No Static

Essay by Ryan Fitzgibbon

August 01 2016

Do you mind if I speak candidly? Of course you don’t. We love when people go off script‚ tossing aside social protocol in order to really see us eye-to-eye. “If I’m being honest‚” “Truthfully‚” or “Imma be real with you” are also familiar openers. The promise to be honest has become a default disclaimer of conversations we all in engage in on the daily. But shouldn’t truth be the default expectation?

The tools for manipulating how we present ourselves say no. A strategic crop of your unkempt bedroom‚ twenty minutes to tweak the brightness‚ and a cheeky caption to top it off—presto‚ change-o. The truth is easier to bend than ever. And that’s exactly what we’ve come to expect. So‚ when someone announces that they’re going to give you the #unfiltered truth‚ we pay attention. That’s why the best advice is often‚ “just be yourself.” When you are‚ it shows‚ and it makes an audience comfortable knowing that they’re getting the real you.

Nearly three years ago I launched a magazine‚ Hello Mr.‚ in an attempt to move toward a new understanding about what it means to be a gay man. Contrary to the image we often project‚ gay men inherently understand vulnerability better than most—and it is upon this simple premise that Hello Mr. is built. By lowering our guards‚ we reveal truer selves and create stronger connections.

Still‚ we’re not comfortable being vulnerable because we never wish to appear weak. It’s also just a whole lot easier to talk about what we want than what we have—dream life over real life. Though‚ as soon as we realize that our realities aren’t terribly uncommon‚ the space for meaningful conversation becomes much more spacious. You live in a shoebox with five housemates and had to ask your parents for money last week to buy groceries? #Same. You prefer sex with your shirt on and the lights set to “just follow the sound of my voice?” Tell me about it. Also‚ I have the place to myself Friday night…

Letting our guards down extends permission to others to be open in return. “I’ll tell you my secret if you tell me yours.” Trading truth for truth is one of the oldest tricks in the book‚ and although the game has changed‚ it remains the most effective approach for being truly understood. Ultimately‚ we all want honesty in exchange for honesty. So it comes as no surprise that we place such high value on transparency from the people we engage with and demand it from the brands we buy from.

Openness‚ in this way‚ is the modern currency. A simple bit of frankness can build trust between new friends‚ secure votes for a political candidate‚ or drive goodwill from customers. We’ve all seen the consequences when truth is concealed‚ then unceremoniously revealed‚ so why compromise any relationship given all the benefits of just telling it like it is? The answer: fear. We assume that holding our cards close will give us the upper hand‚ but it is truth that wins in the long game. For real though.