African Americans: Faking It, Is The New Making It!

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(ThyBlackMan.com) The days of faking it till you make it are over! Faking it is the new making it. In the past people emulated wealth, status, and pedigree along their path to success. Our society is so com-modified that more times than not one has to look the part in order to get the part. I remember the first time I wore Penny Loafers, a sweater vest, and a sport coat with patches. I was as broke as a joke, but I looked like I came from the right family and went to the right schools. This costume still opens doors for me.

There is a generation using social media to create the conditions for success, or the appearance of that success. They understand how important a good image in cyberspace is; sometimes, it’s every bit as valuable as a good image in the real world.

Social media is a gift and a curse. In society we appear to be (x) at home we may be (y), but on social media we can be whoever or whatever we want. Our profiles can be refined caricatures of ourselves or complete fictions that reflect our deepest desires. Social media personas have become every bit as real as flesh and bones.

Jean Baudrillard wrote about this long before Facebook and Twitter. In his 1981 book “Simulacra and Simulation” Baudrillard theorized, in my opinion correctly, that society had moved to a place where the symbols of reality not only displaced reality but became more real than reality. Baudrillard knew that cultivating a personality would be replaced by just creating the image of a personality.

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This reminds me of the Glamour Shots craze. Glamour Shots and a slew of smaller knockoff companies made a lot of money transforming ordinary people into the version of themselves they always wanted to be: even if those transformations were temporary. Glossy 3×5’s and 4×6’s served as “facsimiles” of who they could be on their best day. It took a makeup artist, a hair stylist, and airbrush photography to do what a smartphone is capable of doing in a few seconds. This technological reality combined with a cyber-world that loosely resembles reality has changed us in a short period of time.

Creating a new identity is easy. The “social” aspect of social media takes place in a world where authenticity and inauthenticity aren’t easily distinguishable. The great Canadian philosopher Justin Bieber is rumored to have once wrote, “Facebook is where you lie to your friends. Twitter is where you are honest with complete strangers.” I don’t know if he is the real author of this quote, but it jibes with the experiences I’ve had.

Before social media self-creation involved defining who you are over and against societal classification systems based on any combination of cultural, racial, sexual, religious, and socioeconomic factors. We’ve always had the choice of not cultivating a self, but now we can easily upload a reproducible identity that has the same intrinsic value, or (an even scarier proposition) more instrumental value than we have in the material world. I’m curious how this period will be understood by sociologist, philosophers, and psychologists 100 years from now.

Full disclosure: I’m not attempting to define this cultural shift, nor do I understand it. I am as much a part of this as the people who populate our timelines and newsfeeds. If you look at my digital footprint you’ll get a carefully crafted symbolic representation of my life. The perfectly manicured and air brushed version of myself I share on social media lacks many of the imperfections that make me who I am.

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Maybe faking it is the new making it. Posting up beside a Mercedes on Instagram won’t get you anywhere in style, but it might get you some new followers, and we all know how important new followers are.

Staff Writer; Danny Cardwell