On Authenticity and Buzzwords

January 21st, 2015
Authenticity - the quality of being authentic; "the paper should have established the authenticity of the documents before publishing them"; synonyms: genuineness, bona fides;

There’s been a lot of buzz (see what I did there?) about the use of “authenticity” as a buzzword lately. It’s become almost a bad word in some ways – the idea that we use authenticity as a crutch instead of stepping outside of our comfort zones. And who hasn’t complained at least once (or more) that someone’s online persona isn’t “authentic”?

See, here’s my secret – I really like the word authenticity. I like what it means. I pride myself on being authentic. But what does that mean any more?

To me, being authentic means that you’re being real, that you’re being true to yourself, that you are aware you are more than just one part of your personality at any given point in time. It doesn’t mean that I am all my selves all the time and on display for everyone to see. And I think that’s where we’ve gotten confused – as we often do with overuse of buzzwords. We’ve begun misusing the word authenticity to mean being transparent ALL THE TIME.

Well, guess what? I don’t want to be transparent all the time. I don’t even want to be transparent part of the time. In fact, I’d rather display myself at maybe 50% opacity, to be honest. This doesn’t mean you’re not getting to know me when I’m online. It does mean that if you want to know me better, you’re going to have to engage with me in other ways than Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or even my blog. It means I like a little bit of mystery in my online peeps, too. Call me old-fashioned.

Or call me someone who believes that while walls are falling down thanks to social media, we don’t necessarily have to get rid of all of our doors and curtains. I’d rather not have you looking into my bedroom, thank you very much. But that doesn’t make me any less authentic, by nature of the definition of the word.

But if you really hate the word authentic, I’ll propose a new one (because I do that) – “bona fide”: literally, in good faith, but also meaning genuine, real; sincerely, without intention to deceive. Or, if you go by the Urban Dictionary definition, “a mad truth teller.”

Because that’s what I want to be – a mad truth teller.