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Get Real: A Discussion About Authenticity On Facebook

As a young adult the most important quality in a person was probably authenticity.  And I wasn’t alone. When my peers and I watched the world around us nothing earned our respect better than a genuine smile or interaction. However, nothing ticked us off more than a fake one. We desired nothing but real interaction, even to the point that we’d prefer a person who said cruel and wicked things. Just as long as they were real.

Years later this critique somehow doesn’t show up in nearly as many of my conversations. Perhaps careers, spouses and children occupy our attention too much to worry about this stuff, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still prevalent or that it isn’t a problem. Start with searching Facebook profiles. Most are just a collection of glory moments, ranging from getting the new job to amazing beach pictures with a smiling family. Few people actually plan it that way, but that’s what happens. And according to researchers it causes something called Facebook envy, making others jealous about those beach vacations or friend counts. We can shrug our shoulders and say, “Who, me? Everyone else is doing it!” But the first place we can start is with ourselves.

So, I just did a spot check of my profile page. Most recently I posted a cute video of our dog and a bragging photo of my wife, sending her big-time accolades for an accomplishment. Oh, and I’ve had a cozy profile picture of us cuddling up for about a month now.  Things appear oh, so grand.

Am I part of the problem? Yes. But can we stop this thing we started?

FAKEbook

I won’t lie, I’m having a pretty tough time in life right now since our move to Sioux Falls. It is a good city, but I left much behind in Tampa that I just don’t have here yet. I am also still grieving my father who suddenly passed away this Summer. And other aspects of life are also far less than satisfactory.

But you wouldn’t know it from my Facebook persona. In fact a friend reached out to me this week about a struggle she was facing. We talked about it for a bit and at the end she mentioned that seeing Tasha and me having so much fun in Sioux Falls makes her smile. That was a jarring wake-up call that apparently I’m not being genuine enough on this forum. And I’m sorry for that.

So since my friend spilled her heart out about her struggle, it was only fair that I break the news that things aren’t as great as they appeared for me, either. Otherwise my fake persona would be stacking the deck against her and everyone else.

I don’t think I’m alone, but how do we stop showing our fantastic shoes, pearly white smiles, hot babe bikini pics, and baby news? Won’t our children feel unloved if we don’t post the pic of them with the straight-A report card? Won’t Aunt Nina be upset if I get the job and don’t let her know?

And shouldn’t we post the bad news, too? Unfortunately, we all probably think of that someone who shares everything negative, from when their milkshake at Hardee’s wasn’t creamy enough, to how they don’t want to get out of bed after learning their ex-boyfriend cheated. For the fifth time.

How to Sing Out of Key

My grandfather shoved a football into my hands. I looked down at it through the bars of my face mask. It was Christmas Day. I was six and wearing shoulder pads, a Chicago Bears jersey and helmet.

“Okay, Matthew. Now. Hold the ball and stick your other arm out. Yea, like that. And grit your teeth. That’s it. Yep, just like that. Now, growl for me. Grrr…” he held his Canon camera up and clicked away.

Bears fans were still buzzing after the 1985 Super Bowl victory, so surely many other Illinois boys were wearing Bears uniforms that morning, too. But in the mid-’80s, I was one of a few who had trained photographer grandparents snapping their photos.

Meanwhile, my father was also a tech nerd before that was a thing. We had cellular phones that plugged into car lighters and satellite dishes the size of elephants. And we had camcorders before others. So not only did I get to run up and grab candy at Fourth of July parades, I was also the star of the TV show.

Then in college I walked past the business building every day. It had mirrored windows and each time passing I made sure to get a nice, long glance at myself. Eventually it started to bother me because I couldn’t help it, and didn’t know where it came from, but in hindsight I wonder if those photo shoots had a hand in it. And I wonder if examples like these influence our flashy Facebook profiles. If so, just you wait, because what covers our Facebook feeds day in and day out are baby photos, toddler photos and first day of school photos.

Nevertheless, it’s a tough call. Those are some of my fondest memories of my father and grandfather, and their loving attention gave me several of my best attributes. Still, stopping now is like asking a trained singer to sing out of key. It’s harder than we might think since we’ve specialized in this stuff for so long.

So how do we find a solution? Maybe instead of singing off key we try rap instead. Meaning, maybe instead of showing a melancholy face, maybe we show a picture of a cause that means much to us. Gasp – maybe something that doesn’t even have our faces in it. Aunt Nina will be horrified.

Check my Facebook profile. I’m trying it now, too.