‘LOL’, a friend texted as we sipped our coffee.
I watched as his fingers automatically shared a message of joy and mirth when in reality he was grimacing with both mental and physical pain. My friend was clearly not Laughing Out Loud, despite the little cha-cha of his fingers on his phone.
I gently pointed out this discrepancy and he was somewhat taken aback. He showed me the adorable photo he received from a friend. The baby was dressed in a funny outfit which was certainly grin-worthy, but why the LOL when it did not reflect his real response and his actual state of being?
“When was the last time you actually laughed out loud?” I asked. He just shrugged.
I probed further, asking how often this occurred. He didn’t even pause to think. “It’s constant. All the time, but doesn’t everybody do it? It’s kind of expected.” He paused, then added, “What’s the big deal anyway?”
This may seem like mountain-out-of-a-mole-hill thinking and, if this incident was isolated or unique, I would agree. This text and his response, however, represented one of hundreds of instances that daily widen the crevasse between his real experience of life and the highly edited image he projects to the world. Is this a big deal?
Friends, I believe this IS a big deal. In fact, for me, it is a great-big-hairy-wildly-important-all-too-often-ignored-socially-accepted-health-depleting-joy-sucking-honest-to-goodness-great-big deal. Sit up and pay attention, friends. If you keep LOL-ing your days and nights away, you are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, feelings of helplessness and disconnectedness. That’s the big deal, friends. This really matters.
The Authentic Personality
A brilliant 2008 study called The Authentic Personality(1) beautifully illuminates precisely why LOL-mania and our growing number of disconnected interactions are a big deal and something about which we should care deeply if we want to live authentically and live well.
The 2008 study correlated the impact of the following three factors on our individual well-being and self-esteem.
Self-Alienation, represented by the experience of not knowing oneself or feeling out of touch with one-self.
Authentic Living, being true to oneself in most situations and living in accordance with one’s values and beliefs.
Accepting external influences, the extent to which one accepts the influence of other people and the belief that one has to conform to the expectations of others.
While these three factors have long been considered interrelated, the 2008 study showed how these factors are also equally important to individual well-being.
Here are just six of the many questions researchers asked study participants. As you read these questions, consider how closely each statement reflects your life. In fact, read each question aloud and see what you notice.
- I don’t know how I really feel inside.
- I feel cut off from who I really am.
- I have to hide the way I feel inside.
- I feel pressured to behave in certain ways.
- I usually laugh because other people are laughing.
- I make my own choices in life.
Did one or more of these questions cause you to squirm? (I’ve got a pesky squirmer in that list myself.) Consider the amount of time you spend engaged in actions or thoughts that disconnect you from YOU.
The Big ‘So-What’
I challenge you to reclaim your authentic life with your next LOL. More specifically, what if LOL only showed up in your electronic communications if you really, truly, honest-to-Pete, did in fact laugh out loud?
Begin to notice the number of times you weigh in with an LOL or an emoticon that in no way represents you, your thoughts or your emotions. Here’s a novel thought: try pausing for a moment, then genuinely respond with real, full, meaningful words. Or not! What would happen if you didn’t respond at all? If you feel compelled to respond, try picking up the phone for a real conversation. Better yet, power down the phone and talk to the person sitting next to you. Even better yet, power down the phone and go for a walk with the person next to you. Start to become engaged in the world around you, engaged in way that really reflects YOU.
Bottom line, my friends, if you’re not feelin’ it, don’t send it! Take the first step. Your well-being and self-esteem depend on it.
(1)The Authentic Personality: A Theoretical and Empirical Conceptualization and the Development of the Authenticity Scale; Journal of Counseling Psychology Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association, 2008, Vol. 55, No. 3, 385–3992008, Vol. 55, No. 3, 385–399