Anti-Social Media

Social Media Authenticity: Leading An (Anti)-Social Media Life

Note: A LLM was used to organize my thoughts and proofread my work. The proofreading session was unhelpful and I ignored all its suggestions. All words and ideas are my own. Caveat emptor.

What a time to be alive.

We are more connected than ever, yet somehow completely disconnected from what it is to be a community. The allure of authenticity is what sets good apart from great. In music, theater, products, and friendships we ask, “do I believe this?” It is authentic thought and emotion that elevates a moment or an experience. The gap lies between desiring one thing, while attempting to acquire it by a means that is perpendicular to the required trajectory: seeking connection by aspiring to be an “Influencer,” creating products that strive to usher in a new era while ignoring patterns that read at best like multi-level marketing, and at worst, like a Ponzi Scheme. The solution, whether one aims to share art, a tool, or a community, is not one of obsequious parasitism, but that of stripped down trueness of self. The question is whether you stand to be a product of digital communities, or require social media experiences to be a results of your sincere contributions. 

The Cult of the Influencer

Whether you are getting fitted for your first tracksuit or your fiftieth, your life and feed has already shown the telltale signs of Influencer drivel. This bizarre phenomena has somehow shifted our behavior from once changing channels when commercials come on cable television to actively using an app designed to pump infomercials into the palm of your hand. Particularly troubling in this trend is the avoidance of affiliate disclosures that would alert an unsuspecting user to exposure to an inauthentic corporate shill.

We love to be herded: although our stated preference is to be unique, our true preference is often revealed that the average individual wants to fit in and be accepted by everyone else. The greatest shill the Devil has ever pulled was convincing the world to aspire to be influencers.

The appeal is reasonable: be paid to be popular. Get free swag, make money being pretty, or funny, or pretty funny, but to promote for compensation undermines the reality of the claimed benefits. If Influencers were instead investors, we may trust them. Having skin in the game suggests one declare “I believe in this product so fully that I will put my own money on the line.”

Independent thought can’t survive in the vacuum of paid promotion, yet there is an immense opportunity for trusted individuals to be rewarded for their faith in a product by putting their reputation on the line. If a product is worthwhile, the service and value it provides speaks for itself better than a person artificially elevating a brand to prominence. So much trust placed on a stranger requires rigorous examination and holding promoters to task. If one’s reputation doesn’t live or die by the products they associate their identities with, the “influencees” are doomed to be an inexhaustible commodity.

To conform undermines autonomy. Introducing risk and a critical eye to those who see you merely as a metric creates an inhospitable environment to subpar products, personalities, and perspectives. It is in our best interest to support the Celebrators and Contributors who stand to gain little, as these are the honest ones among us. To be influenced by authenticity alone is the path to all ships rising with the tide.

The Marketplace of Inauthenticity

Privacy is a right, and anonymity is an option within any social forum, however, this comes at a cost. One may feel secure in their anonymity to be their authentic self, share their beliefs, and extend their opinions. This is a right, however it is one that confines the individual. Anonymity can be weaponized as a means to be critical and hostile, and as is the case with road rage, dehumanizes those on the other side of the equation to the point of undermining progress. 

To state an opinion, full faced and accessible, is self-regulating. One who shares an opinion and has the bravery to be approached in person changes the dynamic and collective willingness to reach shared understanding. 

We’re living in a post-perfect world, and this should be seen as progress. To limit a presentation of luxury and adventure is a path to authenticity. Trending toward real and messy is true to life in a way that has an appeal all its own. To be real and represent peaks and valleys allows others to be fascinated by a world outside their own while sharing the common humanity between creator and consumer.

Praise and critique are cheapened by both anonymity and aspiring influencerdom. The former has no skin in the game, while the latter reads as inauthentic. The question is, is your digital identity what is valuable about your actual life or, is your digital self just a journaled representation of your perspective and experiences? To first and foremost be an interesting person in the world is the insurance policy needed to stay sane. By this approach, one presents the authentic self and the largest intellectual surface area possible to net like minded individuals, and if no one cares you are not harmed the way one who craves approval might be. Media itself is a byproduct of a byproduct. 

Authenticity in Action

Never complain, never explain. Dictating what not to do doesn’t immediately call to mind what the inverse might be, and as a result, keeps the focus on the unhelpful. As a result, we can aspire to the opposite: always accept, always reflect. Opinions and complaints are only useful in the results they inspire. A mindful, proactive approach would suggest that one brings a possible solution to the table or acknowledges that they don’t know what can be done.

This isn’t a push for artificial positivity or sucking up either, but rather to be realistic and true to reality. If a thought or opinion falls apart, that regret and backlash is beneficial in one’s psyche. Character is revealed when one is misunderstood or mistaken. To never be misunderstood is to be flat in intellect to a degree where others either don’t need or care to understand further. To respond to challenges or publicly revise one’s perspective displays robustness of character. 

If monuments aren’t built to honor critics, the same holds true to an artist who shuns critique altogether, expecting praise and patronage. Selling a .jpg online is one’s right to attempt, but there is no obligation for anyone to buy. The average artist is of average skill, and it is the promise of livelihood that interferes with creating true art that moves others. An artist should expect no compensation, just as a person online should expect no attention. The compensation or attention one attracts is earned at the level at which value is delivered to the recipient. 

Creation is a brave and rewarding act in itself, and beautiful things are a rich yet ephemeral form of connection between creator and consumer. As art should be meaningful to the artist first, and communications should be authentic enough for the holder of the opinion to answer to in public... as should all products being built. While hot, flash-in-the-pan products can be thrilling, solving unsexy problems and adding true value can’t be overlooked as noble pursuits. 

Especially in the realm of dApps, there is dialogue between users and builders. The decentralized space is the only realm that marginalizes prospective users with the “normie” pejorative. Enrollment is a game of providing value in a way that your prospect automatically concludes that your solution is obvious. It is no longer enough to drop a product and say “figure it out.” Your motivation is to convey why you care, what you have solved, and how to use this solution in a way that safety is ensured. The current state of deployment has not mitigated risk, and as a result, users will continue to limit their exposure. In essence, they will not hold any considerable funds until builders take the security of their users seriously.

With builders, creators, artists, and social media users alike, the common thread is building confidence within the people you hope to reach. Risk aversion and anemic value will keep creator experience limited until the well-being of others is taken into sincere consideration. This is the holistic view that failed attempts belie the idea that the audience is somehow flawed. Rather, if our art, messages, or product feels neglected by the masses, the hard truth is that the deficiency is our own. To remedy this, improve rather than complain. If we are tired of losing the game, the answer is to become better at the game.

Building Genuine Connection

The answer to the above, and the lesson of life in general, is that the simplest explanations are often the most probable. Complicated explanations can feel reasonable because of our respect for illusive concepts. The reality falls into the “unsexy” bucket because it tends to rely on solutions that aren’t clever and hidden in plain sight. The “Midwit” meme encompasses this reality despite our reticence to accept it. Case in point, the surefire way to improve at doing more pushups is, in fact, to start doing more pushups.

Social media usage, product marketing, and promoting art have become transactional rather than crafting an experience. To leverage a popularity contest versus genuinely adding value is to build on a weak foundation that can easily be removed and shifted elsewhere. We must then recognize the two-way street of cultivating the genuine attention of others while contributing quality attention to genuine individuals. “Likes” and followers are a worthless currency. It can be tempting to pay out installments of this currency to people who we believe may pay dividends in the future by offering scraps of attention. The alternative is to cultivate high value connections, and learn to enjoy funneling high value attention to who you deem deserving. As an authentic thinker yourself, your value is inherent regardless of whether it is recognized. The true currency is adding value, and the value we add is worth striving for.

Meaningful connections are what we control. These connections scale, but cannot be acquired via shortcuts. The worthwhile connections are seamless, and available in the majority of scenarios we face. "Simple" and "easy" are not the same. Authenticity itself is the attractive quality. Genuine attention and mental flexibility are the value we offer. Shared interests and sincere contributions shift attention from people and events over to that of ideas. Tone and tenor and irrelevant in terms of the delivery, whether the preferred mechanism is humor or curtness. No matter, the shared interest is the landscape required to foster the community one seeks.

This is an opportunity to exist in a digital landscape without being specifically “of” the internet: what matters is being reasonable and having a degree of skin in the game. Small communities are built on loyalty, and grow in proportion to the standards set by the most vocal advocates for creating a space that challenges and benefits all. 

There is a level of effort that is the limiting factor in the success of a social media community or product environment. This price will not be worth paying for the majority of users, but the effort can be condensed to worthy recipients by anyone with a motivation to do so. Authenticity is practiced, character is revealed as a result of encountering opposition. To avoid resistance is to betray fear of being wrong, but we all have a capability within us to course correct. 

Socialize before you monetize. Add value before hoping to attract value, and stop shilling. We all are more interesting people online when we focus on being interesting people out in the real world first.

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