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.

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Mad Hatters NYCPaul HealyCynthia | Adventuring WomanAudreyDippy Dotty Girl Recent comment authors
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Trudy Louis
Guest

Thanks for your post and your honesty. I didn’t know about the 100% digital influencer. My life is actually pretty boring comparatively. I’m not at every event (Thank you Lord) or every convention. I constantly tell my readers that my budget is tight when it actually is, and I don’t have a Sugar Daddy/Mama like some bloggers (no one I know personally) . I do write about wishlist and planning in lieu of actual voyage at times. So there aren’t pictures from many trips that I’ve taken to Europe without planning at 5 star hotels. I basically work with what… Read more »

Dippy Dotty Girl
Guest

A relevant topic and I am glad you touched upon it with such lucidity. I often wonder about falling prey to the images we devour on social media. To find that balance is the end-game it seems. For me, my blog is a reflection of Adi and I as a couple. Goofy and utterly silly, seeing the world sometimes through rose-coloured glasses, sometimes not. I too could not be bothered about swimming with the sharks (also, relevant to mention that I have forgotten to swim) or dangling from the top of a cliff to get the It shot. The nearest… Read more »

Tara Kothari
Guest

“Sometimes it’s easy to tell what’s real and what isn’t. But not always.” Before I moved to USA, before I started blogging, before I started editing my photos with Adobe, before … I think I was pretty gullible! I would believe everything. But the more I live and the more I get into art, into writing and really creating, vs consuming, the more I see that very few things are “real.” Most times it’s a portrayal of who you think you can be somewhere or with someone or on a platform. As for me, even when I am true, I… Read more »

JAM
Guest

Thanks for this thought-provoking post. To be honest, sometimes true is less sparkly, less exciting, less engaging than fiction, but I think our society still recognizes what is genuine. Most of us still get up in the morning looking our worst. We brush our teeth, wash our faces and feel the reality of our own lives. Sometimes it is the imperfections that make us a little more endearing. Your enthusiasm and love for life and each other encourages us to keep exploring, keep looking for hidden treasures, and keep trying something new. You come across as genuine and full of… Read more »

lynn
Guest

Truth matters a lot, and my gut informs me what’s true, to a great extent. After quite a few years on the planet, many in New York, I think I can sniff out a lot of BS. I don’t do Twitter, spend very little time on FB, and am not crazy about IG, but I do post there a little. The blog is what’s important to me in terms of media, and I do consider what people might like, but would never go out shooting with that in mind. It comes into play more when I put a post together.… Read more »

Cynthia | Adventuring Woman
Guest

Been thinking about this for 3 days. Genuine content is important to me both as a consumer and a creator. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is genuine, sometimes it’s pretty obvious. It says something interesting about our culture that a 100% digital influencer can exist. I hate the term “influencer.” For one thing it’s not a real word, but I find the whole focus on marketing, consumerism and the cult of fame disturbing. Look where it has led us as a country. There also is a lot of lip service given to authenticity, it seems to me the more… Read more »

Audrey
Guest

This was so refreshing and I’m of the same thinking as you. There’s a lot of fake out there and I’m sorry but I just don’t have time for it. As a reader I like real, I like human and I scan some content because it’s not conversational. Sorry that’s blunt but it’s late! I love your style of writing, your sense of fun and by reading your posts I feel inspired, I laugh and I go “oh man I think we’re related” … a lot! Keeping rocking the real world

Paul Healy
Guest

Very interesting discussion, I love it. My take on all this is that there is a general issue with our analytical skills. I think kids at school should be taught less hard facts (because you can look them up) and instead be taught more about how to analyse information, how to check sources, how to distinguish between opinion and fact. When I’m looking at social media and I see something that’s obviously fake, or a curated feed on Instagram, the sensors in my brain just don’t light up. But when I come across an article like this one, then my… Read more »