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The Age of Post-Authenticity and the Ironic Truths of Meme Culture

From fake news to our overly curated Instagram feeds, “authenticity” seems to be over. What are our new vectors for talking truth?

Jay Owens
Jay Owens
Apr 11, 2018 · 22 min read
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

1. Media isn’t really real

In the last couple of years, fakery seems to have accelerated.

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Source: Google Trends
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Sources: Google Trends and Pulsar Trends

2. Technology is warping reality in new ways

The post-authenticity of fake news isn’t solely a technological or media problem, but a social one, symptomatic of declining trust in a shared civic project. Nonetheless, new media technologies really aren’t helping.

Source: Matthias Niessner, YouTube
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Fake fairies. Image credit: Kristian Nordestgaard via flickr/CC BY 2.0

3. In the fashion industry, authenticity imploded around 2015.

Authenticity was the defining value of the late-stage hipster.

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L-R: Instagram users @MaryHoagland, @UpTheWoodenHills, @NuanceAndBubbles
Photo coordination credit: Summer Allen.
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All hipster coffee shops have the same stools (source: Google image search)

4. Generation Z are pioneering post-authentic social media

Back in 2010, Mark Zuckerberg made the case for the single, real-name Facebook account as the “authentic” way to do social media, and sought to impose this model of self-presentation on hundreds of millions of users, with Facebook’s controversial (and now partially rolled-back) “real names policy.”

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Instagram @HanHoop, via Mic.com
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Source: Google Trends
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5. The Meme Generation

“Generations” are a bullshit marketing concept, right? Except all of us looking at the remarkable teenagers of Parkland High School and their astonishing media campaigning for gun control are also aware that something’s remarkably different about kids today.

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NUMTOTs’ mapping of their intersecting obsessions, from peak transit to Elon Musk. Design credit Mitchell Sheldrick
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Source: Facebook Group Robust Memes for LSE Teens
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Source: Facebook Group Nihilist Memes
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6. What does authenticity mean, anyway?

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Source: Truthfeed.com (lol), November 2016

Thanks to Rishi Dastidar and Davide Berretta

Jay Owens

Written by

Jay Owens

I'm interested in complex systems: media, environment, technology. Freelance researcher & writer in London. @hautepop on Twitter

Jay Owens

Written by

Jay Owens

I'm interested in complex systems: media, environment, technology. Freelance researcher & writer in London. @hautepop on Twitter

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