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Should you say what you really mean?

In our confessional culture, how can we distinguish between healthy self-expression and attention-seeking drama? Is it more important to celebrate our own authenticity, or to protect the feelings of others? By Huma Qureshi

by Psychologies

It is one of the great ironies of modern life that while many of us struggle with honest, straight-talking conversations in person, we may have no such qualms about sharing exactly how we feel, sometimes in gruesome detail, in the virtual world.

On Facebook, a status update announcing ‘I want to punch my boss!’ generates an instant flurry of online clucking and concern from friends and followers asking ‘oh no, what’s she done now?’ Meanwhile, those momentous private moments – of which you would previously only have shared the details with your nearest and dearest, are now broadcast to the world on Twitter – ‘OMG, last night he put a ring on it!’ – accompanied by a full Instagram gallery.

Is there a risk that we’re no longer sharing our feelings and experiences for honesty’s sake but because, in today’s tell-all society, we simply like the attention it brings?

After all, much of celebrity culture is based on headline-grabbing honesty to stir our interest – just look at the global frenzy surrounding the case of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong after his now infamous Oprah Winfrey interview in which he came clean about his drug use.

‘What we’re beginning to see is an airbrushed version of the truth,’ says Lucy Beresford, author of Happy Relationships at Home, Work and Play (McGraw hill, £12.99). ‘There is a danger that we don’t remain true to ourselves when we, say, write status updates that aren’t exactly 100% truthful, and a danger that we end up relying too much on other people and their comments to soothe us or make us feel better. Sometimes processing feelings on our own and developing our resilience is better than broadcasting everything we’re thinking and feeling.’