Friday, September 4, 2015

Some thoughts on authenticity

I've been going through my iPhone photos recently, deleting pictures and making room for future shameless selfies.

Like these ones:

See what I mean? Shameless. I am incredibly vain.

But the thing is . . . although these pictures capture some form of my personality (mostly my vanity), they really are not what I look like. I mean, of course they are pictures of myself. But they are the best pictures I took after a few tries. And then they were edited, filtered, etc., to get just the right look I was going for.

Selfies are a twenty-first century art form.

(Oh man . . . what that says about our society is very revealing and quite sad.)

At the same time, I don't think there is anything necessarily wrong with wanting to make yourself look good. That's part of what social media is about, isn't it? We're branding ourselves. And we want that brand to be attractive.

We all have a desire to be remembered well. And I think most of us want others to think that we are attractive, clever, and put-together.

Most of humanity has had that desire before social media ever came along.

Take Anne Frank, for example. I think that a very revealing parts of her humanity comes through when she is quite honest about how she looks and how she wishes she looked. She has a picture in her diary and then a write-up to the side:

"This is a photo as I would wish myself to look all the time. Then I might have a chance to go to Hollywood. But I'm sorry to say that I usually look different these days." 


I think all of us have pictures of ourselves that we wish we looked like all of the time. We all have favorite pictures of ourselves or favorite time of life that we wish we could relive.

Below are some pictures of myself as I wish I could look all the time:

I took these selfies on a day I was feeling particularly pretty, confident, and happy, as the next picture shows:

[Sorry about the terrible lighting--my room is actually not a photography studio. Weird, I know.
But you can tell that I am happy from my eyes. You can always tell in the eyes.]

Here's a more picture where I look more natural and less make-uped . . . it's a more "real" picture of me (whatever that means), but I am still happy. Tired, but happy.

[Fun fact about Megan #43: I take selfies in the car when I am waiting/when I am bored. I also take selfies when I have new clothes. This is a new shirt and I felt happy wearing it. The end.]

These are the pictures--the ones where I am truly happy--are the moments and memories that I wish could last all the time. And photographs provide a way for those memories, those regrets, and those wishes to resurface.

At the same time, life is not picture-perfect. We have blemishes, we blink when the flash goes off, someone photobombs us, or we look and feel bloated on school picture day.

There are pictures of ourselves that we don't want anyone to see. Ones that we instantly "untag" ourselves from on Facebook. Selfies that never see the light of Instagram or SnapChat.

There are parts of ourselves that we don't want others to know about.

Honestly, there is a lot about ourselves that our 15 million friends on social media don't need to know about.

And I don't think that makes you any less genuine if you don't want to post about your latest break-up or your faith crisis or your sister's battle with cancer or anything that is too private and personal to share over the cold and unfeeling interwebs.

So the question is, how do we put our best foot forward while at the same time being authentic and "real"? We complain that the lives and pictures and posts people post on social media aren't "real." And you know what? They're not. At least, not entirely. They are what people want others to see. And part of that is real. But it's not every single waking hour of their lives. Honestly, that would be overwhelming and disturbing to know what went on inside of our friend's heads all of the time.

We need filters for what we say. (And for the pictures we post on Instagram, naturally).

But more than that, we need compassion. We need to be more willing to give others the benefit of the doubt with their posts, but also know that others will probably not give that same compassion to us.

I recently saw a quote by Thomas Merton that said, "Pride makes us artificial. Humility makes us real. And real is what makes us beautiful."

I think there's a lot of truth in that.

I need to think about it more.

. . . anyway, a lot of that was rambling. Basically, I'm still thinking about these things and this was a way to address the void and get my thoughts out.

But, if you have any opinions on this subject, let me know. I think this is an important issue and I would love to hear your thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. I'm still thinking about this, too, and I'm glad you addressed the void.

    (I'm honored to be a member of it.)