Hyperbole, its use as a literary device and its examination as such, are as old as language. Even Jesus was known to utilize it more than a time or two.
As social media has (d?)evolved, as text speak has become entrenched in our collective vernacular it appears that we’ve reached a point where there may not be able to actually exaggerate anything any further than we do in any given moment.
Think for a moment…someone posts a relatively cute .gif to your Facebook page. It’s a toddler stumbling in the yard as dad struggles to balance his whatever in one hand and another child in the other only to save the toddler from sudden death by using his foot to balance the child before he fell on a paver stone….or whatever.
The comments start flowing. “OMG I’m DYING!” “LITERALLY the FUNNIEST THING EVER!”
Perhaps you’re in the parking lot at work. A coworker pulls into his space and his breaks squeal. Obviously he needs to have the pads replaced. Someone next to you says “Oh GOD. That’s the WORST SOUND EEEEVVVVERRR!!”
Hyperbole, and its effectiveness as tool to express the author’s or speaker’s intentions and meaning, hinge upon creativity, context, and perhaps most of all – restraint.
When your communications are riddled with exaggerations you run the risk of being seen as a “drama queen” or the boy who cried wolf.
Think about it. If every time you get a cold you feel like you’re “DYING!” and you’ve NEVER felt this bad EVER IN YOUR LIFE…until your allergies act up in a few weeks, how is everyone else supposed to react?
In relationship counseling one of the first things therapists say is for the couple to erase words like “ALWAYS” and “NEVER” from their vocabulary because really…does your wife ALWAYS “act that way”? Is your husband truly NEVER “good” to you?
The same is true in marketing or advertising. Just enough creative exaggeration and you attract audiences with your wit and savvy. Go overboard and you’re the monster truck rally on Sunday SUNDAY SUUUUNNNNDAY!!!!
So that’s the lesson for today. Don’t be so quick to exaggerate when you’re trying to get your message across. Subtlety, particularly in an environment when hyperbole is the norm, can make your message more impactful. I won’t say you should NEVER use hyperbole though. You should ALWAYS know when to pull it out to make your message resonate with your audience. 😉
Until next time…
Be Well and Kind,