Self-Deception and Social Media

@KnowThyself?

Posted May 06, 2013

Social media can force us to face ourselves. We can look back at things we do or say online, and wonder: “Did I really post that?” This can force us to face up to who we are, both our strengths and our weaknesses, if we approach our social media timelines for the purpose of some honest self-appraisal.

Social media can exacerbate the problem of self-deception. Many people have noted that we often use social media to put forth an ideal version of ourselves and our lives, emphasizing the positives and ignoring or minimizing the negatives. This not only involves deceiving others, but if we believe our own social media PR, we deceive ourselves.

So, what can we do to deal with self-deception generally, and in the context of social media? Here are a few thoughts:

First, examine your social media persona.

            What does it tell you about how you want others to see you?

            What does it tell you about who you are and what you value?

            What does it tell you about who you want to be?

Second, value authenticity, which is the disposition to be honest with others and ourselves about ourselves: our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses. We can share these things with others, as appropriate, both online and offline. Whether or not such sharing is appropriate will depend on many things, including the depth of the relationship, the trustworthiness of the other person, and the medium we are using. But we should also avoid hyper-authenticity, which is authenticity to an unhealthy extreme. The hyper-authentic person gives a full representation of who he is, what he feels, and what he thinks, regardless of the circumstances. And he only does what he really and truly desires, because he thinks anything else would be inauthentic or hypocritical. Such a person has no filter, all of his thoughts and feelings are laid out for all to see, no matter the impact on others. We can easily fall into hyper-authenticity on social media. It encourages us to constantly share our thoughts and feelings, with little or no tact and discretion. It also can encourage us to let people into our inner worlds, to an unhealthy extent.

Third, it is good to cultivate deep friendships for many reasons, but one of these reasons is that such connections can undermine self-deception. Our deep and closest friends know us. In such relationships we should be able to help each other see past the blind spots we have about ourselves. Social media may help in this, but face-to-face interactions are irreplaceable.

@michaelwaustin on Twitter.

[1] Gregg Ten Elshof, I Told Me So (Eerdmans, 2009).