According to Keyes, we are living in the post-truth era where the border between ‘truth’ and ‘lie’ is conveniently blurred. Society has been conditioned to tolerate this and in the process some of us may have lost our ability to discern right from wrong, fact from fiction. As a consequence, honesty in relationships has been seriously undermined.
Recently, a client told me that she usually felt emotionally worse after going onto Facebook. She felt that there were a number of friends who were in competition with her and had been posting experiences and events that conveyed the fundamental message of ‘look at me, my life is more important, interesting and stimulating than yours is’. In our conversation, my client made it known that a lot of what had been posted by her friends was not true since she had actually been to many of the events that were being referred to in the postings. There seemed to be a major discrepancy in what some of her friends had written about and her own perception of those same experiences. This was proving to be emotionally unsettling for her and was creating doubts regarding her own perceptions. In turn, this was having an impact on her self worth and confidence.
We need to guard against losing our ability to discern what is useful, meaningful and relevant when swimming in the vast sea of information that is being spewed out by all of the social media vehicles.
Unlike in the pre-information age, everyone now has a platform to voice their perspective on anything they choose. One can easily create and construct stories around who you are and what you do. For those who are emotionally insecure or need social recognition there may be a strong desire to impress and show importance. In such cases, drama, deception and embellishment may lie at the foundation of what is revealed. This usually occurs on the unconscious level, with little or no insight or concern regarding how others may interpret what has been said.
The creation of self is determined by an ongoing stream of events or experiences that come to make up a personal story. However, this creation cannot unfold in a vacuum. It needs an audience that listens, sees and witnesses what is being actioned and/or proposed.
Before the advent of social media, the construction of self took time and required hard work through actions whilst interacting in a family and/or community. Actions spoke far louder than words. Honesty and integrity were at the foundation of how one tried to live one’s life.
In therapy, I am witness to many life stories. I am aware that there is no single fixed reality and truth in what is being perceived and revealed in conversation. However, I have noticed that my clients begin to feel empowered and want to make the necessary changes in their lives when they:
- realise and understand that everyone is busy creating and constructing a story of self,
- become curious and aware of how they are constructing their own story,
- have the courage to reveal and explore some of the destructive assumptions, lies and beliefs that made up their own construction,
- begin to re-author their personal story in a more meaningful and relevant way by consciously working on changing behaviours that have been destructive and self-defeating,
- align themselves to their own inner truth to guide their actions.