i’ve been thinking a lot about authenticity. is it possible to be authentic in a world where we share everything we’re doing on social media? we post glimpses of our lives, or what we want others to believe our lives are like, but why? in the hopes of getting “likes” and affirmation from friends or strangers? or because we genuinely have something we want to share with the world? another picture of our face? another picture of our dinner? sometimes i feel like the only way to be authentic would be to delete all social media and allow my world to be private. to be driven by what i really want, and not what i want to show off.
i’m currently reading this book, lovingly, georgia. it’s a compilation of letters between georgia o’keeffe and anita pollitzer from 1915-1968. i’m about halfway through, and the letters i’m reading currently were sent in 1915 and 1916 during the height of georgia and anita’s friendship. georgia was not famous yet, nor had she received any real recognition for her work. she is an aspiring young artist who has a desire to express her inner-most feelings – and makes bold claims about not caring what anyone else thinks. but every so often that tough exterior cracks, and she admits that she is overjoyed when someone likes her work. she waffles between caring and not caring – always insisting that her work is personal, and for her, but admitting that she gets excited about others’ reactions. so, is there a difference between her struggle and mine?
not really, but the answer of what to share and when is becoming clear to me. the bottom line is…do i have something worth sharing? is it meaningful to me? if i’m attached to my art, and it says something important to me or about me, or about the human condition..then it makes sense to want to share it. if i just want to post another picture of this cool thing i’m doing over the weekend because i like seeing how many likes i can get, and it puffs up my ego…is that really healthy? a question to ask is, am i sharing this because i want to be perceived a certain way, or because i really want other people to see and experience this? i think a majority of us share for the sake of sharing…instead of sharing because we really have something to offer. one seems insanely selfish, and the other not…and yet they can look interchangeable.
this isn’t to say i’m judging anyone – this is really an internal rant/struggle that i’m trying to work through. do i think everyone posting selfies on instagram is selfish? no, although the term “selfie” would imply some things…but i do think the age of instant everything has made us all a bit more shallow. posting art online to send the message “hey, i’m an artist!” rather than whatever it is the art is actually supposed to say seems so sad and convoluted. we’ve lost the art of art, in those instances.
in lovingly, georgia anita pollitzer repeatedly refers to georgia’s paintings and drawings as “feelings”. i showed your feelings to so and so, i’m keeping your feelings safe, etc. etc. – and isn’t this what art should be?
here’s a little excerpt from a letter that anita wrote to georgia shortly after receiving some of georgia’s latest work.
“astounded and awfully happy were my feelings today when i opened the batch of drawings. i tell you i felt them! & when i say that i mean that. they’ve gotten past the personal stage into the big sort of emotions that are common to big people – but it’s your version of it. i mean if they’d been stuck on a wall & i’d been told XZ did them I’d have liked them as much as if i’d been told picasso did them, or someone i’d never heard of. pat (she calls georgia pat) -well they’ve gotten there as far as i’m concerned & you ought to cry because you’re so happy. you’ve said something!”
now, i’m not saying i’ll never post a picture of my daily experiences on social media – i do think family and friends across the country enjoy seeing those things. i know i like to see pictures of people i know and love living their lives. i’m also not saying that i’ll always feel deeply about what i create. but maybe we should think more about our motivations – and if we really need to share as much as we do. do you have something worth sharing? and if not, why? it’s easy to be shallow, it’s easy to post a picture of your latest dinner, or that coffee drink you ordered – you have to dig a little deeper to create something you care about, and actually care about sharing.
let’s all try to say something. instead of anything.
images: “red poppy” and “summer days” by georgia o’keeffe