Authenticity has emerged as an important online trait.
“We live in an age when people are moved less by spectacle and more by what they consider to be actuality—what feels real,” Michael Drew writes on the Huffington Post. Andrew Potter, author of The Authenticity Hoax, takes it one step further, attributing our quest for authenticity to “a world increasingly dominated by the fake.”
While the new emphasis on it may be a reaction to factors like the ambiguity of reality television and the ubiquity of plastic surgery life, concern for it can be found in all areas of contemporary life. It could have been a factor in the selection of the new pope, who’s been called “humble, authentic and credible.”
The Struggle for Truth
Authenticity is certainly a desired trait, but it is also an elusive one. As described by Muhlenberg College professor Jeff Pooley: “The best way to sell yourself is to not appear to be selling yourself.” Meghan Daum explores this issue further in an LA Times opinion piece on authenticity in politics, distinguishing the dictionary definition from what she calls “aw, shucks authenticity.” The key takeaway? Trying to be authentic, strictly speaking, isn’t really authentic at all.
Entrepreneur and author Seth Godin offers a more useful definition. “Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not ‘being who you are,’” he says. “As the Internet and a connected culture places a higher premium on authenticity (because if you’re inconsistent, you’re going to get caught) it’s easy to confuse authentic behavior with an existential crisis,” he adds.