In which I wax philosophical (or confused) about authenticity in social media

In which I wax philosophical (or confused) about authenticity in social media

I've been struggling (a LOT) with consistently updating this blog (is there a worse word in the world? BLOOOOOG) over the past couple of years and have been trying to pinpoint exactly why, forming the words in my mind into a perfect post that nails it exactly. I've had hours-long conversations with my best friend about this topic and I know that the words aren't quite perfect yet, but I have so many photos waiting in the wings that it's time to push this thing out of the nest, ready or not.

As someone that's had some sort of online journal since the late 90s, this weird social media shift over the last couple of years has been especially daunting and, for lack of a better word, kind of gross feeling, mostly in the lack of authenticity. It's been discussed a thousand times, I know, but I also haven't quite figured out how to live with it and feel great about it. I've been invited to dinners where I felt like I was just an instagram username in a chair, there for the sole purpose of being photographed via phone, posted, tagged and cashed in as social media currency. Cha-ching!

The lines between personal and promotional have never been so blurred and we've suddenly entered this time where we can't tell if interactions with new people are genuine or if we've been had. Secretly sold something that we're not even aware of yet by people who've cast themselves as pseudo-themselves in the loosely-based-on-partially-real-events version of their lives (much like NWA, it seems). Suddenly the internet of the 90s, where I was my most authentic, honest self (hello, Livejournal!) has been bastardized into this place where you run into shells of people you used to know, trying to sell you something you didn't even know they were peddling while making you feel like the whole world is flying high on cloud 9 while your feet are pressed, firmly (stuck, even), into the ground, dodging life's bullets.

As a photographer and a freelancer I feel like I've fallen into this trap, too, and have been sucked into playing a game that I never agreed to or wanted to be a part of. The questions is: How do we share our work in a genuine way without it feeling like we're quack salesmen with a trenchcoat full of knock-off watches, waiting to prey upon our next 'follower'. How do we share our life in an honest way, the good and the bad, while still holding onto optimism? And how do we identify the people that are wearing the masks for all the wrong reasons?

I still haven't quite figured it out, but as far as professionally, I think it all boils down to intention (as do most things in life). Do I want to post my work, have it adored, liked, double-tapped, retweeted and be hired by a thousand people as a result? Absolutely. Of course. Who wouldn't? But. The work, for me, comes first. That seems like an obvious, simple thing, but I think the entire weight of the problem lies in those four word. 

The work comes first. 

I do this work. For myself, for my clients, for my heart and because I don't know how to function any other way. Even through all the frustrations and the times that I want to throw my camera out the window I know that inevitably I'll always run outside and piece it back together because preserving moments for people and creating a visual archive of what I've experienced in life is something that I don't know how to walk away from. Ever. 

Unfortunately, that's not always the case and this social media revolution has catapulted that triple-fold, launching people into the spotlight with dollar signs over their eyes where the love of adoration and recognition trump their love of the craft that they're actually doing. We're currently living in the Freelance Wild West; the good, the bad and the ugly. 

My blog pause definitely stopped with the fear that people may think I fell into that category and that the words that I say aren't genuine or that I don't pour my heart into the images that I create. It's so very Taurus of me to worry about those kinds of things, but it really did (and does) weigh heavy on my heart; enough so that I stopped posting work and the work that I did post was coupled with veiled words (or, most recently, just emojis) because, if my words don't feel real to the people reading them, why post them at all? Last week I stumbled upon a blog post that I had written a year ago where I touched on this a little bit. I couldn't believe it had already been a year since then and I really couldn't believe that I was still stuck in the same funk about it. It feels like it's time to break free from those fears, finally release these social media thoughts and get back to sharing the things that I'm most excited about, both in work and in life. 

I'd love to follow along with your authentic lives, and work, as well. Not #liveauthentic, but ACTUAL authentic. ;) So, if you have a blog or a place that you regularly spill your heart, please post it here or email it to me. I'd also love to hear everyone else's thoughts. Am I way off-base? Did I miss key pieces?  Am I totally wrong and social media is a slice of perfect heaven? 

I was going to post some personal images from a roadtrip I took in April, but seeing as how I've rambled on (for 18 pages! front AND back! (reference anyone? ;) )) I'll save those images for tomorrow instead. 

Thanks for reading, friends. I'll see you tomorrow. <3

Image by Eliesa Johnson
Southwest Road Trip Β· Part One Β· Minnesota through Colorado

Southwest Road Trip Β· Part One Β· Minnesota through Colorado

John + Nicole + Dylan + Molly at Hidden Falls

John + Nicole + Dylan + Molly at Hidden Falls