A recent blog explored the issue of inauthentic or feigned behavior, identifying everyday inquiries ("How are you?"--"May I help you?") from store employees and other relative strangers as irritating because of their almost certain insincere and/or faked nature. When in such situations, we are then under pressure to be similarly fakey in our responses or risk appearing discourteous and arrogant.
Like this blogger, most of us are surely well aware of occasions in everyday social interactions when we have been similarly inauthentic. In both linguistics and psychology, a phenomenon known as transactional behavior/communication explains if not justifies whatever fakiness occurs in these casual exchanges; i.e., it's commonly accepted and understood in basic etiquette that greetings and casual inquiries concerning our well-being, however feigned, nevertheless serve a practical and functional role as a kind of "oil" making our social interactions run more smoothly and allaying any fears/tensions that might otherwise arise from total silence.
More broadly, such transactional communication is also expected of us in certain professional/business contexts; for example, writers (a category in which many Red Room members find themselves) typically participate in conferences, forums and book signings or even perform as individual speakers and lecturers. The word "perform" is appropriate because in such activities one is playing a role requiring certain expected behaviors associated with that role, especially if we are receiving a stipend or other reward (anticipated book sales). In th ose contexts, one needs to be circumspect if not controlled in responses in ways that might border on inauthentic behavior. As an elementary example, one's first "real" response to an obnoxious or confrontational questioner might be "Get lost!" or worse "F__ you!" but one nevertheless maintains his/her professional decorum in a more "measured" civil response.
In both social (greetings, casual conversations) and professional interactions, I don't think one needs to have any compunctions or moral reservations about inauthentic responses/behavior in what are basically role-playing scenarios, but in more intimate personal relationships, being a fake clearly has implications of integrity and decency if not of morality itself. Discovering fakiness in another person typically lowers one's respect for that person, and "discovering" or recognizing it in one's self would, in my opinion, make it difficult to respect and/or live with one's self. To borrow a phrase from Robert Frost, such a discovery would pretty much make life a "diminished" experience. To get personal, whenever I've had the least "intimations" that an action or attitude of mine is inconsistent with the "real" me (or what I would like to think is ideally me), I feel disappointed and uncomfortable with myself, and, in general, wouldn't the world be a better place if we engaged in only behavior that passes what I call the "mirror" test; that is, if considering a certain behavior/belief, would you actually be comfortable looking at yourself in the mirror after engaging in that behavior? Of course, this test assumes one has some conscience or sense of what's right and wrong.
Finally, at the psychological/philosophical level, authenticity is an issue/element in the kind of person one wants to be and the kind of life one envisions as most appropriate and/or fulfilling. Some psychologists/analysts might even identify significant tendencies toward inauthenticity (feigned greetings and expected professional role-playing definitely excluded) as problematic behavior worth one's time looking into and at least understanding its impact on one's life if not undergoing therapy to correct or control it. Existentialists, in particular, agonize (sometimes excessively and unnecesarily in my opinion) over living authentically and being a so-called authentic person. For the fully converted, not achieving complete authenticity is practically a cardinal secular "sin" damning one to a "lower level" of existence or kind of living hell. Favoring Aristotle's moderation in all things, I would say this existentialist extreme is taking authenticity far too seriously and inappropriately elevating it to a focus/status it doesn't deserve in our daily lives.
A lifetime of experience has taught me one can "escape" many of life's confusing complications by simply separating the wheat from the chaff and then focus on getting the most from each passing moment (kernel). "To burn always with this hard gem-like flame" [Pater] is the essence of authenticity and self-actualization for me, though it is an ideal, like most, much more easily stated than achieved.
Causes Brenden Allen Supports