It seems everyone does it but a new study from Pencourage is putting numbers to the perception, two thirds and twenty percent. Two thirds of people using social media say that they’ve made things up to post and twenty percent of people 18-24 admit to editing “their own narratives by frequently fibbing about relationships, promotions and vacations.” People bending the truth about themselves on social media is nothing new but the knowledge that there are consequences to this constant revisionism sure is.
According to psychologists, online lying can lead to bigger problems than just keeping up with what you said to who and when, it means you may be encouraging a very real kind of amnesia to set in, one where real life becomes replaced by the stories you’ve told in order to fit into a kind of social media ideal.
“However, the dark side of this social conformity is when we deeply lose ourselves or negate what authentically and compassionately feels to be ‘us’; to the degree that we no longer recognise the experience, our voice, the memory or even the view of ourselves. When this starts to happen, feelings of guilt and distaste towards ourselves can create a cognitive trap of alienation and possibly even a sense of disconnection and paranoia.”
(Dr. Richard) Sherry fears that these edited narratives will end up changing our memories. He explains, “The ability to transform fantasy to reality may seem exclusive to science fiction, but many studies have demonstrated that even the simple act of imagining a childhood event increases a person’s confidence that the event happened to them in the past, and it is known that even the phrasing of a narrative can shape how we later remember it.”
And, in the end, we may just be destroying our own life narrative that is very real and very personal, irreplacable. It’s one the reasons so many have kept brutally truthful diaries and journals throughout history, to preserve that uniqueness of experience. Psychologist Dr. Richard Sherry puts it like this:
“So recording our experiences through whatever medium, to later reminisce or revisit lessons we learned, is not only acceptable but desirable. In fact, looking back at our own past – however embarrassing or uncomfortable – is not just healthy but can be enjoyable.”