Word for Word: Authentic

Language is in a constant state of evolution and, like fashion, words can move in and out of style. Take, for example, something that might be called "flame" today. Fifteen years ago that same thing was "dope"; fifty years ago it was "neat." 

 Serving you poolside realness in a totally not-staged way.  Image via Pinterest

Serving you poolside realness in a totally not-staged way. Image via Pinterest

As with fashion trends, words can become popular and get overused. Sometimes they get so far from their original meaning, you are left scratching your head. A few years ago, Tostitos came out with Artisan Recipe tortilla chips. This was an attempt to sell chips with "fancy" flavors, but when you consider that the word artisan means food or drink that is "made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients," the premise completely fell apart. We're pretty sure Tostitos doesn't make chips by hand with the finest-quality corn around (that the Roasted Garlic and Black Bean flavor didn't even have roasted garlic, but rather just garlic powder and dried garlic, made the obsessive-compulsive cookbook editor in us WANT TO SMASH THINGS). Tostitos announcing new artisanal flavors was pretty much the day artisanal died. 

Currently, the word we wish could die is authentic. 

Let's review. Authentic can mean: of undisputed origin, as in, "this is an authentic Frida Kahlo and it costs fifty million dollars"; made or done in the traditional or original way, as in, "Olive Garden's dishes are not made from authentic Italian recipes";  accurate, as in, "I gave an authentic account of why I was late for work—my kid pooped on the floor and I had to clean it up—but I probably should have just said the train was running behind." 

Authenticity is, hopefully, the sphere in which we all live most of the time. It's a given; an assumed state of existence. Sure, maybe you dye your grays, but you're not telling people you're a farmer when you're really an accountant.

In other words, if someone has to tell you their behavior is authentic, chances are the opposite is true.

The word authentic is most egregiously used in reference to Instagram, which is literally a social media platform on which people upload carefully posed images that have three filters on them. Instagram posts are about as authentic as the handbags you can buy off a street peddler in Times Square.

Look, we play this game too. As a creative firm, we use Instagram as a tool to try to attract customers. Have we posed shots? Of course. Have we conceived of posts in advance of actually posting them? All the time. As Lisa Guillot, brand consultant and founder of StepBrightly, so eloquently put it, "there's nothing authentic about brand strategy." 

So can we stop pretending that anything about Instagram is authentic? Do you really think Insta celeb The Fat Jew is that much of a schlub? His wife is just way too gorgeous and put together for that not to be at least partly an act.

 Let's just enjoy the pretty images and not think too long or hard about whether they are spur of the moment. Let's focus instead on whether or not locally sourced, artisanal, small-batch, farm-to-table Tostitos are really a thing.

Stephanie Spence