This week’s Friend Friday topic is authenticity, it’s definition and how you achieve it. Apparently it’s the top thing people look for in a fashion blog! These questions have made me half remember a load of social and cultural theory from my undergrad days, so apologies if this is getting a bit technical/incoherent/unrelated. I have intentionally not done any googling or reading to remind myself about what the theory actually says, to stop this from turning into a fully quoted academic essay – believe me, I am capable of that! So what you are getting is the authentic (ha!), half forgotten contents of my brain.
And be warned, this is an epic one!
1. Most readers and fellow fashion bloggers value authenticity in the blogs they read. How would you describe blog/blogger authenticity?
You hear a lot of mention of bloggers being ‘real’ and doing what they want to do and I suppose that is what people mean when they say authenticity. But if I’m being completely honest, I find that a wee bit meaningless. I mean, who would not say they were real? The vast majority of fashion bloggers blog about their given thing because they are passionate about it, and because they love it and it’s a part of their lives. Maybe there are ‘fake’ bloggers who have come up with some kind of masterplan for what kind of blog will be successful, and what kind of bloggers they have to befriend, and then they do that even if they don’t actually care, but how widespread is this really? I have often talked about my weariness towards the big commercialised fashion blogs, but I don’t doubt that the bloggers still means well.
For me, the concept authenticity goes much beyond simply doing what one likes to do. If I remember correctly, in philosophy, authenticity is about being true to one’s internal, essential ‘self’ and not bowing to social, commercial, religious etc pressures. That sounds straightforward enough, but in more recent social theory the idea of some pre-existing self that is separate from the context in which we live is pretty much discredited. Most people recognise that identities are socially constructed and constantly made and re-made through our actions and other people’s reactions. And I agree with that, and have written about this before, we cannot step out of our life to determine what we ‘really’ like and and what is socially determined.
But while you can’t step outside yourself, what you can do is think about yourself and your values and choices and try and get a better understanding of yourself. So it’s not just about knowing what you like, but about knowing why you like what you value like and how you’ve come to that position. That is how I understand authenticity as, as reflecting on yourself and making fully informed choices.
How that relates to blogging, I don’t know though. Being reflexive is such an internal and personal thing and it may not have an external expression at all. Even the most open blog is only a tiny window into somebody’s world, and just because a blogger is private and doesn’t reveal her inner thoughts that doesn’t mean necessarily that she doesn’t know exactly what she’s about. So my reflexive authenticity concept may not be particularly useful when applied to blogs.
2. When it comes to your blog how to you infuse it with that true/ authentic feeling?
I’m not sure it comes through that much in my daily posts. I mean I share stories of my life, little anecdotes that are ‘real’, but also I am fairly private and I don’t put my soul out there for everyone to see. And anyway, I don’t think you have to do that to be authentic, though it may help people make more of an emotional connection with you.
In terms of reflexive authenticity, I think thinking (a lot) helps me with my arguments and musings posts. I know myself and where I stand. Also, this ancient (June 2009) post on why I like what I like stylistically is a pretty good example of me making use of my self knowledge in a style/fashion context.
3. Have you stopped following a blog in the last three months? What made you lose interest?
In the last three months, I have mainly started following lots of blogs madly, and haven’t unsubscribed from any. But I will have to do that soon, because my reader is madly unsustainable and the way it’s going just now is that I am actually reading hardly anything at all because I’m just so overwhelmed!
When I have unsubscribed in the past it has usually not been because I disliked the blog, but just because I loved some other blogs more. I follow a wide range of different blogs, not all fashion. Not sure there is a common thread running through all of them, I like thinking academic/political ones, photography ones where I don’t even know what the blogger looks like, vintage ones and straight outfit ones. Sometimes people talk about their life, sometimes not. Authenticity is nice, but it’s by no means the main thing which I look for. And I never think ‘Oh, she seems fake/inauthentic’.
4. We can’t communicate effectively on our blogs, something we don’t live in real life… what are some ways you try to live an authentic life?
I’m not sure I totally agree with this statement. It assumes that the point of a blog is to talk about the bloggers life. Which it can be, and often is, but lots of wonderful and highly successful fashion blogs don’t.
Anyway, to answer the question: I think. A lot. About everything. Literally everything. And I will speak up and change my behaviour if something isn’t what I want after I’ve thought about itr. I don’t know if I’m slightly abnormal, in that I always have an internal discourse going in my head. I challenge myself and I debate things with myself while sitting on the bus or walking to work or whatever. It’s just what I do. I am a very wordy person, I think in grammatically correct sentences, not images or anything like that. Partnerboyfriendfianceee Dave actually thinks I am mad because he just does have that internal narrative.
But I’m not sure all that thinking is that incredibly visible in my bloggy output or even my life. The thing is, despite moving to a different country for good aged 18, I have lived a very conventional life much as you would expect from a nice middle class girl: undergrad, year pissing about, masters, civil service job, long term relationship, marriage at 30 etc etc. Apart from the international migration thing, I have probably made exactly the same choices that a lot of people would just fall into. But I haven’t fallen into them, I have reflected and have actively, positively chosen them. For me, not to please anyone. But people don’t know that when they meet me.
Like I said, authenticity is personal and not necessarily visible. It might lead to some drastic and life-changing decisions, but then again it might not. And I therefore don’t think we can really judge how authentic anyone is without knowing them pretty well, and certainly not from what they present on a blog.
5. Give a shout-out… Which bloggers do you think are truly genuine and why?
Lots of bloggers, virtually all bloggers I follow, seem like nice, ‘real’ people. I am basically an optimist and assume that anybody is genuine. Like I say, who would do this if they didn’t care?
In terms of reflexive authenticity, two bloggers who have written a bit recently about reassessing where they want to go in their life and what is important to them are Chelsea of dearilou and Clare of Between Laundry Days. I really enjoy reading that sort of thing – someone on their way to finding the life that’s right for them – an authentic life!
Fashion wise, I think Already Pretty is a great place for thoughts on finding an authentic style – Sal always emphasises the need to get to know yourself and find the style (and body image) that is right for you.
That’s me! Hopefully that wasn’t too random! What are your thoughts?
Here’s a link to the roundup of all posts this week.
Photos by the Voice of the Eye.