Perception vs Reality

Your World vs My World

The way that you perceive reality is entirely different than the way I perceive it. We all have a slant on the way that we see things; from people’s actions, the events that take place and the way that you react to different situations. It is crucial that we all realise that we have a viewpoint and thus a personal angle on our reality, ranging from the trivial to the consequential (which, in itself, is based on perception).

A couple of examples of this can be found in the location where I currently live and work: Tokyo, Japan. Many of my colleagues experience a language barrier, especially when they first move here. Some people perceive this to be an exciting challenge where they discover fascinating new learning and cultural experiences; while others see this as more of a negative barrier to a comfortable life. Another example would be living in a metropolis of this size. Some love the convenience and opportunities that a big city offers; while others come to dislike the hustle and bustle. Of course, there is a multitude of perceptions beyond this as well.

The following talk on TEDxUIUC summarises this point expertly…

Daniel Simons here explains that we all feel like we are seeing things as they actually are, but we are not at all. He uses visual illusions to illustrate the prescient point that you are only really taking in minute details, which are entirely influenced by your standpoint and prior knowledge. We all feel like we see things in the same way as everyone else. This, however, is extremely far from reality, and we must confront this innate truth if we are to begin to understand the world around us.

Social Media, the Internet and the Power of Perception

Obviously, with the online world comes an accompanying potential for negativity. You do not have to search for long to find examples of cyber bullying, poor self-image, ‘fake news’ and Social Media users who choose to spread bile…naming no names of any high-ranking politicians, of course. Adults and youths alike can come to resent what can be perceived as an interconnected morass of hate, debauchery and fear.

It would be remiss to deny that all of this exists online, and more. Yet, to label the entirety of the Internet as such, particularly Social Media, would be an exercise in only viewing the online world from one particular perception or emotional position.

As educators, we have to play our part in empowering students, parents and colleagues alike to move away from the solely negative perception, if we see that it exists. Websites like Mindset or psychcentral, while not directly linked to Social Media perception, have some important advice on a starting point for changing mindsets. They state that we have to hear our inner voice, and work hard to change the “I can’t” to “I can”. They say that we should recognise that our way of thinking is indeed a choice, and that we can be the ones to decide to be the change. They tell us to take a growth mindset and take actions that foster positive growth.

I would argue that it is so important for us to do this, especially with the proliferation of negative standpoints about Social Media that endlessly fire towards us and attempt to influence our thinking. With this in mind, why don’t we shift our focus to the positive? Inspiring usage of Social Media is out there, at the click of a mouse button, and can help to engage us and those around us with a positive perception. With a perception of possibility and chances to create social change. For me, colleagues certainly inspire, but it is usually students who inspire the most. The following are examples of the inspirational young people that we should share, in order to empower kids and adults alike…

Martha Payne

Martha Payne: “Changing the World, One School Dinner at a Time” from on Vimeo.

Martha gained millions of fans after she began to create blog reviews of her school dinners, at age 9. She was initially banned from blogging by her school, but then influenced the local authorities to improve the food that they gave to their students. Her efforts led her to raise £115,000 for Mary’s Meals, a Scottish charity that helps to feed impoverished children worldwide.

Audri’s Rube Goldberg Machine

From YouTube…

Audri would like to say thank you for the encouraging comments. He is 7 years old and he can read so please keep it positive. He wants to be a theoretical physicist when he grows up and has big plans to study robotics at MIT. He was especially inspired to make this video after seeing OK GO’s This Too Shall Pass.

Here he is at age 5…

Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show

Sylvia started her own YouTube show when she was age 7, with a mission to show everyone how fun and easy it is to make things (rather than buying them). She gained worldwide recognition and inspired millions to become makers too. In 2014, Sylvia became an author by launching a series of full-color children’s books, “Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Project Books.”

Here is one of her shows…

Kevin Curwick

Kevin has never actually been the victim of bullying, but during the summer of 2012 he discovered that some of his friends and classmates were being targeted by cyber-bullying via anonymous Twitter accounts established for the sole purpose of destroying their self-esteem.  Not wanting this kind of behavior to spoil the good reputation of his high school, Kevin decided to counter the nastiness and vulgarities of these accounts by establishing his own anonymous Twitter account (more via the link).

This Twitter account was full with positive messages about people at his school, in order to make them feel welcome and promote what wonderful people they are. Soon after, copycat accounts were created which followed his lead. The story went viral, was covered on national television channels and he gained thousands of followers online.

Stop Apologising

What could be more inspiring than that? Plus, there are so many more success stories out there. This is only a starting point. Truly, Social Media can be a force for social change…we just have to help people to see the possibilities. If our reality is based on perception, then we have to try hard to perceive the good and the positive.

To finish, I will leave you with a thought-provoking TEDxVictoria chat from Alexandra Samuel. As she says, “Stop apologising for your life online,” and we should, “Create an Internet that feels like it really matters to us. When you spend time on what really matters to you, surprise – the Internet will feel like it reflects some of your values.”

Every time we say it is not real, we limit it’s ability to change us, to change the world we live in and to change our relationships to one another – Alexandra Samuel.

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2 Responses to Perception vs Reality

  1. NICK says:

    Hi Rory,

    This was a real pleasure to read. I enjoyed the videos especially Daniel Simons’s talk about perception. The Rube Goldberg Machine was also entertaining and inspiring to watch. It reminded me of Caine’s Arcade: link to

    As the digital and physical realm move closer and closer to a singularity, we’re certainly seeing a lot of ugliness play out in the lives of many, particularly on social media. Although it seems like the majority, I’m sure it’s not, but loads of people are using social media as a negative sounding board to vent and complain. I think it’s safe to say that we probably encounter quite a few people like this in the real world too. When I think about this dynamic in my classroom setting, I resort to defusing the negative action and empowering the positive action. Getting back to your title the “perception vs. reality”, to me it seems that the internet gets a wrap because of a few bad eggs who tend to abuse the platform for negative attention. (insert #45 here, along with so many others)…. In addition, it doesn’t help when so many people run with the negative stories far more than celebrating someone like Audri or Martha Payne. It may be hard to gauge but I’d speculate that there is probably more positive stuff occurring online on a daily basis than negative. If only we can highlight that more often like we do in our classrooms. The 5 Myths and Truths About Kids’ Internet Safety (by common sense media link to one way to diffuse the worry and distorted perceptions of parents who are wrapped up in the negative spin. It’s an ongoing battle, isn’t it? Thanks for doing your part. This was a really enjoyable and positive read. Cheers! Nick

  2. Rory Bell says:

    Hey Nick,

    Thank you very much for the comment.

    Will have to watch Caine’s Arcade later – thanks for the share!

    Absolutely. Much like all areas of Child Safeguarding at school, we have to be aware of the negative and act swiftly if there are recognisable trends or themes. But, then the majority of our time has to be spent modelling good use/behaviour/choices and praising children for doing the same.

    It is a tough job, and people (being people) will make mistakes along the way, but we can certainly get there 🙂



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