How to Be Yourself When Everyone Else Is Faking It
"Just be yourself" is great advice -- but it's time to drop that "just," because there's nothing simple about it. Our social existence is rooted in our humanity, but increasingly mediated by machines. On one hand, we try to heed the injunction to be authentic by Being Ourselves online, even as Facebook is attempting to standardize online interaction via our "real" identities; on the other, we're more conscious than ever of the way social media invite us to present our real selves as performances. When a hoax like the Amina Araf "Gay Girl in Damascus" blog is exposed, we feel betrayed. But any identity system that makes life harder for the next would-be Amina Araf to fool us might also serve the interests of repressive governments and invasive marketers. We want it all: authenticity and trusted identity, privacy and the option of anonymity. Can we have it?
Liz Henry is a writer, blogger, computer programmer, translator, and editor. She's a Drupal developer and web producer for BlogHer, a women's social media network.