A classic tale of the dangers of technology, George Orwell’s warning in 1984 is irrefutably witnessed on a daily basis in today’s time. Our Big Brother is the hackers, social media, virtual assistants, and other surveying technological feats. Through a tale of the degradation of a man’s free will and thought, Winston Smith reminds us of the simple achievements we carry today — achievements that have not yet been encroached on by technology. Right now, we are still capable of expressing love, sadness, anger, and happiness.
But sometimes, it can be easy to fall into feeling….too much freedom. With the advantages of technology, such as feeling more connected through social media, most of humankind has comfortably given up authenticity.
On an ordinary day at school, walking through the halls, I typically have a lot on my mind. Nonetheless, without fail, I walk into each of my teacher’s classrooms, plaster on a smile and ask some variation of “how are you?” Contemplating on the limitations supported by “facecrime,” an “improper expression on your face” in 1984, I frown on my behavior. Because — am I not bowing down to a societal norm every time I fake a smile?
Back in the 1800s, Charles Darwin was one of the first scientists to develop the “facial feedback hypothesis,” in his book titled The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. He hypothesized that faking a facial expression could genuinely alter your mood. Darwin observed the importance of facial expression, as we “perceive sympathy in others by their expression,” and “our sufferings are…mitigated and our pleasures increased…mutual good feeling is thus strengthened.” Perhaps this is why we fake a smile so often. Humans are collective beings. Surely, communities feel this intensely now, as COVID-19 continues to spread and we are forced into self-isolation. Loneliness is not ideal — no matter what form it comes in. If approached with a smile, one will likely reply with a smile. Because to not would leave one, well, lonely, and isolated.
A study conducted by Psychological Science in 2012 found that the majority of 169 university students had lower heart rates when multitasking if they were posing a smile or genuinely smiling. A lower heart rate indicated that they were less stressed…and this lasted for four minutes. There are other ways faking it that will result in you feeling how you wish you felt when you initially fake it. Striking a power pose can make you feel empowered, pretending to know the answer could improve your test-taking abilities. Before a job interview, dress accordingly and it might just improve your performance.
However, a recent study has proven that if smiling makes you feel happier, it is only by a small amount. The study found that if 100 people smiled a forced smile, only approximately 7 would feel happier. Research has found that habitually forcing a smile can have negative effects. Another study published in 2019 found that cashiers who forced smiles to customers all day were more likely to engage in heavy drinking afterward.
It is socially appropriate to put on a good face. Anger, fear, sadness, and surprise are more difficult to display on command. This is because we have less mental connection to our upper facial features — the features needed to uplift or knit together the brows to appear stressed or scared. Meanwhile, it is easy to voluntarily smile.
A social practice prescribed to people in psychotherapy if they have wish to achieve a certain feeling or persona is acting “as if” — in other words, as pyschotherapist Amy Morin advises: “If you want to feel happier, do what happy people do — smile.” To act “as if” does not equate to inauthenticity — rather, trust that by changing your behavior, the desired feeling(s) will follow. Acting “as if” covers a lot of goals. Want to be more productive? Act like you already are productive. Want to have more friends? Act like a friendly person. Breaking away from a habit or a natural facial reflex will take a lot of work. Acting “as if” acknowledges this and trusts in the average person’s acting skills eventually leading to the desired results.
Winston from 1984 had it bad. Everything he felt, all that he thought was controlled. In today’s world, we are lucky enough to still have control over ourselves. So practice this control in your everyday life. Fake that smile! Fake that habit or skill you want. But also, relish in your anger, your jealousy, your sadness, your anxiety, and the overall freedom to feel and express. And eventually you will find that, everyone, at some point, is walking through life faking it to make it.
Slowly, facecrime is popping up as a valid trait of today’s time. Take for example, the “Plaid shirt guy” from one of President Trump’s rallies back in 2018. A young, high school senior named Tyler Linfesty was shown at a rally, making faces and mouthing critical responses to Trump’s speech. Later, footage shows Linfesty along with his two friends being brought out of the rally for “not being enthusiastic enough.” Later in an interview with CNN, Linfesty explained that he knew why he was replaced at the rally: he was “not being enthusiastic enough.” Before entering, he had been told to appear enthusiastic. He was even asked to wear a “Make American Great Again” cap. Although Linfesty was asked respectfully to “leave and never come back,” the actions taken at this rally hint all too blatantly to facecrime. This situation is an assault on the freedom to think and express individually. Linfesty emphasized “I need to be honest in my views.” Some situations elicit an authentic response — which is equally important for a person as faking it to make it. It is crucial to the human experience that we protect our individual right to facial expression. Exercizing this freedom includes facial authenticity, but sometimes…. you will find yourself faking it to make it out the other end.