In the Real Thing, Seth Godin discusses authenticity and concludes:
“Consumers are begging to be sold on the authentic. The easiest way to do that, of course, is to be authentic. And yet, ever since they replaced the sugar in Coke with corn syrup, who knows any more... Being inauthentic is tricky, unpredictable and often wrong. But it also works.
The fact is, most of the people want to be fooled, just about all of the time.”
While I reacted angrily to this, I also know there’s truth there. Still, it’s at odds with the evolution of the Internet -- with the rise of social media and the propensity for exposing the inauthentic. So maybe the problem is with the words “most” and “just about all.” Maybe it should be “a lot” of people and “a lot of the time.” Which still leaves a lot of people using a lot of their time to search for and even demand authenticity.
And then there’s John Murrell at GMSV writing on Viacom’s plan to release copyrighted content on Joost and reassuring us that: “The Internet will never become television -- the television will become the Internet.” Why? Perhaps because the Internet is where we go to break down the machinery used to fool us.
Writes Murrell: “The reason YouTube, and back in the day, Napster, have become popular, is because they give the people what they want. The big media companies are not giving the people what they want: they’re giving them what they, the companies, think they should have. People will laugh at Google and YouTube thinking that this is a big letdown for them and a huge boost for Joost, and in the short term they’re right. I still think that Viacom and others are fighting a battle that cannot be won. The Internet will never become television -- the television will become the Internet.”
But this is only partly true too. More likely, the Internet and television will merge into a completely new beast where there will continue to be plenty of opportunities to be duped, stupefied, and generally fooled by corporate-, government-, and individual-generated content, and as many opportunities or more to engage in wholly authentic conversations on a grand scale. (We’ve always had the ability to have conversations on a local scale and have meetings, socials, and conferences that seek out the authentic.) The truth is, a lot of people are willing to watch just about anything in order to avoid doing anything (especially after a long day at an exhausting or unfulfilling job with little to come home to) and are more than willing to be spoon-fed whatever someone else creates for them, including a comforting veneer of authenticity from celebrities, politicians, and talking-head experts. And this is unlikely to change until there are fundamental economic changes that are nowhere in sight.
As we continue to increase opportunities for authentic
conversations, we will get more participation from those who would not or could
not participate in other forms. Greater participation will result in more
value, and the general volume of these conversations will grow louder and more
influential (if they don’t degenerate into shrill attacks designed to create
controversy and more ad revenue). This is all great but it's not the whole story.
So what happens when the youngest children today have the choice of spending their entire lives engaged in authentic conversations or accepting whatever is fed to them, wherever it comes from? Watching my children and their elementary school peers use social media sites to get more information about their favorite Japanese anime, I suspect that they, just as we, will do both, at times demanding authenticity and truth, at other times absorbing, and even enjoying, the experiences that others create -- whether they are authentic or not.