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48. Absence Number 7: Authenticity

Creating curated images of ourselves on social media has become something of a national pastime. In the absence of feeling valued for who we are, many of us are creating altered images of ourselves tailored to accumulate the maximum number of likes, followers and fans.

This is especially evident in politics where ironically credibility is frequently built on a flimsy framework of lies which spreads from the example of our leaders and seeps into our private lives as well.

It is one thing to sell a product, and quite another to make yourself the product, because by selling ourselves our relationships become based on transactions, and we become the product of those transactions.

"Loving me for who I am" are the key words of the song Say It Again on my new album The Presence of That Absence. What the person in the song wants to hear said again and again is that they are loved for who, and not what they are.

Authenticity, or being real was the existential holy grail for non-conformists like the early beat generation and the hippies. Now they have become comic caricatures of themselves because they succumbed to commercialization which is to say, they devolved into cliches and stereotypes. Those who outwardly mimicked the authentic social trend setters and trailblazers did so to acquire acceptance. They didn't get involved because of who they were, but instead for who they were not. Sartre called it "being for others."

And now, having the capacity to disseminate images of ourselves on a worldwide basis thanks to the internet, the whole process of disinformation has been ratcheted up to the ultimate degree. It reminds me of the hope that early TV journalist Edward R. Murro initially had, that television would become a great force for good, while in the end it succumbed to the mediocrity inherent in commercialization which provides the lowest common denominator to the largest number of viewers.

These days it seems that everyone is driven to seek their 15 minutes of fame on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere which reminds me of the poignant moral in the story of Dorothea Brooke at the end of the novel Middlemarch by George Eliot, part of which goes like this:

"Her full nature....spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

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