Searching For Authenticity?

When a person is inauthentic, they don’t want to be discovered, so their defenses go up and they become uncomfortable. During situations like this, check out facial expressions, body language and speech patterns. Does the person avoid eye contact? Does he/she lean away from you when he/she is talking? Or cross his/her arms tightly over his/her chest? These are all examples of defensive, possibly phony behavior as explained by Cynthia Cohen a Los Angeles psychologist. Further, a fake will just smile with the lips, while a truly happy person smiles with the whole face-the eyes, forehead, mouth and cheeks. In addition to that, look for micro-expressions, those quick, intense, telling expressions. Yes, fakes can be spotted from miles away. Body language is an instinctive indicator  when it comes to what a person really feels, except when that person is an artista, a master of manipulation with precision. They may not know who they are exactly, and perhaps they just want to fit in. So they act how they think people want them to act. It takes a long time, and a lot of experience to figure out who you are and then even more time to be comfortable with it. “There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.”  It’s true— the next time you are lost in a foreign country, just flash a smile and the locals will be happy to help you find your way. An honest smile can convey a wide range of meanings, from being happy to having fun. Although, not all smiles are genuine. All of us have “faked a smile” at some point or another.

Now, a new study might make us think twice about sending out a phony grin. It has been shown that individuals who are experiencing rejection are better at picking up subtle social cues and according to a study published in an issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, socially rejected people are particularly good at discerning fake smiles from real ones. Psychologist Michael J. Bernstein and his colleagues from Miami University wanted to see to what extent rejected individuals would be able to identify the authenticity of a facial expression. The researchers induced feelings of social rejection in a group of the participants by making them think about a time when they felt socially isolated. Conversely, another group of participants were asked to recall times when they felt accepted or included in a social group.

A control group of participants were asked to recall the previous morning’s activities (resulting in neutral feelings). The participants then viewed videos of people smiling— some of the videos showed people expressing genuine smiles and the rest depicted people with fake smiles. Participants were to indicate which of the videos contained real smiles. The results show that socially rejected individuals are better at distinguishing fake smiles from real smiles compared to individuals who feel socially accepted or who were in the control group. The authors propose that socially rejected people have an increased motivation to be accepted, thus making them more sensitive to specific social cues indicating opportunities for inclusion. The authors conclude, “It seems essential to detect legitimate signs of positivity that indicate possible re-affiliation with other people. Otherwise, rejected individuals could miss out on new chances for acceptance or ‘waste’ affiliation efforts on people who are not receptive.”

What kind of person thinks that texting a friend in the same room is superior to speaking directly, face-to-face? In a recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, a novelist wrote that it makes perfect sense for teenagers to text each other even when they’re at the same party, or sitting on the same couch. No one can overhear them and texting gives them time to frame their words more carefully. “We are still the same human beings we always were,” he says, but the Internet has “freed us from the boundaries of distance and many of the risks of embarrassment in social interactions.”

He recalls writing a 1985 sci-fi novel that showed how anonymous kids could use something like the Internet to pass for experts and influence public opinion. Now he supports the Internet (except for the Web’s anonymity). “We blinked, and suddenly there are portals. There are these portals in our homes and offices that take us instantly to other people’s homes and offices, to stores and libraries, to communities of every kind.” He sees glowing advantages to the Internet with few reservations about its inherent dangers. Are people who think this way really serious? There could be any number of underlying motivations, but it’s probably nothing sinister. It’s usually a well-meaning person.

Adults can benefit from many technological advances. Especially adults who did not grow up in the new world of technology. Adults whose brains were formed by reading good literature, playing outside, exposure to hands-on activities and direct and playful interaction with peers, along with communications with parents, teachers and other authority figures. In The Digital Pandemic (Reestablishing Face-to-Face Contact in the Electronic Age), I use the analogy of children limited to fast food dining. Eating exclusively at fast-food eateries from the age of 3 until the age of 20 or so would lead to consumption of high calorie fatty foods, resulting in obesity, heart disease and a number of other physical problems. But adults who grew up with a balanced diet can take advantage of modern technology and visit the fast-food outlet for an occasional quick meal or sandwich.

The left brain. The Digital Pandemic gives examples of left-brain and right-brain personalities and behaviors. Left-brainers are often drawn to careers in writing and journalism. They are good with words and tend to be objective in their outlook. They understand objects in our world in terms of categories and concepts and believe there is an objective reality. They believe that words have fixed meanings and that other kinds of poetic, rhetorical or figurative language should be avoided as much as possible. Speak objectively, they say— don’t be ruled by emotion. That, my friends, is much easier said than done.

Right-brainers rely on their senses and intuition. They support ideas that are not always rational or objective, but include aesthetic sensibilities and spiritual awareness. Art, poetry, and play put us in touch with our feelings and intuitions. Imagination is highly valued. Research shows that to be happy and productive we humans need to incorporate both left-brain and right-brain personalities and strategies. The left brain has been crowding out the right brain for some time now, and the massive influx of technology could create an even greater imbalance. As author Iain McGilchrist says “the left hemisphere, ever optimistic, is like a sleepwalker whistling a happy tune as it ambles towards the abyss. Let’s wake up before we free-fall into the void.”

Society seems to be full of narcissists. Don’t let them feed on your self esteem. Avoid them if you can. To transmit left-brain bits of information from one left brain to another is not to communicate. Why? Because it leaves out the right-brain components of expression gesture, warmth and spontaneity. A friend, no. A robotic double, maybe. Let’s just say phony friends tend to be perfectly matched with phony people… if only it were that simple.

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~ by upbeatmag on June 6, 2011.

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