Mad Chatter: Let’s Talk About Fact And Fiction, Truth and Lies

So here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. I’ve never been a fan of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, but I’ve become mildly obsessed with a scripted satirical series derived from similar reality shows called UnREAL. The series ended its run recently, which made it a perfect candidate for binge watching. UnREAL isn’t easy to digest, and it features some pretty despicable characters. But it forces us to confront something we’ve all been complicit in: allowing truth and fiction to meld together to create an entertaining narrative.

In this world of scripted “live” shows and creatively edited “reality” shows, do we know anymore what’s real and fake? And more importantly, do we care? It’s a little less sinister in the world of entertainment, I suppose, but it certainly feels like this fluidity between fact and fiction is extending well beyond the realm of television.

When does sharing turn into…performing?

Girl in Roy Lichtenstein Pop Art display in Amsterdam via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Sometimes it’s easy to tell what’s real and what isn’t. But not always.

We all know by now that Instagram is a highlight reel, showcasing only the best parts of our lives. We’re constantly cautioned not to compare ourselves to the stunning images of bikini-clad models in exotic locations. But even just within the Instagram universe, the spectrum of lies is pretty far-reaching. There are travel bloggers who have been caught photoshopping themselves into stunning landscapes and photographers who have been caught doctoring someone else’s photos and claiming them as their own. And what about those accounts featuring completely digital models? Yes, the models are 100% NOT REAL. Becoming Instafamous is a very lucrative proposition, so we can understand why people produce the content. But what’s the motive for the followers? Do we live in a post-truth age where reality no longer matters? Or are we knowingly escaping into fiction like we do when we read a book?

Instagram post from lilmiquela Instagram account featuring Vogue article
Lil Miquela is a 100% digital influencer who was featured in Vogue Magazine. Instagram/lilmiquela

I always enjoy perusing Man Repeller, which started out as a fashion blog but has since evolved far beyond that. Man Repeller consistently produces thoughtful editorials, usually with a strong female point of view. But it also has a robust comments section, where very interesting discourse often takes place. A few months ago, founder Leandra Medine wrote a personal essay examining sharing in light of personal changes, which unleashed a torrential discussion about social media. One reader referenced a Bo Burnham quote, which referred to social media as a prison, where we “perform everything to each other, all the time for no reason….It’s performer and audience melded together.” Does that affect how we’re wired? Are we constantly crafting a story for our perceived audience?

What if your authentic self is…boring?

Street art with caption "where is the love?" via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bloggers have expressed frustration that audiences claim they want authenticity, then reward the same overproduced content time and time again. It turns out what’s real and what really sells aren’t always the same thing. As bloggers, we create content for our social media channels as well as our blog. Balancing all of it isn’t easy, but the different channels serve as different outlets for us. We can be a little more playful with our weekend roundups on Instagram Stories, and engage in fun chats on Twitter.

I’ll admit that we’ve altered travel itineraries to make room for something we wanted to write about for the blog. And we try to show up when crowds might be thinner so our shots are clearer. But we’ll never be those people swimming with sharks for an Instagram shot. We won’t wait for hours in the bitter cold for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. And we won’t consume an over-the-top dessert which looks much better than it tastes. Our content is pretty true to who we are: we’re mostly curious, a little geeky and always hungry. We know we’re not the first bloggers to write about, say, street art in Washington DC, but we still had fun hunting for it and sharing our finds.

Since the idea behind these Mad Chatter posts is to start a conversation, I’d really love to know: as a consumer of content, how much does truth matter to you? How do you choose what to read/watch/follow? And if you’re also a producer of content, how do you balance being true to yourselves and delivering the “wow”?

– L.

Where to Find the Best Street Art in Washington DC

We do a lot of walking when we travel. And we do so with purpose. We love architecture, urban green spaces, and the serendipity of discovery, whether that’s a neighborhood coffee shop or a bistro at the end of a nondescript alleyway. But first and foremost, we’re on the hunt for street art. There’s no better way to get a finger on the pulse of a city. Street art is an expression of a city’s past, the issues it grapples with present day, and its aspirations for the future. Through incredible initiatives such as MuralsDC, an organization collaborating with the city’s Department of Public Works and Commission on Arts and Humanities, DC has created a veritable cornucopia of street art. The goal is to replace illegal graffiti with artistic revitalization projects, and in this endeavor they have been very successful.

So whether you’re looking for the perfect backdrop for your #OOTD or you’re looking to discover some great local artists, here are some of the best places to find street art in Washington DC.

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48 Hours in Washington DC: 5 Places A Travel Foodie Must Visit

Washington DC is likely somewhere you visited on a school trip, or during a summer when your parents thought it was important to teach you a civics lesson. You visited the Washington Monument and took your requisite photo in front of the Capitol Building. If the thought of visiting Washington DC generates the same yawn your Social Studies class did, then it might be time to refresh that view. There is, and always has been, a distinct culture in DC beyond the history, the towering monuments, and all the political drama.

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The Daily Grind: My Favorite Coffee Shops in Manhattan

I’m not a car guy. I don’t collect watches or chase the newest technology. I’m not a smoker and a rare drinker. I only have one significant vice–if it even qualifies–and that’s coffee. I have a deep, visceral, obsessive love for coffee.

“Back home we toss a horseshoe in the pot. Stands up straight, coffee’s ready”
-Frank Hopkins, Hidalgo

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Through the Lens: Inside Brooklyn’s Photoville (Or How to Win at Date Night)

Lynn and I have been married for a number of years. When we started this blog, we really had no idea what kind of journey we were embarking on. The path has been one with many surprises, but one of the unexpected happy side effects is that we get to go on a lot of dates. Coffee dates, museum dates, let’s-try-something-new dates. Dates where we jump in a car or hop on a plane. Some dates still end up being duds, but when an event is going to check off a lot of boxes, we know the odds we’ll have a good time improve significantly. And Photoville checks off a lot of boxes.

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Two of the Best Museums in New York City Are In Astoria, Queens

When you think of museums in New York City, the usual Manhattan-centric suspects immediately come to mind: MoMA, The Gug, and The Met. If you’re a hardcore museum hound, two of our other favorites, The Whitney or The Frick, might dance their way onto your list. Or perhaps you have children, in which case you’ll think of The American Museum of Natural History, because you’ve seen Night at the Museum no less than a hundred times. Now, what if we told you that two of the best museums in New York City aren’t even located in Manhattan?

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How to Spend a Day in Long Island City, Queens

We always get excited when visitors start to spend time in New York City’s neighborhoods, because that’s when they discover how wonderfully schizophrenic the city is. There are so many pockets with distinct personalities, and we don’t just mean across ethnic lines like in Chinatown and Koreatown. The Upper West Side and the Upper East Side have distinctly different vibes, and friendships have fractured over the East Village vs. West Village debate. But trekking into the other boroughs is still a daunting task for many. With trendy spots like Williamsburg, Brooklyn gets all the love. But we believe Queens’ criminally underrated, westernmost residential and commercial neighborhood, Long Island City, is the perfect starter neighborhood to explore New York City’s largest borough.

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Around the World in 80 Bites: A Visit to Queens International Night Market

For nearly five years, Anthony Bourdain worked on an ambitious, quixotic scheme to create a 155,000 square foot international night market at New York City’s Pier 57. The overwrought and ill-fated venture ultimately ended with Bourdain conceding defeat in December 2017, a mere six months shy of his tragic and untimely death. Like everyone else, I was shocked and saddened by the news of Bourdain’s suicide. But, if I’m being honest (as unpopular as this opinion may be), I didn’t feel the same way about the demise of his passion project.

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Heaven, Hell and A Heist: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination at The Met

The Met Museum is so iconic and so synonymous with New York City that every time I approach the steps, a little highlight reel plays in my head. The scene from When Harry Met Sally where Billy Crystal says in a funny voice, “Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash, but I would love to partake in your pecan pie.” Blair and Serena’s power lunches from Gossip Girl. Toulouse-Lautrec’s The Sofa. The Psycho Barn reproduction on the roof a couple of years ago. It’s where my New York City fantasy and reality worlds collide, and it never gets old. But nothing gets me more excited than trekking to the annual Costume Institute Exhibit every summer.

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Of Gods and Kings: Why Nafplion Is The Most Romantic Destination in Greece

Wandering souls can’t always explain exactly what it is that beckons them to a particular destination. It could be the glimpse of a photograph in a magazine, or a particularly memorable description in a book. Perhaps the location was the backdrop of a popular movie, or mentioned in the lyrics of a favorite song. But I can explain exactly what it was that drew me to Greece. My parents went there on a vacation when I was a girl–the first one I could ever recall them taking, and one of the very few trips they enjoyed without the kids.

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