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The Emperor’s New Likes: unravelling the quest for authenticity in the digital age

Once upon a time, in a world not too dissimilar from our own, there existed an emperor known far and wide for his extravagant attire. His clothing was said to outshine the sun itself, and his love for splendid garments was surpassed only by his craving for the approval of his subjects.

One fateful day, whispers filled the air, carrying with them tales of two weavers possessing extraordinary skills. These weavers claimed they could fashion garments of such magnificence that they would be invisible to those unfit for their positions or, in their words, “hopelessly stupid”.

Intrigued by their audacious claims, the emperor summoned the weavers to his palace. With great showmanship, the weavers worked on their looms, their hands dancing in the air as if weaving threads of pure silk. Though the looms clacked and the weavers feigned labour, there was no fabric to be seen. However, the emperor, driven by his own desires, saw something that others did not. He saw the reflection of his yearnings woven into an illusion of grandeur.

Blinded by the prospect of wearing garments visible only to the wise and worthy, the emperor fell into a trance of self-deception. He eagerly awaited the day he could unveil his new attire to his subjects, his longing for their adoration stronger than ever.

Little did the emperor know that his journey into this fantastical world would serve as a mirror to a modern phenomenon, one that many of us are all too familiar with – the pursuit of online validation. It’s a story where the desire for approval can lead to desperate measures and the loss of our authentic selves.

In today’s digital age, we find ourselves ensnared in a similar mind game, akin to the emperor’s predicament. We press the ‘like’ button not always because we genuinely resonate with the content, but often because we seek approval, popularity, or simply wish to conform to the prevailing sentiment. It’s a game that offers quick rewards with minimal effort – a dopamine hit at the click of a button.

Dopamine, often dubbed the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, rules our brain’s reward system. Each like, each comment, each share on our social media posts releases a small flood of dopamine, creating a pleasurable sensation, much like a pat on the back. Over time, our brains become conditioned to chase these virtual rewards, resulting in an unhealthy dependency on social media validation.

Much like the emperor, who sacrificed his authenticity for the allure of invisible garments, we too can fall into the trap of sacrificing our genuine thoughts and feelings in pursuit of online approval. We may craft posts not to express ourselves but solely for the sake of garnering likes and shares.

In the process, our online personas often become a facade, mirroring the emperor’s parade of imaginary clothes. We present idealized versions of ourselves, carefully curated for popularity. Authenticity is often traded for a persona that conforms to what we believe will be popular or likable.

As we continue to second-guess our thoughts and ideas, wondering whether they will receive the approval we crave, this constant quest for validation erodes our self-esteem and diminishes our sense of self-worth. We become actors in a play, performing for a digital audience, much like the emperor’s theatrical display for his subjects.

Reclaiming our authentic voice

To reclaim our authenticity and break free from the cycle of seeking validation at the cost of authenticity, consider these steps:

  1. Mindful posting: pause and ask yourself if the content you’re about to share truly represents your thoughts and values, rather than crafting it solely for the sake of approval.


  1. Offline authenticity: reconnect with your true self in the offline world, engaging in activities that align with your interests and passions, rather than succumbing to what’s merely trendy or popular.


  1. Reinforce self-worth: work on building self-esteem and self-worth that aren’t dependent on online validation. Recognize that your worth extends beyond the number of likes or followers you have.


  1. Honest connections: Foster authentic connections, both online and offline, by engaging in meaningful conversations rather than shallow interactions driven by likes and emojis.

In conclusion, the tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” serves as a poignant reminder of the perils of sacrificing authenticity in the relentless pursuit of approval, be it in the form of invisible attire or online validation.

In this digital age, it’s imperative to recognize the risks of losing our true voices to the allure of online approval. By being mindful of our online actions, prioritizing authenticity, and valuing our inherent worth, we can break free from the cycle of desperate approval-seeking and find fulfilment in our genuine selves.

Our authenticity is our greatest strength, and it’s worth far more than any virtual applause. As we unmask the emperor’s new clothes of online validation, we discover the unique voice that resides within each of us, waiting to be heard above the digital clamour.

Celebrate your individuality, embrace your uniqueness, and let your true self shine, for as Oscar Wilde once wisely said: ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’

By Farah Naz
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Farah Naz is a UK trained Psychotherapist of more than 30 years, and is a Clinical Hypnotherapist, with a special interest in neuroscience. She has worked with thousands of people globally for a range of issues. Farah has trained national organisations, corporate companies, doctors, teachers and health workers on psychological-related issues. Currently, she has an online international practice and a private practice in the Algarve.
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