Most people groups the world over have story-telling traditions. The story-teller serves to preserve the values or morals of his/her respective society. As an artist in her own right, the story-teller fashions tales which affirm our beliefs or are lesson-based. Whether Greek myth, African folklore, European fairy tale, Biblical parable, or Caribbean/Latin-American narrative, stories simultaneously define us and shape our thinking. And while based on human-experience, not every valuable story must be true in its entirety, to hold truth. So what has happened to our story-telling traditions today?
The reality of instant information at the press of a button or sliding of a screen does shape our current experience. Stories fly at us from every available end and we can become overwhelmed by information overload. The tabloids, the box-office and the best-seller all attempt to send believable stories our way. On the other end, while many bemoan what technology has done to human relationships, the existence of social media is in itself an attempt to reinvent intimacy and to re-tell our stories.
But how can we deal with the challenge of hiding who we really are beneath the person we really hope to be? While Facebook and Instagram are new vehicles for us to tell our stories, they are also excellent tools for creating an unreal existence. And this is where our stories become robbed of their potential power; our modern day technological fables have become places where we hide.
As a consequence, we create stories with no innate value. We become hooked on the invented reality of social media and lose who we really are. We become seduced by the high of one thousand Facebook friends who on a real day are actually not our friends. We can become instantly “famous”, “popular”, “successful”, or be “trending”, with some well-calculated details which may actually be hiding the truth of the entire picture. Of course I value the power of social media myself in a world which is now virtually flat. It most certainly has its place in forging social and professional connections and should be appropriately utilized. But where do we draw the lines between reality and fiction? And do our concoctions hurt or help others?
In our real-life circle, away from our photo-stories, how vulnerable, honest and exposed are we really? Do we connect with friends and family to forge real intimacy? Do we expose our weaknesses and flaws? Can we allow our mistakes to guide a friend? Are we open to correction and guidance from others if our real story leaks out? Do we offer genuine advice based on the life-lessons learned? Have we allowed our public profile to subsume who we really are or are we even connected to our real story? What about that story that is uniquely ours; do we really know its details; its value? Are we intimately in-tuned with our own experiences, motivations and behaviors or are we coasting on auto-pilot? Are we reflective, self-aware and capable of growing past the limitations which our own stories may suggest?
Of course in sharing our stories I’m not talking about the indiscriminate “confession” of every intimate detail of our lives with complete strangers every time. Honest and open sharing of our challenges can have a valid place depending on our life role. At another level, a life that is open to sharing is not one governed by pride and pretense. It is one which does not need to be always right, nor one that must mirror perfection. Living authentically should reflect the balance between moving towards our ideal self while embracing our humanity. As we let our barriers down and expose our true stories to others, then our lives can begin to take on a whole new meaning as other become enriched through our lives.