I recently saw someone preface a Facebook post with, “Hey, sorry for the sincerity, but”… [insert important and personal message about the dangers of texting and driving].
That’s odd, I thought; aren’t we all supposed to be sincere — that is, to be true to ourselves and effectively communicate that which we deem personally or culturally relevant and important?
I don’t place any blame on the Facebook user here; in fact, I appreciate the honesty of her disclaimer. It was as if she’d grown so tired of wrapping her passion in irony that she simply stopped trying. I imagine what she wanted to write was, “Hey hipsters, I’m about to say something serious, so now might be a good time to put on that hat you stole from your grandpa, kick back, and judge me while petting your rescue dog.”
Can anything good happen if sincerity is “lame”? Let’s not actively discourage people from speaking thoughtfully about things they care about. All great communication is sincere in some regard. Whether it’s written, spoken, or sung with suffocating anxiety, contempt, anger, malaise or humor, it comes from a real place and leaves us feeling like we’ve experienced something. And that’s still cool, right?
Notice I said “thoughtfully.” The number of positive affirmation memes on Facebook (which are nothing more than a kind of boring, recycled, pop sincerity) seems to positively correlate with increases in random acts of violence and rising temperatures in the arctic and they must be stopped or we will all perish in a violent hell.
The sincerity backlash is probably, at least in small part, a result of this over-sharing. I mean, why read “The Prophet” when you can just wait until an ex-coworker posts the best parts of it emblazoned on a picture of the sun rising over Mount Kilimanjaro? I sympathize with a culture that’s grown antagonistic to upper middle class white people with “We are all One” printed on the ass of their $100 yoga pants. At the same time, I worry that this antagonism is too far-reaching, and that people who want to be honest and real are discouraged from doing so for fear of being ridiculed for their lack of knowledge or originality. On the Internet, where critics are brisk and harsh, people find it necessary to emotionally distance themselves from their own thoughts, opinions and feelings. “Not that I really care or anything, but…[insert well thought-out opinion on something everyone should care about].
I’m guilty of this as well. I’ll often include something self-effacing as a prologue to a more serious message. “Look, I only scored 990 on my SATs, but it seems to me that…” I think I do that for a couple of reasons: that really was my score and you should therefore never do anything I say, but more so, I do it because if I’m wrong, or criticized, I can say, “Yea, I know. I warned you about that — see the first sentence?” I’m 41 years old and need emotional insulation on-line, but at the same time, I have a compulsion to live my life publicly via blogging. I could get into why I think I do that, but I’m afraid it might come off as a little too sincere or honest. But what do I know, I’m just a middle aged dad who likes baseball and still listens to REO Speedwagon.