In my recent endeavors to understand how to use TikTok, I’ve read a lot about authenticity. Yes, TikTok. My son is 9 and interested in the platform, but too young to participate, so I am his proxy.
But, I have to make it mine (@WorldsofNaomi), so I’ve focused on adding songs I like, especially from my misspent youth, to video clips of nature-ish content around my neighborhood.
I think the results are funny. My son thinks I need to try a little bit harder (his words).
Back to authenticity: I remember the strong pull of localism in my young peers, both where I grew up in the Virgin Islands, and in the small beach town where my family is from in California. The antithesis of the locals-only mindset was “lifestyling”—the greatest of social sins for a 19-year-old, at least pre-2020s.
Lifestyling meant taking on the characteristics of a sort of person you want to become. In California, it was most often a young man not from here who wants to become a surfer, so he not only learns to surf, but outfits himself in trendy surf wear and sunglasses of an appropriate label, decorates his apartment with surfboards, and buys a VW Westfalia. Note that the local guys live in exactly that manner—its the fact that our villain is an outsider that condemns him as a dreaded lifestyler.
I digress. My point is that just like there have always been gatekeepers, there has always been an authenticity police. The fact is that authenticity is subjective. What is authentic to a 16-year-old #BookTok star may differ from what is authentic to a middle-aged writer working to get noticed in the book publishing space. Both points of view are valid and authentic, and I believe that social media platforms recognize that.
Authenticity is subjective.
In terms of dipping my toe into #BookTok on TikTok, here is what is authentic to me:
I hope that people following #BookTok don’t think that it is overly produced or cringe. At my age, a person does tend to be more produced in many ways than they were as a teen, and that’s okay. “Life is short, but it is wide,” said the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and that means that it is wide enough to fit all aesthetics, lifestyle choices, and understandings of what it means to be authentic.
But, we’ll see. I only posted it yesterday, and a longer version of it, at that. It could generate all sorts of criticism and disdain. Guess what? That would be AWESOME because that would mean people are seeing it! #goals