As humans we’re taught to always be true to who we are, to be our authentic selves. However, with life careening further into the digital realm, authenticity as we know it is disappearing. Through our various internet profiles we craft our online presence—only showcasing the pieces we’re willing to share (A.K.A. “selective authenticity”). But is that surprising? The internet spoils us with infinite possibilities. It entices us to ignore our physical limitations, take on new personas, and live lives unattainable on Earth.
And yet, we still crave authenticity. We want content, celebrities, and brands to be “real.” We want other people to see us as “real.” Platforms like Vine paved the way for this kind of unproduced, raw content. It was an alley oop to the dunk that is TikTok which has proven authenticity is king. And now BeReal, the social media platform of the moment, claims to quench this thirst for “genuine” content. But even with all these “real content” platforms, people still create alternative Twitters and “Finstas.” Here they harbor their real, unabashed selves, leaving their more buttoned-up, contrived personas to live on their “Main” profiles.
Peeking just around the corner, what will the ability to curate (nay, create) who we are in the Metaverse mean for us? It will allow for various avatars, different versions of ourselves that better suit different environments. How might that affect our holistic perception of self? If we can change personas with the click of a button, how will we define one, true authentic being? Will that cease to exist? (I think I just accidentally pitched an episode of Black Mirror).
So, can you be your true self online—or rather should we be asking if there is even a singular true self to be? Authenticity is, more than ever, a fluid social construct that is impossible to quantify. Maybe that’s for the better. Instead of obsessing over what’s real and what’s fake online we might harness this power of the internet! It allows us to cast whatever version of ourselves we want, or need, to be in that moment, no matter how genuine it seems. And if selective authenticity makes us happy, then so be it.
(Cover photo by Josh Withers on Unsplash)
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