Times are changing. The real world isn’t exactly the real world. Our online personas aren’t exactly us. It’s as if everyone is now a brand, needing a certain level of brand management.
Personal Instagram feeds are so highly curated now. Feeds are so visually cohesive and appealing, with beautiful backdrops and high-quality images with a VSCO filter slapped on.
Yet even with all the effort that goes into the curation and filtering, everyone still says the key to maintaining your online persona is authenticity.
Or at least the appearance of being authentic.
I’ve heard friends in the arts community voicing their disappointment and anger about the public response towards the recent Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the National Gallery. You’ll know if someone has been to that exhibition, because it’ll be plastered over their Instagram feeds. Instagram story after story, post after post.
There was a post going around Facebook calling out an influencer for using “an art exhibition to shill for some watch — one that can barely be seen in the picture.” Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one.
A quick search of the #yayoikusama hashtag on Instagram reveals a staggering 402,820 (and counting) posts – many of which are portraits of people posing in the rooms with Kusama’s work acting as just a backdrop. Interestingly too, there are another 6,136 posts under various hashtags of the artist’s name misspelled.
Since when was everyone so interested in art?
IS THIS THE REAL LIFE? IS THIS JUST FANTASY?
Instagram turns our lives into a show. We set the stage. We frame the camera. The people and things around us become props. We become the director or even the lead actor if we want to. Valuable moments in life turn into a complicated staged production.
In the pursuit of authenticity, we’ve lost our authenticity. We’ve become like everyone else. We no longer know why we’re doing what we’re doing, but we only know that we have to keep doing it. We don’t even think about it.
Since when did everyone become purveyors of artisan coffee?
In the pursuit of authenticity, we’ve lost our authenticity. We’ve become like everyone else.
The idea of authenticity becomes a journey down the rabbit hole for both those who enviously and covetously browse and buy the idea of it and those who post to sell it.
Type in #liveauthentic into the Instagram search bar and you’ll find over 19 million posts, many of which feature someone posing against a cool scenery or backdrop along with a caption full of hashtags that don’t matter.
The desire to #liveauthentic not only compels us to disguise and hide our flaws (MeiTu XiuXiu, anyone?) but also to romanticise them.
Ever seen someone post something along the lines of “I’m just trying to be real here”? That is when #liveauthentic has been hijacked by self-centredness.
By the way, I’m not throwing stones at others – I’m guilty as charged. People have always said that I’m “Insta-happy”, referring to my willingness to post frequently about my life.
This is ironic, since I’m an introvert; why do I behave like an online extrovert, friends ask me.
On one occasion while I was overseas and posting about how good the food was, a friend texted me to tell me to “stop it”. I was pretty sure my intentions were just to journal down daily experiences in my life. But then again, my posts apparently affected others.
Where do we draw the line?
MULTI-TASKING OR MULTI-MASKING?
It is hard to tell which is more dangerous: The loss of our sense of spontaneity and authenticity on Instagram, or the rabid attempts to fake an Instagram-perfect life.
There was a time when I starting to fall into the idea that my self-worth depended on the approbation of my followers. Seeing that my followers – mostly my church friends – only liked my church-related posts, I subconsciously started to only post about church.
I was filtering my life just to suit my audience’s preferences.
In the competition for a spot on my Instagram feed, a good and memorable dinner with loved ones can’t win a completely pointless yet nicely planned flat lay — unless it’s got a high-quality photo.
I eventually got frustrated and tired. This isn’t the real me. I realised that there were so many facets of my life I had compartmentalised, overlooked and kept away for the sake of the social media game.
Probably the clearest example of such compartmentalisation is the phenomenon of running multiple personal Instagram accounts — one for the curated you and the other for the unfiltered you.
Why the need to wear so many masks if all we want to be is authentic?
The secondary Instagram accounts usually feature a visually unappealing feed and captions that are completely uncensored and vulnerably honest. To facilitate your multi-tasking, Instagram recently introduced the ability to toggle between multiple accounts from directly within the app.
But why the need to wear so many masks if all we want to be is authentic?
We are ceasing to see. Using our eyes to appreciate the beauty of things around us is no longer enough. It always has to be documented. My first thought at a breath-taking sunset: Where’s my phone?
We seesaw back and forth between false realities of ourselves. We put on a mask in a bid to live the authentic life that everyone seems to be living.
It’s so tiring.
Who am I, really? What is my identity? What am I here for?
There is a place and space to #liveauthentic in our Christian walk. That place is rooted in the firm foundations of Christ, and not ourselves. If Christ isn’t enough to define us, then what is? What could ever be?