I find myself wondering about the nature of my reality. Is my perception of self an accurate characterization of my reality? Is it more accurate to take the sum of perceptions from those I interact with? Or is it a combination of both?
As an example, if I believe myself to be a social butterfly but my 10 closest friends think I’m quiet and introverted, who is right? What is the truth?
I’ve thought a lot about this topic.
I don’t live in a vacuum. Large portions of my reality are constructed through social interactions with with other people. The perceptions of myself are combined with my public actions and how these actions are perceived by my social networks. My friends, family and acquaintances opinions of me tell a significant part of the story of who I am.
I am in large part the sum of my public and visible actions.
If no one saw it is it even real?
If a tree tree falls in the woods and there is no one around to see it, does it make a sound?
In a shared reality, my ability to show evidence of how I see myself adds credibility to this perception. Once other people have seen me take an action, the action is incorporated into a common reality. If I claim that I am a writer, I need to provide some proof.
As an example, I’ve written two contrasting statements in an attempt to show the difference between a personal reality and a shared reality.
I’ve created a blog but have not published any of the pages, only I can see the content.
I’ve created a blog and all the pages are published for the world to see and verify.
In order for my claim to be true in a shared reality, I need to have publicly published and shared evidence.
I am a writer, I have written pages on a blog and published them for the world to see. But what if no one ever actually sees the blog?
I don’t live on an island by myself, my reality requires some social proof. To build this proof I need to leverage social communities that I am apart of in order to establish a proof based reality.
According to Dunbar’s Number, most humans can only maintain 150 stable relationships. This creates an environment where our stable relationships and social connections that bind an individual to a shared reality exist along the long tail of society. Ie: we only have about 150 real connections to establish a stable presence in society.
There are exceptions such as famous people, social media influencers, or the unfortunate person that happens to go viral and finding themselves at the head of the tail / highly popular category. I am not any of those things and therefore find my ability to gather strong social proof of who I truly am is relatively limited to the end of the curve. And that’s ok!
So how would I quickly establish a common reality?
Understanding that my stable social network is limited to the long end of the curve is important. It means that I need to take advantage of the limited number of opportunities I have. Going back to my blog writing example, in order to maximize my common or shared reality I need to get my writing in front of as many people in my stable network as possible. For me, this includes my nuclear and extended family along with my friends from Virginia and my friends in Boston.
These are the small communities that are my network and connection to social proof within society. The more I share my evidence with different communities the greater likelihood that I will be known as a writer with a published blog.
By interacting with many small communities, I create reputation currency for myself. Ie: if my writing is any good, these communities will possibly share my work and extend the social proof beyond my stable network. If my writing sucks… well, they probably wont share it and I’ll be known as a bad writer.
The sum of these community parts, whether good or bad establishes significant trust and establishes my shared reality. Society therefore, will know me as a writer.