Why Authenticity Doesn’t Really Matter

by Anna Beavon Gravely on February 21, 2011

in Social Media

Barack Obama smiling

Politicians are using social media to campaign

Authenticity is being true to one’s inner self.  Self-determining freedom, or the ability to decide for yourself what is significant and worthy of attention, is an outward expression of authenticity.  The reason why Facebook and Twitter are considered to be authentic tools of communication is because information that you decide is worthy is pushed to you without any work on your end because it caters to your wants, desires, and likes.  The technology feeds into society’s hyper-individualism.  We only care about what directly affects us.

What is it about Facebook and Twitter that most people think is authentic?  For starters, there is very little desire to censor yourself.  Status updates do not go through rounds and rounds of editing; they rarely even get read once over like an email might.  So when you post something negative or overly personal via Facebook or Twitter, it is honestly how you feel because it comes from your inner truth.  Sure we say things online that we would never say if we had they taken some extra time to think about it first, but it is true at that moment.

Authenticity mediated or not, is the reflection of a deeper, more vulnerable place.  It is sharing something that is not pre-scripted or calculated.  Through Facebook and Twitter individuals are able to showcase their strengths, weaknesses and senses of humor instead of just boring posts.  Your social media personality will emerge.  Each post and tweet tells friends and followers something more, and that humanizes you.  That personality gives the illusion of authenticity because friends and followers start to see you as you are portrayed in social media.  We equate a personality with authenticity.  So how do you know when politicians are being authentic or not?  If authenticity is relative to the individual (what is true or authentic for me may not be true or authentic for you) is indeterminable, then an alternative has to be the personality.  A politician’s personality expressed through Facebook and Twitter allows you to relate to him or her.  It also provides you with the opportunity to see the politician in a different light—one where he or she is just like us.

Two Elected Officials That Do It Right:

1.      Senator John McCain does a great job using twitter.  His posts are factual and policy-based, but he also shares information about himself and how he feels about events going on in the world and in his life.

2.      In North Carolina, Representative Dale Folwell utilizes twitter to keep his constituents up to date with his schedule and what is being discussed in his committee meetings.  Rep. Folwell uses twitter as a kind of transparency on government in North Carolina.

Both Senator John McCain and Representative Dale Folwell use twitter to express their authenticity, but they do it differently.

Who do you think is being authentic online? Who is doing it all wrong?

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