During a recent #sachat, the topic was raised of authenticity online. I found myself questioning why one would ever have more than one twitter account (usually one “professional” and one “non-professional”)? I wondered how it could be considered authentic to hide parts of oneself (let those questions be a reflection of my own privilege as I continue…).
After the #sachat conversation Marci Walton (@MarciKWalton) shared this eloquently written blog post on the topic: http://marcikwalton.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/privilege-is-the-price-of-authenticity/
I am thankful to Marci for writing about traditionally marginalized populations and I am fascinated that she brought privilege into the conversation because it is something I have not yet seen in the discussion of engaging authentically online.
Marci writes, “In order to “be authentic” you must first have privilege”. Marci has a great point that authenticity is directly related to privilege. If I do not feel safe revealing a part of my identity because of how society might view me, or what might happen to me, I do not have privilege in that situation. Marci’s declaration got me thinking though. Is privilege a requirement of authenticity? I don’t think so. Anyone can be authentic, but it is easier for some individuals to be authentic because of their privilege. Authenticity takes courage, and privilege makes that courage easier to find, but I think that those not in the majority can still engage authentically online. To her credit, Marci does also talk about how privilege makes authenticity easier, but it is the statement above (that privilege is required) which sat funny with me.
As I usually do, I bounced my ideas of this discussion off of my grandparents. My grandmother swiftly came to Marci’s defense. “It’s like there’s no privacy anymore,” she mentioned, “If I don’t want to share what I did over the weekend to my coworkers, I shouldn’t be shunned for that”. Though I do see myself as an open book, I understand my grandmother’s point. Like Christopher Conzen (@ChrisConzen) stated in his post on the same topic, “If I invite coworkers over to my house, I’m not going to be walking around in my bathrobe and slippers. Does that mean I’m not truly being authentic to them because I won’t let them see how I am in my own house 90% of the time?”
People should be able to post in any number of accounts – every single person has the right to determine for themselves what feels right. Their reasoning for having multiple accounts may be that they do not find themselves privileged position, and that anyone would be in a position such as that (I think) is a fundamental flaw of society. To my core, I hope that the #sachat community is one in which everyone feels safe expressing their true selves.
Nonetheless, TED speaker Chimimanda Adichie taught me that in order to truly get to know a person you must get to know all parts of them (in order to avoid having a single story of that person). Yes, I think it is much harder to be authentic when not in the majority, but isn’t it still possible? After all of this, for now I have come to a similar conclusion to Marci, that privilege is not a prerequisite for authenticity, though it does make it easier.
As I write this I still question myself. Is my writing a reflection of my own privilege? Probably, but I am curious what others think. Thank you, Marci, for bringing privilege into this discussion, and thank you for sparking something within me to write this.