In the age of social media we allegedly bare more of ourselves than ever before. The digital realm has allegedly stripped us bare, naked. Exposed like someone standing on the street stark naked. And yet, whilst it’s true we share more of ourselves on line than ever before, I would argue we are still as protective of our true selves as we always have been.
It’s argued that our digital self, the self we portray online, on our Facebook and Twitter profiles, is an idealised reflection of our conscious self. But it goes deeper than that.
As Peter Rollins argues, our conscious self is often an idealised reflection of who we truly are. And many of us can begin to think that’s our true selves.
But it’s not.
It’s a reflection of who we want people to think we are.
I have rarely interacted with people online where I have sensed the person I am talking to is displaying their complete selves. The only people I feel like I’m being authentic with online (and it person, to be honest), are close friends and a select few others, in some Facebook groups and on Twitter.
And I see this with people’s writing too.
Many writers write as if they want to project an image of the type of person they want people to think they are. Even the stories of their mistakes are ones which are shared to make them ‘fully human’ and ‘just like the rest of us’. They share insights, 5 step plans to success and they tweet in a conversational way.
But they aren’t being totally honest.
However, they aren’t deceiving us.They are deceiving themselves.
Because many of these writers actually believe they are this person they are promoting themselves as.
The Authentic Writer
There are other writers though, where I see authenticity. Where I see people baring their soul. Not being afraid to be brutal about their darkness. Sharing the words which might upset people and push them away, telling their story in all it’s monstrous truth. They hide little, they are brutal about their conflicts, fears and doubts.
These writers aren’t bothered who reads or doesn’t read their work. They are only interested in sharing their story. Of course, there are some stories so intimate, or so grotesque and unspeakable, we probably shouldn’t share them publicly, unless we really feel convicted to.
However, ultimately all writing speaks truth. You just need to look for it. (you can tweet that)
Paradoxically, even writers who don’t expose themselves give away a lot about their hearts. It shows how afraid they are to share the truth about themselves. It exposes the fear deep inside that someone will find out just how messed up they really are, how scared they might be to confront the truth of who they are.
Because writing always exposes the truth.
Even writers who are brutal with the truth still hold something back. There are always parts of our story we don’t disclose.
And sometimes, this is totally appropriate.
There are parts of our story we should only share with those closest to us. It’s how it should be.
But the difference is these writers are being as honest as they can be. They aren’t writing to impress, to perform, to get good SEO, to get stats or make money. They are writing to share their story, maybe even to help others, to get what is inside out.
Ultimately, there will always be parts we hide. But at the very least, we need to be honest with ourselves. As writers, but also as human beings.
Because it’s only when we’re honest with ourselves, that we can be fully alive.
As a writer I want to be as honest as I can. I don’t want to lie – either to you or to myself.
My life is a mess much of the time. I have moments where I wonder what I’m actually doing, those moments where everything in my mind looks like a tornado has hit it, and strewn my feelings, thoughts and experiences all over the place. Where the facade of having my life together is exposed as a fallacy.
So if you’re a writer, aspire to be an authentic one.
And whether you’re a writer or not, learn to be more honest, with others, but above all with yourself.
Because it’s in the truth, we discover life.
Question for Reflection:
How honest are you with yourself about who you are, both in life & in your work?
Let me know in the comments below!
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