Our first issue of the year is dedicated to stories about truth and lies. We know the textbook definitions of those words, but can their meanings change over time? Are they static or fluid? The bold black line I’ve always imagined separating what is true, factual, and correct, and what is not, feels more gray in recent years.
When we talk about truth and lies today, fake news is likely the first thing to come to mind, but you can’t talk about it without first getting to the bottom of belief—how is it formed? And how do our own beliefs influence our understanding of truth? This is an issue about faith, but also memory, information, our understanding of reality.
In the following pages we explore the motivation behind why people share stories that aren’t true and investigate false memories via a deeper look at the Mandela Effect and the online community obsessed with the phenomenon. We present a case study on the way that urban legends are born and spread, and delve into how the increasing belief in nonhuman intelligence inspires our real world. We hear from the researchers studying how social media shapes our memory (which might make you think twice about snapping and sharing those vacation photos). We highlight a contentious disagreement in the medical field over whether the condition formerly known as “multiple personality disorder” is real—but does “real” even matter if a diagnosis can help people?
Our issue’s cover image is a subtle nod to the theme. Taken from Emile Askey’s Monuments Are Forever portfolio, we loved the fake reality the photo presents: the similar blue hue of the skies, how the specific crop of the photo creates the illusion that you’re looking at an actual mountain. With the issue’s design, we wanted to visualize the intersection of traditional news and sensationalism by referencing the established look and feel of newspapers contrasted with the colorful, eye-grabbing design favored by tabloids. By merging these two worlds, we aim to emphasize the difficulty in portraying truth and in deciphering authenticity: how something is presented to the world, how it is seen by the viewer, how design—even a simple typeface selection—can dictate or influence perception.
This issue doesn’t seek to offer definitive answers on the meanings of truth and lies; rather, we hope the collection of stories goes a step further and pushes beyond those definitions. —Ellis Jones, Editor-in-Chief