They dressed like the mannequins in Saks Fifth Avenue and had the contoured faces of girls who stare in mirrors too long. They were pretty, and they knew they were pretty.
Distracted eyes, mine included, took breaks from tennis screens and followed them as they made their way to the square’s fountain. The three of them sat with their backs to the jumbotrons and pulled out their phones; taking group photos, and individual photos, and tapping strangers to take their photos and then tapping on more strangers to take their photos after they didn’t like the other photos.
This cycle of getting pictures taken and looking at themselves with duck faces lasted for about 45 minutes. I timed it. Not once did they turn around to see the top ranking tennis players in the world try to out-hit and outlast each other. I eventually came to the conclusion that they must not have come to the US Open to watch tennis.
And while I sat there fiercely judging these girls for paying all that money to simply just look at their faces mirrored in their phones, I realized I was not that much better. It was only a few hours earlier that I had taken a photo of a tennis match and posted it on Instagram five seconds later, obsessively checking for likes after it went up. And if I look through my collage of pictures on Instagram now, with all the things I’ve done and places I’ve been and people I’ve met, my life starts to look exceptionally grand and upscale—undoubtedly perfect.
But how much of it is real and how much of it is an illusion?
As of late I’ve been grappling with the concept of authenticity. What it means to be genuine and real and original. The difference between the person people scroll past on social media and the person they see in front of them. But even then, how real are our physical selves? So much of who people see and come to know all depends on how we present ourselves, how much of ourselves we’re willing to let them see.
It’s becoming harder and harder to tell who and what is real. So much of who we are is a compilation of all the things we’ve been told and seen, and the process of dissecting that gets lost behind all the posts and all that television and all those things said online.
Are we democrats or republicans because those are our beliefs or because those are our parents’ beliefs? Do we buy the clothes we wear because we like them or because it’s a popular brand that “important” people wear? Do we go after those guys or those girls because we like them or because everyone seems to want them?
People love to casually throw around the phrase, “Live an authentic life.” As if it isn’t the most trite saying, as if they know what that really means. For the most part, I don’t think a lot of us know how to “live authentically.” I think we know how to live for the media, and the money—an economic system that cares very little for our individual selves. It all just feels very shallow and hollow.
I think I’ll go post something on Instagram now.