Social Authenticity: Does It Even Exist?
How much of what you see on social media is actually “real?”
The answer: Probably not a whole lot. We know it’s true, because we all do it in one way or another. We post selfies with flattering filters (come on, like you’ve never done it) or Instagram the most glamorous shots from our last vacation.
We publicly lament the inauthentic nature of social media that we ourselves contribute to.
Then, after enviously stalking the page of someone we barely know, we publicly lament the inauthentic nature of social media that we ourselves contribute to.
Exaggerating on social networks seems akin to plastic surgery for celebrities or steroids for professional athletes: Everybody’s doing it, but if you get caught you’re probably going to be ripped apart. Our social media profiles have transformed into carefully curated, selectively edited versions of our real lives.
But is that really a bad thing?
A new social media app, Beme, seems to think so.
What the heck is Beme?
Beme is an app that promises to free us all from social media snobbery. The app’s creator, videographer and popular youtube personality Casey Neistat, hopes to “remove the self-awareness or self consciousness from sharing on social media.”
Real, honest sharing of our day-to-day lives. Sounds cool, right?
Beme attempts “authentic” in a few ways:
For starters, users can only record video when the front of their phone screens are covered up. This is typically achieved by pressing your phone to your chest or to another flat surface. Once the 4-second clip’s been recorded, it’s immediately sent out into the universe without letting you review the footage.
Then, in a way similar to Snapchat, your friends and followers can only view the clip once before it disappears forever.
My #nomakeup, #nofilter face is recorded reacting to my friend's 4-second video as her dog drinks out of a cup for some reason.
I thought the idea was interesting and decided to try it for myself.
My first step: find a friend with an access code. Beme is still in early "members only" stage and unlock codes can only be given out by people who already have the app. It took a few hours and a shout-out on Facebook, but I managed.
Over the course of a day, a friend and I traded videos back and forth. I watched her play with her dog and hang out with her feet in the pool. She was lucky enough to witness my caffeine-and-Asian-food fueled study session at the library.
Honestly? The experience was a little bizarre. Fun, mind you, but bizarre. It felt strange to send a video that I hadn’t seen and would never see again, just as it felt strange (and almost too intimate) to see the daily moments of my friend’s life exactly as my friend saw them.
My first thought is "Ugh, I need to look cute while reacting." So am I still being authentic?
There are plenty of things I like about Beme. I like that sharing requires so little thought or effort; just press my phone to my chest and like magic, the video is shared. I could share clips from a concert or a gorgeous hike with virtually no disruption or distraction, which can’t be said for any other social media site I frequent. It’s refreshing to share and receive video with so little planning or pretense.
No one is ever truly “authentic” every minute of every day.
Still, can any social media app even an app like Beme be truly “authentic?” Users still decide what to record and what not to record. They’ll still post videos of themselves on good hair days or when the lighting is flattering.
That doesn’t speak to their moral failings, but rather to human nature in general. Our brains focus in on interesting things and the rest blurs together and fades from memory.
The truth is no one is ever truly “authentic” every minute of every day. I act differently with my best friend than I do with my grandmother. I wear shoes that pinch at my toes to work because they look professional. I curate my Instagram feed because I like to look at beautiful, gorgeously edited images just as much as I love to create them.
Does that make me inauthentic?
Or does it make me just, authentically, human?