But as long as others re-share what you share, your being is secure. You are rippling throughout the network, and you can hear the reassuring echoes
The takeaway about authenticity I got from that decade-ago discussion was that, while authenticity is bad when it’s fixed on a common and unquestioned set of standards, it can be a tremendously useful way to judge things. And so critics, rather than accepting predetermined standards of authenticity, should construct their own ideas of what’s authentic based in their particular values and tastes at any given moment. Authenticity shouldn’t be internal and fixed, it should be externalized and fluid. It’s the best way to ensure that “authentic” doesn’t come to be synonymous with “the shit old white dudes think is important.”
Social media, stretching back as far as discussion boards, opened up a space for a cornucopia of ideas about authenticity to coexist, and that’s good, even if we should perhaps have more self-confidence to decide which are true. What’s frustrating, I think, isn’t the cornucopia but the fact that some voices are trying to reduce those multiple (and conflicting) standards into a canonical singularity. The voices that dominate discourse online want to redefine authenticity in terms of their values: open, meritocratic, rational and objective, validated by success. They want to make “authentic” mean “good by internet standards,” and to make us think that this connection is so obvious (“of course crowdsourced things are better!”) that it’s not worth arguing about. The problem with postauthenticity, in other words, isn’t that “authenticity” will become disconnected from any values. It’s that we won’t be able to see the values it’s connected to.
If virality supplants authenticity, the possibility looms that the revision of one’s authenticity standards will be in the hands of Facebook’s newsfeed-algorithm coders, not any individuals.
The goal is to make authenticity fluid without making it “empirical” or data-driven — subject to revision based on the self’s statistical performance in social media.