NYC Preview: The Passion of the Childish Gambino: Online Honesty and Instagram Authenticity

Mockingbird has been around since 2008, and the earliest post we have on the subject […]

Bryan J. / 2.27.14

Mockingbird has been around since 2008, and the earliest post we have on the subject of Social Media is 2009, in which we studied the phenomenon of getting busted on Facebook for real-life lies.  In the five years since that post, we certainly haven’t lost our fascination with the subject- it’s been one of our favorite hobbies to put the world’s social life under the microscope and view our favorite themes in action. Facebook users (for 10 years now!) are cultivating identities to be liked instead of being honest. Selfies are the new living room portraits, carefully framed to show the world how excellent our lives can be. Twitter is the new Nielsen rating system, the judge by which television is good or bad. As a result of our new digital lives, never before have human beings been so intimately connected and so incredibly… lonely, unhappy, anxious, and unknown. If you want to play catchup, just click the social media tag at the bottom of this post for a list of the 20 or 30 some posts that have been written on this topic so far. The avatar lifestyle is much less risky than real life social interaction, with its risk of social fax pas and the judgment/exclusion/shame as an inevitable result.

Authenticity is often prescribed as an antidote (or demanded as a corrective!) to the barriers presented by online personalities. Sometimes the call for authenticity online is direct- “Just be yourself” was a maxim long before the rise of social media, and Pinterest won’t let me forget it! Sometimes the call for authenticity is less obvious, shrouded in buzz words like intimacy, honesty or community.

The command “be authentic” isn’t just the answer to our online intimacy issues, but the “law de jour” for all relationships these days, and not just interpersonal ones.  Restaurants are providing locally-sourced foods and brewing local craft beers. Non-profits are scrambling to post transparency reports on how efficiently they use donations. Politicians (sometimes!) do what they can to be open and honest about their politics. Churches advertise that they have “real” worship and “real” community. It’s certainly part of the reason why Hollywood loves actress Jennifer Lawrence so much- she seems like a down-to-earth “real” person compared to the canned appearances of many other starlets. Businesses, politicians, movie stars, friends, family, coworkers who are discovered to be inauthentic are, of course, discarded as fuel for the two ambiguous emotions of cynicism and contempt.

This breakout session plans to “get real” about the command to “be authentic,” particularly in the world of social media. To do so, I’m enlisting the help of Donald Glover and his rapper alter ego Childish Gambino. Glover, in his quest to succeed, has established himself as an excellent writer and actor, and I think Gambino’s newest album Because the Internet qualifies me to say that he’s also an excellent musician. Honesty is one of Glover’s strengths, and his recent openness about depression and anxiety have made the entertainment world and his fans, well, uncomfortable to say the least. We’ll also grab some insight into the world of authenticity from Beyonce, TS Eliot, The Apostle Paul, Whit Stillman, MTV’s Catfish, Mark Zuckerberg, and of course, The Good Lord himself!

Are you among the 71% of Facebook users that start to type a status update, only to self-censor and delete the whole thing? Are you planning to snap a skyline selfie or two during your free time in the Big Apple? Or maybe you’re wondering why, as one student once commented, “everyone else but me seems to be having their best days every day.” Then grab your smart phone and start the live tweet, because this breakout session is for you! See our #MbirdNYC14 conference page and register ASAP- see you in April!

Content Advisory- The Gambino does not filter his language!