Which is the truth, the biography or the autobiography? Certainly, one could argue that both are true, but both are often quite contradictory of the other. Two people can experience the same event and come away with a different understanding. The same goes for how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. One’s own perception isn’t necessarily truth. Everyone is the hero of their own story, and few see themselves as a villain. We build monuments to ourselves, not acknowledging that our sole perspective on what is right, just, and correct is tainted by our own personal history, experience, and emotion.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of personal and external perception within the age of social media. The curated life has become commonplace. We architect a presence online as an extension of our personal brand. We mold it to present ourselves a certain way. It’s not just artists, personalities, and celebrities: everyone does it. Are our lives always the brightly lit brunch photos, snarky tweets, smile-filled vacation pictures, reshared articles, and moody black-and-white urban landscape? We curate reality, sculpting ourselves as we would like to be seen—we write an online autobiography in posts, tweets, snaps, grams, and selfies—but is that the truth?

Often we’ll hide blemishes and strive to present ourselves without scars. We’ll argue, insult, defend, mock, pressure, praise, congratulate, and compliment, all in an attempt to manipulate reality for our comfort. It is the defense of our truth, our castle doctrine of individuality. Given a chance, we’ll dictate others perceptions. I’m not that way, I’m this way. See? Look here. Look how happy I am, we’ll say. Look how sophisticated. Look how woke. Look how outrageous. Look how indifferent. Look how successful. Look how offensive or offended. Look how cool and chill. Look how thoughtful and considerate. Look. Look. Look.

What if someone’s perception differs? What if they look but see something else? What if they reject our perceptions? What if they see something other than our desired presentation? What if the monument is cracked and tarnished? What if the biography tells a different story from the autobiography? Does that make it any less correct? Does that make it any less true?

📷 Photo credit: Mobilus In Mobili via Flickr

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