Discover more from The Comma Project by Devin Baker
Why does authenticity elicit eye rolls?
Thoughts on using authenticity as a compass
A question I’ve been reflecting on recently - why does authenticity elicit eye rolls?
Eye roll: an upward turning of the eyes especially as an expression of annoyance, exasperation, disbelief, etc.
It’s a phenomenon that I’m noticing both in my personal experience, but also in public discourse.
When I am on the cusp of converting a thought or feeling (internal) to an expression directed at and communicated to someone else (external), I notice that I feel resistance to delivering the sentiment and making that expression of authenticity public.
It could be as small of a matter as saying that I’ve really been enjoying reading and learning more about design or that I’m planning on attending a yoga retreat next year.
The resistance feels like an internal, constructed eye roll out of fear of a potential future external, actual eye roll. Like I’m eye rolling at myself as I even think about putting vulnerability in motion.
Interestingly, this resistance also seems to be unrelated to the actual external response of the person.
The reality more often is that the degree of affirmation received in the response isn’t proportionate to the level of importance I attached to sharing, and the courage required to communicate it, given the level of vulnerability needed to make the statement in the first place.
Externally, I won’t spend unneeded time re-hashing the dynamics of public discourse in places like social media, as it’s lamented plenty elsewhere. Suffice it to say “if it bleeds, it leads.”
This dynamic foundationally drives a mechanism that encourages criticism and conflict, where the system of users and their interactions inevitably moves in that direction. Our incentives in these systems lead to what I’ll call “digital eye rolls” (or worse responses like outright conflict), since that’s the behavior that wins engagement and attention.
But there’s also another interesting dynamic at work, where authenticity is making a resurgence. It’s often, however, quieter in its existence.
But, when it wins (e.g., any recent creator-led podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience, The Tim Ferriss Show, Call Her Daddy, etc.), they win big.
I think there’s something interesting worth noting here, characterized by the dynamic that seems to enable instances of “digital eye rolls” to win bigger, sooner (regardless of quality), but instances of authenticity to win bigger, later (and seemingly also having a higher quality bar).
This dynamic is one that interests me.
I think this speaks to two interesting attributes of authenticity:
The world has a higher bar for authenticity than eye rolls (of any type, digital or IRL), in the form of quality and persistence. One eye roll-esque post or interaction can and likely will win in terms of the objective metrics these social systems track (and are therefore built to optimize for). All else equal, it will take a project of authenticity greater time and quality to catch up.
The world deeply values instances of true, concentrated authenticity. Once proven and delivered with quality and consistency, the world deeply values the connection made possible by authenticity. This is exemplified by the new version of today’s culture carriers - the leading podcasters, personalities, etc. - who all lead with authenticity.
I believe this speaks to the deep and dramatic need we have in today’s world for the deeply intrinsic, human elements of life, like connection, that are increasingly getting lost in the noise of eye rolls (digital or IRL).
One of the key ingredients needed, and a seemingly good place to start, is authenticity.
So, bringing it back to the personal, it seems like the act of courage needed to exhibit authenticity (regardless of how big or small), is worth it.
Sometimes, the audience of your vulnerability provides the kind of metaphorical warm hug that makes us feel seen and confirms our value and substance. What a joy!
But even if that’s not the case, and the response is non-existent, or worse, a real eye roll, at least you took a step towards authenticity. Towards aligning who you are internally with who you let the rest of the world see. Towards delivering that authenticity to those that need it (and will search until they find it).
That is a goal that, especially recently, has felt worthwhile, and one for which I’m attempting to fan the flames of the needed courage (*cue eye roll*), however small, to step towards authenticity and congruence.
Connection is what truly makes me buzz with energy.
And I believe that connection - connection with true depth of shared vulnerability and context - demands this expression of authenticity and courage.
This authenticity and connection is one thing that I will be working to orient my life towards in 2023.
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