHAT they want. Very few people come out and SAY what they really want other than James Bond villains wanting to destroy the world with a solar deflector.
I respect those who want to protect their privacy or business interests, but since when do we call that “authenticity?” How can there be authenticity when there is also so much selling and promoting. The very concept of marketing or advertising or “giveaways” involves artifice and manipulation, much like a woman wearing make-up before hitting the clubs. When consumer product brands sponsor “green” events, they are usually more concerned about good publicity than the cause. More power to them for doing good, but not terribly “authentic.” Food stylists making McDonald’s hamburgers looking juicer is artifice. Clever copywriting is artifice. I find it odd that as the internet becomes more and more about business and social manipulation, people advancing their careers by touting community, writers feigning interest for connections, more and more people are discussing authenticity. Is it really THAT complicated to be authentic? What does the word authentic mean? Authentic to others? Authentic to yourself?
I once wrote a post about Dunbar’s number, where a scientist theorizes that we can only deal effectively with 150 people. Doesn’t that mean we are being inauthentic to the thousands of followers we all hear gurus touting on their blogs as a way to show their influence? Why do we want them? If we really cared about helping others, like so many writers like to say, why don’t we just go into nursing?
Here is an authentic advertisement for McDonalds: “Hi there. We are in business to make money. People love our burgers. We know they are not healthy for you, but you like ’em, right? And no one complains when your kids run around and make noise, right? And we are pretty cheap, if you go for the dollar meal, right? McDonald’s. We are authentic (except for the doctored photos of our burgers).
Art can never be authentic. It can strive to be an authentic representation of ourselves. We can be authentic. But very very very few of us get anywhere close.
By the way, you all have nice asses.
via the fabulous Schmutzie!
P.S. Just read this post over. I know it makes very little sense. And I am using the term authentic all wrong. Sorry. My blog.
P.S.S. Juli from Wellington Road just made an excellent point via IM about the dating scenario that made me see this post in a whole new way. Talking to that woman in the bar about her ass is just crude, and not authentic, especially since I would never say that anyway. The differences in choices #1 and #2 are about the politeness of the words. The authenticity comes into play with the ACTION. #1 could be more authentic if the goal is to get the woman into bed, and this is how I seduce a woman. #2 could be all bark with no bite. I might be just shooting into the wind, with no real confidence or adherence to my goal. My words might be brash and tell it like it is, but I would not be authentically striving for my goal. The alpha man is not about how strong his words are, but how effectively he takes action. In the second scenario, it reads like I am trying to sabotage myself. By acting so blunt, I wonder if my REAL intention is to get rejected so I feel bad, because I am neurotic, or whatever.
I guess if your goal is to become a popular blogger, you are being authentic if you stick to your game plan. The same can be said if you want to write a novel and are using your blog as a calling card. I was misusing the term authenticity. I was expressing the term in the traditional way, where authenticity meant removing the mask in relationships to others. It appears that the term “authenticity in blogging” means something else — discovering your goal or your purpose and staying true to that path. It is more about personal journey than community.
Do these two versions of authenticity conflict with each other?