I have spoken before about how I feel society exerts an overwhelming pressure on us to outwardly present the perfect image of ourselves.
Paradoxically it seems, we also place great value on authenticity and "realness"
The big question I have been asking myself recently is - what does it mean to be an authentic individual in the age of image creation?
Are you in fact inauthentic for trying to manufacture an image of authenticity?
Authenticity is all about being real, genuine. Neither imitation nor parody. This all sounds very simple - just be yourself. Done, dusted. Next article please!
If it really were that simple however, why is there so much anxiety surrounding being "your true self" or your "best self"
Seriously, Google "how to be yourself" and you will be bombarded with self help book recommendations, Wiki How pages and blog posts.
The advice generally seems to be the same in every single thing - just work out who you are and which values you hold dear, then use that as a blueprint for your life.
It's all coming back to the same issue though - the "self"
I suspect that the real reason we have difficulty with being our "authentic selves" comes more from our problems with the term "self" rather than "authentic."
I run the risk of sounding like a big old metaphysical cliche here, what does it mean to be you? The distinct you, the individual who is you? The answer is complex and still the subject of a multitude of psychological studies and philosophical arguments.
I would argue that I'm not even the same individual throughout the day! My mood changes, I get hungry and irritable, or tired and grumpy.
I'm also a different person when faced with different situations, e.g. talking to my partner and talking to a stranger. The person I also think I'm going to be in a certain situation is often not who I turn out to be, e.g. considering yourself as confident, yet feeling overwhelmingly nervous in a job interview.
I am in a state of flux. I am not a character from a film who has a set list of personality attributes and acts according to them down to the letter.
This is where the issue of image creation comes in and how we go about displaying our lives in the public sphere.
Now you've come this far in reading this post and will most likely be wondering, what is the point? You have outlined the case for the ever changing human experience, well done. You have realised this along with every other relatively intelligent person on earth.
Basically my point is this - if you want to be yourself, in any situation, you need to accept that you don't have to be constrained by a singular mindset or vision of your life.
I would argue that anyone who is purporting to be an "authentic" individual, on social media, or in real life, who is only displaying one or two versions of their experience, probably isn't showing you the real deal. They are editing their life to fit in with a preconceived idea of how it should look.
I'm not advocating sharing all of your deepest and darkest secrets to the masses, you never have to feel pressured into sharing parts of your life that you aren't comfortable with.
Rather, I think that we need to feel free to share the diverse and sometimes challenging nature of our individual experiences, or at the very least not feel ashamed of them!
That shit day at work makes you a unique person, just as much as all of the good and wonderful things in your life!
The photo at the top of this article is an example of something which is representative of me, obviously... but could, and probably would, be edited out of my public life.
Whilst it may not be the me who sometimes looks half decent, it is a version of me, one that is just as valid as all the other ones!
There is some fear that the internet is creating unrealistic standards and hindering genuine and meaningful communication.
Whilst I am skeptical of how true this is, I do think it contains elements of truth.
Are we really being our real and diverse selves online, or are we being the limited "authentic" selves that we think we should be?