For the twentieth time since its inception, Merriam-Webster capped off our year with a word to sum up the past 12 months. As someone who loves both words and pop culture, the annual announcement is a much-anticipated event. 2021 appropriately brought us the word vaccine. 2022: gaslighting. And for 2023, the chart-topping term is officially… authentic.
“A high-volume lookup most years, authentic saw a substantial increase in 2023, driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media,” writes Merriam-Webster. While a lighthearted announcement, Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year gives us an important pulse on our society and insight into conversations from the year, social norms, trends and predictions about where we’re headed next.
What authenticity means for 2024.
2023 year was undoubtedly the year of AI. It took over aspects of our personal lives and professional lives, and it inspired endless conversations around what’s real and what’s not. Was that image created by AI? Did a human write that, or a robot? Is this a real commercial or an AI-generated one? As we sort through the many AI questions, authenticity brings consumers more peace of mind than ever. Knowing exactly who or what created a message, or talking to a real human rather than a machine, is valued in this changing landscape.
Social media and pop culture, too, saw the importance of authenticity. The Barbie movie pulled back the curtain to reveal the person behind the previously plastic character. Natural and minimalistic makeup was trending. Social platforms celebrated authentic, user-generated posting over manipulated images or contrived campaigns.
Keeping this in mind, brands should treat authenticity as both a responsibility and an opportunity in the new year. It’s on all of us to build trust and share reliable content, combating misinformation with truth. It’s also a chance for us to prioritize real conversations and open dialogue to build authentic relationships with brands and customers.
Being “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” is something we all value at the end of the day. It’s no wonder that sentiment won over the rest this year.
P.S. Wondering what other words were in the running for 2023? Rounding out the top five were rizz (a slang derivative of charisma), deepfake, coronation and dystopian.