Saturday, December 1, 2012

Authenticity



I’ve been thinking a lot about authenticity this week, and wondering if other bloggers do the same.

There are several reasons for this (because serendipity seems to be a very large part of my life). One is that I recently struggled through J.K. Rowling’s new book. Authenticity comes into play for one of the main characters of the book. Do you have to be gritty to be real? Do you have to be crass, rude, or base to not be a hypocrite? Do you have to put on a good face? Is that the only way to get along with polite society?

Of course, there’s another bit with OCD in there, and for whatever reason right now, whenever I see this disease discussed in any form of popular culture, my hackles raise and my ears lay back and I’m put on guard.

In case you missed it, struggle is the key word in that sentence five sentences back. I did not like the book much, but I can say this: She tried something new; something radically different than Harry Potter. And why can’t she? Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean she (and others) can’t like it.

Which leads me to my second reason for musing on authenticity—that whole goings-on in the Dad-blogging community about Single Dad Laughing. I’m not giving my opinion, and I’m not going into detail. Everyone else is/was writing about it. Beta Dad wrote about it, Babble wrote more about it, then SDL wrote about it (and you can see the links to all of these on the first linked page), and best of all… Catherine of Her Bad Mother wrote about it, and that’s the post which really got me. It was her update, in italics at the bottom of the post, which really got to me. More on that in a moment.

Granted, this all took place a while back, and I am always late to the party… but it’s bringing brought back up in the circles I ‘roll’ in because SDL released a coming out, and then I linked to that post in my last post…

And now I feel like I’m on the seventh grade camping trip all over again, watching this drama which I worked so damn hard to leave behind in my life. I’ve literally cut people—including family—out of my life to avoid the psychodrama, and here it is, again.

Like I don’t have enough going on in my life already. Like we all don’t have enough going on already.

You see, like Catherine discusses, the third thing that brought me to thinking about this is someone admonished me to stop using my older son and his “diagnosis” to try and draw more page views to my blog. Because we all know I’m really here to make a big name for myself by dicking around, on occasion, on this blog. Now, I did ask people to share it, and I admitted that this was, in part, selfish of me, but wasn’t to get page views. I think that was to be truthful about the things going in my life; to feel less alone. Because I do want to be truthful. More on THAT one in a moment.

Don’t ask me about the comment. Don’t ask me to post it, don’t ask me to describe it, don’t ask me who said it, or anything else. Well, except for one thing: It called me to question my authenticity—the authenticity in our lives, and the authenticity in my online life. Especially if one’s authenticity is directly related to how much one is liked or disliked. Or what we like. Or dislike.

Did they not like reading about it? Or did I cut so much out (in respect to someone else’s story, i.e., my son’s) that it became inauthentic?

And is there any way to put yourself, naked and fully authentic, online? I don’t think so. I am the same person, but I have one way of acting with my husband, and one way for my kids and one for my employer and one way of talking here. I will talk about things with my family that I won’t talk about with you, and I’ll talk about things with you that I won’t talk about at work. I don’t think that means I’m fake, gaming the system, or a hypocrite. I think I am cautious, and a decently-rounded person. I think I have many voices, maybe, and a bit of decorum (only a bit) but I am the same person.

A person who oftentimes doesn’t want to share her full life on the interwebs. A person who does self-edit what she says. A person who made the conscious decision to post under her real name, and thereby, must also consciously decide what she will and won’t say online for all posterity’s sake. Does that make me smart? Or inauthentic? A poser? Not my whole self?

And what about the people who are in my life? I think they have a right to decide if they are featured here or not. So, if I know one of my friends doesn’t want to be on my blog, but is okay with me sharing a story as long as they are not involved, and I take them out of the story—and this requires a bit of smoothing over—does this mean that I’m fake? Should I not be worried about others who do not want to be all over my blog?

And what about retrospection? Are the only authentic blog posts the ones we write free-association style? Does just the act of reflection and introspection change what we say or how we position something? I think it does. So is everything I write untrue?

I want to be true to my readers, to myself, and to the world. The Bloggess (my hero, of course) was on Twitter asking if we were to all just share our secrets, and find out that they are the same secrets, would the world be a better place? I want to write about a lot of different things, but hold back—for one reason or another. I often think they are very good reasons. And some things I don’t want to write about, ever. Don’t we have the right to keep some things private—even if the stories don’t make quite as much sense to an outsider than they do to the people who know it all?

These are difficult questions to answer—for me, for anyone. How real is real? How scripted is scripted? I present what I want to present here, in the way I want to present it. We all do, every day, in every aspect of life. It’s not made up, but it’s my perspective and my perspective alone. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to like how I present myself and I don’t have to like how you present yourself and you don’t have to like that I have a secret and I don’t have to like that you have one as well, but seriously? Does it freaking matter?

And what is it that we want to know about one another that we don’t already share? Are you going to ask me about my sex life? Do you want to know what I’m eating? Do you want me to describe the color and consistency of my snot the last time I was sick? NO. You don’t. Does that make me less real?

Where does it all stop? Am I a real person? Are you? How authentic are you? How authentic should we all be? Is authenticity an unachievable ideal that can just be tossed in someone’s face when you just don’t like them?

6 comments:

  1. Sarah, after reading your post three times, and reading the links of the others, I'm confused as to what the issues were and still are.

    I write under my reeal name, Lance Burson. I will publish a book in a few weeks under my name. I don't believe in pseudonyms, personally. I understand why some do. If I was female and wanted to write about a bad marriage or abuse or sex, I would use apen name or persona.

    I think people get too caught up in others and venture away from themselves. My wife scolds me from time to time for being too open and honest. My family members sometimes get very upset with me for talking about my past or my mental illness. It's caused a rift between me and some of them.

    All I can say is, my name is Lance Burson. I write my ass off and hope you like it.

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    1. I like Beta Dad, and I like Didactic Pirate. I had really ignored SDL for the past couple of years, until he started writing about gay rights, etc. this year. Then I was intrigued. I thought to myself, 'this guy is gay, and he's trying to work up the courage to come out.' So, then he did, and the fighting (about his authenticity, and if he's gaming the system) that's been going on for two years really bursts forth. I understand part of it-- DP came out earlier this year, and it was very real and very hard for him. So, some feel this guy is jumping on the bandwagon. But this, combined with all the other crap going on in everyday life-- including this idea some have that bloggers are just narcissistic a-holes who want attention-- makes me wonder where we got the idea of authenticity in the first place!

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  2. I don't have kids and don't read a lot of parenting based blogs, but I think your key issue is one we all face. How much are we required to tell. I always feel, my name is on the blog, I tell what I feel is appropriate for me to tell. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

    As you stated, we all have faces we show to different people/groups. Your friend face is not appropriate in a corporate setting, does that make you less authentic...no. It makes you an adult. One problem with the world is the amount of minutia people are obsessed with. It's the new form of paparazzi. It's a sickness of its own.

    In the end, we should write what is comfortable for us. To thine own self be true...and all that. That is authenticity.

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    1. I like that-- authenticity is what I feel to be true to myself. And attacks against one's authenticity (unless you can demonstrate someone is plagiarizing-- or something particularly extreme) are really nothing more than an attack on someone or thing you just don't like.

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  3. SDL bothered me back when he faked the letter to/from the teacher around his gay/christian post because I felt like it affected the letter I posted about a real family who needed support so I'm unwilling to click over to read about him or his dealings.
    On authenticity: I draw a lot of lines because I don't want my ego to get too involved in my real life and pageviews to become a part of my coping method. I also want family and friends to get to tell their own stories and secrets and sometimes my struggles tell too much of their stories.
    I have asked people to share things that I think would help others. And I think asking people to support you is okay (An aside: I'm not sure what post it was. Please know you can ALWAYS email me with a post. I miss lots of stuff and love when people reach out to me individually.)
    I think people have lots of opinions on that and blogging, parenting and living takes a tough skin. I got yelled at recently for making money and having a grammar mistake. I think she may have been referring to my use of "freader" but who knows.
    Also, we see so little of who people are online that the most "authentic" of people have plenty of secrets and some have extraordinary inauthenticity. You be you and be the best Sarah you can be online and more importantly, offline.

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    1. Alex- thank you! I'm certainly going to keep trying to be the best me I can be, here and offline.

      The post I was referring to is here: http://casafrigerio.blogspot.com/2012/09/because-knowing-is-first-step-to.html. It was (still is, actually) a big deal to write, but I also had to keep it from being too specific. Thankfully, the comments and emails I got we're overwhelmingly supportive- at a time when I REALLY needed it.

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