Radical Honesty in Facebook?

Many years ago I read Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton. In it he describes the psychological benefits of having no secrets. None. I often think of that book in the context of Facebook.

We all have a tendency to want to share the good bits in our lives. The celebrations, the successes, the joys, and the magical moments. This can make Facebook a source of comparison and jealousy. “How come so and so gets to travel more than me/always goes to parties/works with more interesting people?”

But could we cope with the alternative? As individuals would we feel comfortable sharing our weakest moments? As a group would we turn away if friends opened up “too much” or were consistently negative? As in the book one of the biggest challenges would be the impact of our honesty on those around us. What if they don’t feel as enthusiastic about radical honesty as we do? Should we be prepared to deal with it and have the difficult conversations with them if they are not? Or should we protect them, keep things covered up, and risk not dealing with challenges and missing the opportunity of growth or moving on?

Is being more honest on Facebook a case of washing our dirty laundry in public or an opportunity for psychological maturity – or something in between? Should we be incessantly upbeat or more realistic? What do you reckon?

5 thoughts on “Radical Honesty in Facebook?

  1. Hi Euan,

    Have you ever seen "The Invention of Lying". That gives you a glimpse (albeit a manufactured one) of what the world might look like if we were brutally honest all the time. That said, I think that world might be a little more bleak than the movie portrays.

    There’s a core human behaviour here that accepts the lies (consciously or not) in order to feel accepted, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    Of course, there’s lots of negative lies as well, so perhaps some brutal truths might be good sometimes…


  2. I fear the consequences of the big data collecting already happening with Twitter and Facebook by private insurance companies. Good insurance is one of those social constructs that buffers a person against total financial ruin. Complaining about maladies, unfortunate events, or just plain ol’ feelings of melancholy can add up to a bleak image that insurers seek to avoid. This isn’t conspiracy theory. Stuff like this is happening. (I wrote about it here: http://www.purplecar.net/2013/02/donotpostillness/).

    That aside, I’d like to say none of these social networks was meant to be a totally realistic representation of your life. It isn’t dishonest to behave "publicly" in public spheres. Answering a customary "How are you?" with an honest account is considered awkward. "Fine, thank you. And you?" is really the only appropriate response. It is a dance. A custom. A cultural quirk. We operate outside established norms when we make missteps from this dance, like posting on Facebook that we fought with our spouses or we have digestive problems. Self-deprecating humor helps, but it’s still a step away from the public communication rules our mothers taught us.


  3. I agree Christine that the cultural norms of face to face make some sense online. But in the same way as I enjoy a good conversation about stuff that matters face to face I love the comments threads that ensue when I post something to Facebook that has a bit of grit in it or that deals with something challenging rather than always positive.


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