Life in Valencia: Being Genuine in the 21st Century

Earlier today, I saw a video of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answering a question at a press conference. That aspect of the video wasn’t unique – I’m sure Trudeau answers reporters’ questions all the time, and clips of his answers often make their way onto the internet (“Because it’s 2015”, anyone?). The content of Trudeau’s response, however, was unique. As Yahoo! reports, he was at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and responded to a question about quantum computing by giving a detailed explanation of quantum mechanics.

His answer did seem a bit rehearsed; his smiles in between sentences suggested that he had perhaps expected the question, and knew the attention his answer would receive. Still, it was just an answer about quantum mechanics – rehearsed, expected, or otherwise. Some people have accused Trudeau of taking advantage of the moment, now dubbed #quantumgate, for political gain. And so what if he did? Is it really such a shock that someone wasn’t genuine? I don’t think so.

I try not to listen to Donald Trump supporters because they make me lose faith in the world, but when I do come across statements from them explaining why they support Trump they almost always remark that he is honest. It’s true, I guess. Trump says what’s on his mind; even if what’s on his mind is horribly discriminatory or racist. He argues that because his campaign is self-funded (a fact John Oliver does a great job of essentially disproving in this video), he’s free to say not what his financial backers want, but what he wants. He’s free to be genuine, though he mostly just comes across as genuinely terrible.

As a society, we hold political leaders to a high standard. We want them to be genuine, but not so unrehearsed that they’re literally flying by the seat of their pants. I’d argue that we demand the same thing of celebrities. There are outcrys when celebrities are airbrushed, when their most genuine self is not presented to us in all of its glossy, magazine cover glory; but sometimes, when a celebrity breaks out of their societally-defined character and does something “crazy”, we bemoan them and wonder where humanity has gone wrong.

Take Miley Cyrus for example. A lot of people grew up watching her on Hannah Montana, so that’s the character we expect her to play in real life, too. When she began twerking at the VMAs and dressing eccentrically (read: in a way that doesn’t meet societal norms), she was arguably expressing her true self – but critical ex-fans decided it was a act, and that she wasn’t being genuine. It’s a complicated distinction, and one which can be boiled down from politicians and celebrities.

Are we, as individuals, genuine in our expression of ourselves? In a way, it’s easier for us: we don’t have to craft an answer about quantum computing to impress a global audience, or make our real life actions match those of a character we once played on television. But we still have impressions to make and people to please, and despite that little voice inside of our head squeaking “Be yourself!”, we sometimes end up portraying ourselves as anything but our true selves.

I think social media plays a large role in this. We pose for pictures, throw the Valencia filter on them, and post them on Instagram. We edit our thoughts into a 140 character box, and react to our friend’s statuses with one of six predisposed emotions. It’s not impossible to be genuine on social media – some people express their truest selves online, and are incredibly genuine in their online interactions – but it can be difficult.

I honestly feel like “Be yourself” is one of the most overused pieces of advice, but it is also one of the most overlooked and ignored. Our online lives might be full of filters, but I think we should make an effort to live our real lives with #nofilter. We should also try to be more accepting people who are already doing this, whether they’re a Prime Minister explaining complex scientific concepts or a celebrity posing with their tongue out.

I wrote a post back in February about the existential crisis-inducing question, “Who are you?”. You can’t be yourself if you don’t know who you are, but it’s hard to know who you are in this crazy world of ours. And of course, even when you are being yourself, some people will take it upon themselves to question you – as people have already begun doing for Justin Trudeau. Genuine can be hard to come by in the 21st century, but it is, like most things in life, what we make of it.

8 thoughts on “Life in Valencia: Being Genuine in the 21st Century

  1. Interesting thought here bud. Kudos to you for showing your political stand so bravely and clearly btw.

    And your bit about trump being (not) genuine and (but) genuinely horrid just made me chuckle lol.

    Now, discussing and analyzing about people’s behavior is one of my favorite topic so I wouldn’t pass on it since you started it heh.

    I seriously admire the people who dare to be themselves and shun everyone else’s image and impression on them. It’s something that I personally have trouble with even till today.

    Not that it’s a good thing.
    In fact, I do feel that it’s not the best way to handle things in certain situations. Hence a limit or “compressor” is not a bad thing.

    Being the genuine you and hang around only those who adore you for it is fine but I feel that it’s not fine when you start affecting others who do not share the same ideology and you’re not doing anything about it.

    Cause when that happens, I sincerely feel that it’s only right to place a limit for your behavior as a sign of respect for others just as how they try to respect you for not telling you right in your face for doing or being someone that’s causing discomfort to them.

    But of course, if you are behaving like an ass, you’d probably have your own good reason for being that way but the thing now is- are you ready for the reaction or backlash?

    I know lots of ppl who always complains about everyone else always being a dick to them but what they fail to realize is they were being one themselves in the first place lol.

    Wanna be a dictator? Expect other dicts to put you in your place 😉

    For the case of Miley and bieber etc? I honestly feel that it’s great that they are being who they truly are. I can only imagine what they’d be going through if they choose to hide their true self from their fans and it takes extreme courage to pull something which will have almost the whole world going against you- which they did. Hats off to them for that.

    But I do feel that how they did it wasn’t the best way of handling their “true self” reveal matter.
    They could’ve perhaps arranged a press interview and make a press release on the matter so that everyone has kind of a little mental prep for the worse “change” in their favorite celeb before they conducted their show full on, giving their fans a heart attack lol.

    Political wise, let’s just say we all have a specific standards and expectations for our leaders of our nation.
    If you can prove to us that you are truly worthy and capable, convince us with respect too. We do not want a leader who can only make things happen but don’t care about the citizens welfare as a whole. We want a leader who is both capable, trustworthy and respective.

    Though ultimately, this is just my opinion and there will definitely be others who’ll have a different take on these matters.

    Either way, thanks for sharing 😉

    Your pal,

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