Online Push for Immediate Authenticity Crowds out Craftsmanship

Substitute teaching took me the automotive technology classroom yesterday, where I encountered an article in Fender Bender with a frightening implication for English class and public discourse.

Ohio body shop owner and consultant Kevin Rains advises his fellow collision repair specialists to adapt their social media content to the “Immediacy Perspective,” the idea that online readers want text and media that’s happening right now:

I believe the answer lies in what people, especially younger people, want and that is authenticity. They don’t want pre-packaged sales propaganda popping up in their social media feeds. They want raw content that is unfiltered and in the moment. Gaining visibility for your shop means understanding and embracing this trend and adjusting your content strategy accordingly [Kevin Rains, “Market in the Moment,” Fender Bender, April 2016].

How does the body shop owner turned online marketing wizard (and success in Internet America means being both, right?) appeal to this equation of authenticity and immediacy?

Hopping on this trend on any platform requires that you don’t labor over your content. Just get something out there and see how it lands. The days of pre-scheduled or retrospective content are going away. It’s time to be in the moment and the moments are messy. When you think “I should capture this picture or video to post later on Facebook,” stop. Take the picture or video and post it immediately. Use your phone and just get it posted. Remember: It’s not perfection that is most interesting. It’s your perspective in the moment that people want to see [Rains, April 2016].

My fellow English teachers dedicate themselves to the proposition that every published work should result from contemplation, revision, and proofreading. We teach craftsmanship in writing.

Rains is telling body shop owners that they should make first contact with potential customers and conduct ongoing online outreach like a brainstorming journal exercise.

I will admit to adopting that Immediacy Perspective myself in blogging. I don’t rough-draft my blog posts. I revise as I go, paragraph-by-paragraph. I almost never set a blog post aside, let it stew, and return to it with fresh eyes the next day. Once I start typing, I’m in the chair until I hit Publish. Besides, here in the blog world, you usually don’t want to wait a day or two for coverage. (See? Rains is right: we want Breaking!!! news, blogging and Tweeting as it happens.)

The Immediacy Perspective also affects my approach to the comment section. When I began blogging in 2005, I treated typos and grammatical errors as voting issues, as indictments of commenters’ arguments. I still do that, especially when ignorant xenophobes attack immigrants for not using good English but misspell their own statements. But I frequently overlook language errors in the comment section as predictable and tolerable products of fat fingers, tiny keypads, and your desire for immediacy in the conversation.

The Immediacy perspective sounds a lot like the Trump campaign, where “unfiltered” is the new way to say “shameless.” Shame is a good thing. We should have a little fear that ill-considered statements could reflect poorly on us. We should worry that, while throwing lots of electronic spaghetti on our public walls may get one or two strands to stick, it may also make an unflattering mess. As candidates, bloggers, business owners, and teachers, we should all take a moment to think, “Do I really want to say this, and say it this way?” We should not be able to shrug off our public errors by saying, “Hey, I’m being unfiltered! I’m being authentic!” We all need some filter (boundaries? mental health?), and we have to own what we say. Unfiltered content may make us look authentic, but shoddy content makes us look authentically shoddy.

We don’t want our auto body specialists to take two whacks at our dented fenders and say “There you go! Ready to roll!” We expect craftsmanship—an attentive study of our cars’ problems; careful repair work; and a patient review to make sure everything is fixed. Likewise with politics: we don’t really want some loudmouth shouting “Build a wall!” running the country. We want leaders who think about problems, study, seek expert advice, and then present solid plans that will really work. (Again, building a wall will not work… right, Erich Honecker?)

Maybe my next substitute teaching call will land me in an English class. I can talk more about the competing needs for immediate authenticity and craftsmanship. I can tell my students that the real goal in writing, body work, and politics is to be an authentic craftsman, to practice so much that you can produce quality work every time you pick up the pen, the spray gun, or the microphone.


18 Responses to Online Push for Immediate Authenticity Crowds out Craftsmanship

  1. barry freed

    Cory wrote:
    “I still do that, especially when ignorant xenophobes attack immigrants for not using good English but…”

    Shouldn’t that be: “…for not using the English language WELL” ?

  2. Barry- Technically, you could do it in either format. Cory used the word “good” to describe “English.” That is correct since he is using it as an adjective. In your phrasing, you are using “well” as a verb to describe “using,” and that is also correct.

  3. young people want authenticity? my limited observation is young people are pawns for materialism advertisers mold them to want, admire and purchase. we are ultimate consumers, bombarded by messages to purchase every waking minute. not a pretty picture. authenticity comes from deep family relationships, self esteem and dare I say, cultural heritage.

  4. Barry, MJL is on the ball. Far be it from any of us to use well English. (Wait—in that phrase, is well incorrectly used as an adjective modifying English>/i> or correctly used as an adverb modifying use?)

    Leslie, could this idea of authenticity be a perversion promulgated by marketers who want consumers to think that immediate things are good and thus promote the false sense of urgency that supports consumerism?

  5. Do these body shops customize older cars? Specifically muscle cars. Give BOM in plain English for project. On time and under budget.

    I need something for grocery shopping, milk, loaf of bread and stuff like that.
    Don’t want to attract to much attention. Especially cops and state troopers.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CBSbuNRrfs

  6. good English and good writing takes time and money. as programs advance like this capitalized e that magically appeared, it’ll be easier and anal angry peeps will have one less thing to insult others for. cory’s job likely requires a chair, desk and harsh light. his consumers do not have that requirement. retirement left chairs and desks abandoned for good.

  7. marketers pervert absolutely everything we see. we are sheep as some say, at the cash register. young people are saying: ‘what’s a cash register, and someday, what is ‘Cash'”. but I think marketers have turned young people into buyers of whatever they wish to sell them. it is just as subtle as it needs to be so they/we don’t find it obvious. republicans know how to do this too. as all people are unique, there are gradations, obviously.

    (I didn’t capitalize c, above) and I am just hipshooting

  8. David Newquist

    Trade publications are notorious for specious articles such as the one you read. They are total fictions born of the egoistic illusions that only the profoundly ignorant and mentally challenged can produce, but trade publications need to fill the space between the advertisements. And how much can be written about how to repair auto bodies?

    The lie is in the presumed communication process How many people rush to Facebook when their fender gets bent. They usually call the insurance company involved, the holder of a liability policy if they were hit, their own company regarding comprehensive coverage if they or a deer did the hitting, and they follow the process required by the company. Even if they have to pay themselves, it is hard to imagine the social media playing much of a role in choosing who to fix their car.

    And if they did go to the social media, they might look at the likes and comments for reactions to the body shop posts. If one did find a body shop putting stream-of-consciousness posts on Facebook, that would supply a pretty good reason not to go there.

  9. Donald Pay

    Well, it’s marketing, not some profound comment about how we should live our lives. I think it’s smart to market to the younger generation on a platform they are using. To use that platform in a way that is best, you aren’t going to be pre-packaged. It’s not about authenticity. It’s about being immediate on a platform that changes very rapidly. You have to be fast on that platform, so you aren’t going to be overly concerned about apostrophes’ in the wrong place. In fact, that may be a source of getting some attention.

    I hear auto body spots on political and sports talk radio, which gets very few younger listeners. They aren’t trying to reach the younger crowd with those tired spots.

  10. I’m with Newquist with a very minor caveat.

    On ubiquitous items/goods/services, my youngest daughter (newlywed and new mother) seems to be pretty good at using her phone to find promotions on certain items. The other day in about 60 seconds, before she went to run some errands, she found among other things the cheapest gas where she saved enough money to pay for stopping at DQ for a blizzard on the way home.

  11. Joseph Nelson

    Our economy relies on people buying things, which is why the role of modern education is to form obedient workers and consumers. The survival and progress of our country no longer needs Thomas Paines or John Lockes or Alexander Hamiltons; it needs citizens who will show up to work on time, and buy as many things as possible.

    It is a stroke of genius when a marketer can pair a product with identity itself. Brands are no longer just about the product, they are about who you are as a consumer. And the more authentic a brand is, the more authentic you are as a person.

  12. crossgrain

    I’m not sure this is the end of the world. I guess I wouldn’t mind if my body shop tweeted a pic or tagged me in a facebook post showing progress on my fender bender. If I’m following said body shop, I’ve already got some interest in what they’re doing and having a few things from them pop up in my social media feeds would be neat – as long as they’re relevant, right?

    Or is this just a bunch of old fogies lamenting the shifting focus from classic-style literature to a new and scary technology that they barely have a grasp on? As I sit with my millennial children ostensibly watching a movie as a family, I find they watch the big screen with one eye, and the small screen in their hand with the other eye. Drives me nuts, but that’s how it is, I guess – instagramming a picture of your popcorn while watching The Mockingjay Part 2, and tweeting about the relative hotness of Jennifer Lawrence is the new normal :-D

    According to Douglas Adams:
    “1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
    2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
    3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.”

  13. Porter Lansing

    Excellent, CrossGrain
    Many who criticize the millennials are really just criticizing change because they have trouble with it. One particular political party has yuuuuuge problems with change and cling to their guns and bibles as shields against it.

  14. (Leslie, I like harsh light shining on some of my subjects, but at my desk, I prefer natural light or a gentle lamp.)

  15. Joseph, can I adopt Democracy as my brand?

    Cross, I’m not positing the end of the world. But from a teacher perspective, I get nervous when anyone is saying the opposite of what I tell students makes good communication. In writing class, speech class, and debate contests, I tell students to labor over their content. Even when I coach extemporaneous speaking, in which students have 30 minutes to compose a seven-minute speech, I tell students they have to read, research, and practice so that they can labor quickly and efficiently to produce a quality speech.

    Interestingly, I also make a big deal to students about speaking and writing authentically, in their own voice, not in some artificial, stuffy, academic, detached tone. Authenticity and labor, authenticity and polish, don’t have to be antonyms.

  16. Joseph Nelson

    Cory,

    As of right now, democracy monetized means forming a Super PAC; that way you can buy and sell democracy. Although, you may not be able to brand your Super PAC “Democracy” :)

  17. Great post Cory. I love your perspective on the article. It is to bad that many hate to take time to present their best work. Just getting it done seems to be good enough. Personally, I prefer the best rather than the first.

  18. barry freed

    Sorry, me thought topic was craftsmanship, not technicalities in grammar. Who needs a critique from an substitute English teacher who defends clunky writing and claims teachers are not “good”* paid.

    * My Borzoi wasn’t returned the last time I loaned it out.