Twenty-nine days between posts.
I’m clearly really good at this blog thing.
But I’m here now, and I got here through one of writers’ most tried-and-true tricks: stealing someone else’s ideas. Excuse me, taking inspiration from someone else’s ideas. My roommate recently updated her blog by revamping it, essentially saying she wanted to create an online persona that’s more the person she sees herself as rather than the person she sees herself as consciously trying to portray to others. (Her exact and much more eloquent words can be found over at thingsmegansays.wordpress.com.)
I think her goal is a great one, and I’m really interested to see where it goes. But I was also very surprised when I heard her talk about her feeling like the things she’s put online in the past weren’t representative of the “real” her. Because as someone who, I think, sees the “real” her quite often, I thought the things she said around friends and the things she said online sounded a lot alike.
But as the creator of the things she put forth, my roommate felt there was a disconnect, and that’s quite important. Although those around her saw her online ramblings as an extension of her (real) persona, she felt they weren’t genuine.
What, then, is the nature of genuineness?
I started thinking about the things I share in person and online when all this came up, and realized I tend to think about the way I talk about myself and my life as a work of nonfiction. It’s completely genuine, in that every word is true and reflects things I really think. But hey, it’s also edited, and for good reason. No one wants to hear the rambly bits, and no one needs to hear rougher parts, at least not in casual conversation (or casual posts).
Is an edited version of the truth still the truth? Is someone who calculates what they do and don’t share about themselves still genuine?
I’d argue yes, they are. Because knowing what is and isn’t worth sharing is very different from conscious manipulation. Manipulation still happens, as a side effect of an edited truth, but an ability to focus on what’s relevant to the matter at hand doesn’t mean the speaker is a liar. It means you’re going to have to talk to them a lot to get their whole story, maybe, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Also, to what extent does the way people perceive us—or the way people start to perceive us, based on our own efforts—affect who we are? In the case of my roommate, I see her as an interesting, thoughtful person because the things she shares are interesting and thoughtful. And to be totally honest, I don’t care if she’s actively trying to be interesting and thoughtful or if she just comes out that way by virtue of who she is. Even if you’re just faking it until you make it, you have to be able to fake it in the first place, and that counts for a lot, as far as I’m concerned.
But I also recognize that if the person doing the sharing feels like the perception others have of her is a fake one, something is off.
Chuck Klosterman talks a lot about this in a fantastic book called Eating the Dinosaur, a series of essays about pop culture. The question of sincerity vs. entertainment is at the heart of most of those essays. It’s a great read, and now I find myself wanting to revisit it to remember what he said about the topic. (He’s also a great example of being meaningful, genuine and entertaining all at once. You can’t write in-depth essays about ABBA, the Unabomber and Garth Brooks unless you actually care about what you’re saying.)
I still have no problem with editing one’s thoughts and words when sharing with others, but I’m becoming a lot more aware of the motivations behind them.