Truth in Broadcasting

The more people we talk to, the less we care what we’re saying.

We have this idea that the more private the communication, the more true. We tend to think that public declarations contain only the most basic, sterilized forms of truth, that press conferences and speeches are so edited from reality that they mean next to nothing. Generally acknowledged bits of hearsay we tend to rate as somehow more authentic, and intimate dialogues between friends we view as nearer to reality still, and the audience-less musing of private diaries the closest we have to accurate, unfiltered, uncensored representations of the self.

And we’re prizing authenticity now more than ever. Broadcasting the self is now taken for granted—it’s assumed that we’re going to tell the world what we ate for breakfast, even as the news comes to us faster and faster and from closer and closer to the source.

But I suspect we’ve misappraised the correlation between intimacy and authenticity, between a small audience and unfiltered expression. The truth, in a great many cases, comes, often accidentally, in what we tell each other, while our most sublime lies are told in our own private thoughts—because they’re the lies we want to tell ourselves. What I tell my friends is a mixture of truth plus whatever I want them to believe is true, a semi-manufactured construct—but as much as I want to manage my image in front of others, I want to have an ideal personal reality much, much more. I’m mildly interesting in convincing others that I’m a good person—but I’m desperately concerned with convincing myself of this fact.

In contrast, when we broadcast ourselves, online or elsewhere,we may think we’re presenting carefully-constructed versions of ourselves, but the larger the audience, the less, I suspect, we really care. Truth gets out through the cracks. When we speak in public, it is, at best, a half-hearted thing, but to ourselves we keep tight-lipped silences.