During the Academy Awards in 2017, the New York Times aired an ad with the motto: “The truth is hard to find.” This slogan was not only part of a marketing initiative by the Times to increase digital subscribers, but it echoed a message of awareness towards truth’s importance in an era where honesty has become a luxury, and lies run rampant.
However, despite honesty now becoming a commodity, the word “truth” itself has been continuously mishandled. Often-used phrases like “my truth” and “their truth,” though said by the well-meaning, are poisonous in a society susceptible to misinformation and manipulation.
A year after the paper of record aired their ad, Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes, giving a powerful statement, urging women who have been harassed and abused not to keep silent, stating: “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
Speaking out is a powerful tool, and never should anyone’s voice be muzzled, especially in instances of sexual abuse. Yet, Oprah, along with other high-profile celebrities and brands, has molded the term “your/my/their truth” as a phrase of empowerment. And while it might be an aid to them in telling their experience, it weakens the power of the word itself.
This can be compared to the use of the word “love.” We use it in our everyday language so often that it has, overtime, lost its weight. We “love” a good cappuccino, we “love” air conditioning in the middle of July, and we “love” our parents (most of us). The word has become a verb we slap onto anything we enjoy or remotely appreciate.
The overuse of a word depletes its value, and the trend of using phrases that imply ownership over “truth” is dangerous. It only creates room for “alternative facts” to pose as the truth. Twitter is a prime example. In a recent study conducted by Science Mag, it found that nearly 126,000 rumors, conspiracies, and falsehoods packaged as news stories were retweeted by three million people. So, a piece of misinformation gets more retweets than a link from a credible news organization, while the propaganda has the reach of the population of Connecticut.
Of course, this isn’t a result of Billie Eillish saying “her truth” in a “I Speak My Truth” Calvin Klein campaign video (she did, though). However, the width and breadth of misinformation is jaw dropping. If we treat the word “truth” lightly, we’re disrespecting what is accurate and pure.
Flat earthers, Holocaust deniers, and anti-vaxxers can claim that their strongly held beliefs are also “their truth,” while really, they are only deligitimizing what has been recognized as true.
Even though everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions, a belief is not “a truth.” The truth is universal, unchanging, proven by evidence, and cannot be owned. If “the truth” becomes personal, it loses authority.
It could also be said that using the phrase “my truth” isolates oneself from other perspectives and negates criticism. In a world where it is so easy to live in a bubble where everyone agrees with you, “your truth” only drifts you away from having meaningful discussions and healthy debates.
There is little value in an opinion or experience being referred to as one’s own truth, when the actual truth exists regardless of what you may think.
Ryan Martins is a freelance writer from Naugatuck.