As I finish a set of squats, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My face is red, my eyes are bloodshot and the mustache lounging on my top lip is unimpressive at best. It is at this moment I get a notification on my phone. It’s time to BeReal. I look at this notification, and it looks back at me. I think I’m not ready to be real just yet and slip my phone back into my pocket.
Many consumers frequently lose the battle with authenticity on social media. People want to be authentic and see others posting authentically, especially after years of seeing people’s best side on Instagram and other platforms. However, it seems to be human nature to present yourself in the best way possible. And social media may be the perfect stage to do this.
Social media platforms seem to undergo a similar authenticity journey. In the early days of Facebook, our news feeds were littered with embarrassing pictures of friends and brutally candid hot or not videos. But as Facebook’s user base matured so did its content. As Instagram posts became increasingly curated, stories appeared to be their authentic antidote. However, users were quickly armed with and began using filters, to iron any authenticity from their posts.
The half-life of authenticity seems to be shortening. TikTok’s shift from homemade videos to big business has been rapid. The demise of BeReal’s authenticity may be imminent if it has not already happened. Product innovation may not be able to keep pace with social media platforms’ ability to cannibalize authenticity and BeReal-Esque new entrants may fall into an inauthentic space.
The dissonance between consumers’ desire for authenticity on social media, and their history of eroding authenticity, creates a complex space for a social media brand to play within.
If social media platforms pander to their consumers too much and arm them with tools to be inauthentic then their consumers will look to move to fresh, authentic spaces. Consumers are still interested in curated social media platforms. However, issues occur when social media brands try to create platforms which blend authenticity and curation. The two cannot co-exist.
Authenticity on social media is something consumers crave. But the temptation to appear at our best is often overwhelming. For a social media platform to be a genuinely authentic space, authenticity must be at its core and users should not be given the chance to tweak, filter or curate their content.
So, can social media ever be a truly real space? Maybe, but it is only possible on consistent, well-defined social media platforms.