Why being authentic on social media is almost impossible
Social media is not authentic. What you see there isn’t always the truth. We lie on social media. We do things for the sake of getting attention. The algorithm favors certain kinds of content over the others. These are not new ideas. But I suspect the biggest factor of all is that we share our personal lives selectively on social media. This to me is what hurts authenticity the most. I don't think sharing selectively is necessarily a problem. But I think it's a factor which we often underestimate.
Why we all share selectively
For the most part, sharing selectively is just the natural way of communication in general. It's not a unique nature of social media. Not everyone needs to know everything.
Unless we are documenting our lives on social media 24/7, we are going to share some moments but not the others. This means sharing selectively is almost inevitable on social media. Even live streaming wouldn’t give you the full picture of someone else's lives. Capturing and sharing selectively is just a natural way of using social media. This may not even be a conscious decision.
We tend to take photos of moments worth remembering. We’ve been doing this for decades. Before digital cameras were invented, people had to choose what to shoot and what not to shoot wisely on their film cameras. Even though we are blessed with smartphones with great cameras, most of us wouldn’t therefore capture every single moment in life. We capture moments we want to remember. By doing so, we are already capturing moments selectively from the beginning. And if we capture things selectively, it’s only reasonable that we end up sharing things selectively.
Even if we do manage to capture every little moment in life, we are still unlikely to share all of them because not every moment is meaningful to us. And we are trained not to over share, not just on social media but in life in general.
BEING "Inauthentic" UNKNOWINGLY
Sharing selectively on social media means we portray an image that is partly true or even false, which is what makes social media inauthentic. For instance, some people tend to share only the "happy" moments in life, especially social media influencers. It builds the "perfect" yet inauthentic online personas with heavily curated content.
Even if you're not an influencer, we tend to share moments that are interesting enough to be shared. Thd result is the same. We construct an online persona that only represents a part of who we are.
We all curate our lives on social media. It's just a matter of extent.
Same experience, different feeds
But I think an overlooked aspect of social media is that we have different ways to do it. If two people have the same experience for a week, what end up on their social media feeds could still be completely different. If they have different values and tastes, then it's understandable that they have different interpretations of what is important and what’s worth sharing. They pick up different things during that same experience.
We all have different values and therefore what is important to me isn't necessarily important to you. This means we are going to have different parameters when it comes to what and what not to share on social media. There is no standard. Our "rules" to share selectively are different to begin with.
And having different ways or criteria to share selectively is still fine in itself. But when we apply this set of personal, subjective rules to judge how the others, it becomes a problem because you're interpreting what the others share with your own rules but not theirs.
This to me is what truly makes being authentic on social media so damn difficult. When we share things selectively on social media, we at least have some control over whether those things represent us or not. But there's no guarantee that people are interpreting the things we share the same way we intend them to do it.
For all we know, we could all be inauthentic on social media unknowingly, whether by sharing moments selectively, or people misinterpreting the things we share.