Another authenticity blog – inspired by #CNMAC13

So the Christian New Media Awards and Conference just happened.#CNMAC13 For anyone not aware of this event, it’s about equipping the church in this digital age, and teaches it’s delegates how to make the most of technology and social media as Christians.

I’ve come away from the day not only shattered, but inspired. I attended the conference as a volunteer, and therefore didn’t manage to listen to most of the talks – so the inspiration for this blog on authenticity online actually comes from me physically being a volunteer.

Being a volunteer was hard for me. It really pushed me and stretched my limits. What was it that I was doing that was such a challenge? Interacting with people.
To get to the point I’m going to have to explain myself to you a little bit. I am not a confident person, and I’m not a terribly good people person. I’m introverted. I like video games and listening to music with huge headphones so that I can block everyone out.
So when we were asked as to man the registration desk and be human sign-posts for the day, I was… apprehensious. Particularly when we were asked to be ‘positive, outgoing, smiley and helpful’.

Not my thing.

But yet I persevered and if I’m honest I am quite proud of myself for it – I think that it was a push I needed.

How does this relate to being authentic online? Well as far as I’m aware, online I’m not like that. Online I can be more outgoing and open, more confident. Heck, online I can even manage ”public speaking” through my blog.
You’d never catch me doing that in person.
Online I am thrilled to be making contact with people and meeting strangers, whereas in person I find the idea of speaking to strangers terrifying. Particularly a group of them!

What I’ve realised is that in terms of typical online authenticity – I am not authentic. Sorry. You’re reading fake words right now, I hope that doesn’t disappoint you.

This is where I begin to get confused. Because despite what you just read, this isn’t fake. It’s real, it’s my thoughts put into my words.
Does the fact that I probably would find it difficult to say this to you in person (particularly all of you at once!) make my words have any less weight, or authenticity? NO!

So if online me is still authentic, but not the same, what does that mean?
In another blog post I brought up the idea that ‘online versions’ of ourselves could be MORE authentic than our offline personas. I would really like to be more outgoing and confident, and online I am. Does that make it a truer representation of me? It’s the me I can’t bring myself to be offline, a look at the inner me?

I have no answers – sorry. I guess that another way to look at it would be to say that – as long as there is no intentional deception – we’re authentic everywhere. It’s just that we can express ourselves differently through different mediums.

TL;DR, I have no answers on online authenticity for you. Do you have some for me?

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7 comments

  1. Pete Phillips

    CODEC are setting up a project looking at the issue of online authenticity. Peggy Orenstein and Sherry Turkle’s discuss this issue a lot. We tend to present a photoshopped self to the world – both online and offline. Perhaps authenticity comes when we don’t lie or pretend to be someone we are not?

    Pete

    • lukeleadbetter

      Sounds good! I’ll have to keep tabs on it.
      A ‘photosopped self’ really effectively communicates what I’m going on about, I like that a lot. We all tend to hide the bits that we don’t want people to see, but then if you do this offline, does that make it more authentic online if you do the same thing?
      And I guess that’s what it all boils down to really, as long as we aren’t being intentionally false we’re at least trying to be authentic.

  2. Louise

    Authenticity – what does it mean and are we ever truly authentic offline? We have an opportunity to present more polished persona online but we all tend to wear masks even offline. A really thought provoking post – so much to think about…

    • lukeleadbetter

      Thanks for the comment! I agree that the topic inspires a lot more thought, it’s one of those things that lead you through a maze of ideas, and each on isn’t particularly conclusive.
      And yes a polished persona is something that happens in both the online and offline, like Pete Phillips said – we present a photoshopped version of ourselves.

  3. MrTheKidd

    I think because we are damaged goods, when we are in public we either wear any number of masks to comply or we retreat. When we are online we have the luxury of a screen and keyboard with no judgemental intentions, so we can be more us, more relaxed. I think a solution is to surrender ourselves to Christ and ask that he make us in his likeness more and more, and to break the very strong chain of fear of man. When we are confident of who we are in Christ, which is a new creation daily, we can be more confident to be ourselves around other people in person. Online/offline authenticity is a huge issue, and one that will need dealing with by the wider Christian community as we wade into cyberspace with a message of love and reconciliation.

    Well done for being brave and not only sharing this, but also for volunteering on the day, I have no doubt that in a small way you were a blessing to many people.

  4. JHac

    Your online and offline personalities are more similar than you think to people who know you well, the non – authentic persona is possibly that which is displayed in public when you are too shy just to be yourself? Good to see you blogging again, glad you had a good time at CNMAC13 even though it took you out of your comfort zone!

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