Authenticity. Last week my awesome job gave me and my awesome workmates a chance to work with an awesome media company for training and development – creative-like. The “office” was an old 1880s terrace house that had been converted into an achingly groovy open plan workspace. It was so groovy, my eyeballs hurt. Or that could just be the harsh shade of Hogsbristle that was painted on everything in the boardroom from the chairs to the plastic chandelier to the giant, ethically-sourced plywood table.
Apparently they haven’t always been at that location. They recently took over the location from the last funky, groovy media or graphics company that went bust. Meh. It happens. Media is a funny game. One minute you are shite-hot, the next minute… sorry, was this your desk?
Luckily, the clever people at this agency were nice enough to share some of their stories with us. “Authenticity” was a word that came up a lot. These days, as we all discussed, people are on the lookout for something that seems ‘inauthentic’. We can tell (as consumers) when something is not quite right – when it has been falsified, photoshopped, set up or faked. At least, I think we are getting better at this.
What is authenticity?
authentic — adj (source: dictionaryreference.com)
1. of undisputed origin or authorship; genuine: an authentic signature
2. accurate in representation of the facts; trustworthy; reliable: an authentic account
To be genuine. To be the real deal.
I guess it’s a little ironic to be discussing concepts like this is a marketing meeting. Marketing is really about putting a ‘spin’ on something, not necessarily in a deceptive way but in a way that is perhaps not entirely genuine. What would the genuine marketing messages of a bottle of Coke be?
“You will drink this because you feel like a cheap, sweet buzz!”
I was bemused to find that all the vases of flowers in the funkygroovy media office were plastic. Even weirder was the fact that the vases they were in were filled with water. Why do plastic flowers need to sit in real water? I pondered this thought as we discussed authenticity.
Authenticity and Existentialism
Yep, more philosophy from me. One thing we find when we look at this concept is that authenticity is most often discussed in relation to something being labelled as ‘inauthentic’ – (to quote) authenticity is often “at the limits” of language; it is described as the negative space around inauthenticity, with reference to examples of inauthentic living.
When we refer to something as authentic, it’s normally in reference to art, or jewellery, or antiques…something with provenance.
Is authenticity just a buzz word?
I love this blog post discussing whether authenticity is just a buzz word. When Dr. Phil asks, “Are you living your authentic life?” all I can really reply is – well, yeh. I guess. Feels real to me!
Minette Riordan Ph.D writes: “To me, an important part of authenticity is acceptance of our self in all our beautiful imperfection.”
I like this idea. However, I am not sure that anyone would even notice the difference.
Going with your gut
For me, I think the real danger is that people today have very much stopped thinking for themselves. Because I work in marketing and media, I have become quite tuned to subversive messages (I think). I feel that I am good at picking things up and checking my sources. Often, people get swept up in something. When I first read about the Thanksgiving twitter war, I genuinely thought, “That guy is a total creep and I don’t get why people are congratulating him for being so rude”
He was being authentic. An authentic asshole.
How I check for authenticity
- If something doesn’t seem right – something is probably wrong.
- If something doesn’t make sense, some information is missing, or the information is a lie, or inaccurate.
- If you get a gut feeling about something – listen to it.
As for being “your authentic self” – I’m not sure there are really any other options!