I re-watched the Truman Show recently, a movie made in which the main character, Truman, is raised inside a simulated television show watched by the world around him 24 hrs a day. Only problem is, he doesn’t know it. I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite movies, but it always gets me thinking; thinking about reality, about humanity. And my take away this time was deeper than other times. Christof, the director, of the Truman Show (in the movie) makes the comment, “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.” And I couldn’t help but couple that with my already hot-headed opinion about social media and the ‘reality’ we see and participate in every day. And the collision of those two things really messed me up this time.
Three years ago my littlest child was born. That event was the sole catalyst of what I’m now calling, “My Great Undoing” (which will be the title of a series of blogs sometime in the distant future where things work themselves out on paper and in my spirit better than they do now). But, I mention it here, because in the process of that, I have been forced to dig into myself; an inner mining season (if you will) rivaling the best California had to offer during the famous Gold Rush; cart loads and cart loads of rock and debris before actually finding something of merit, something worth more than the time, energy and money it took to find it deep down there in the first place. But in the meantime, it’s hot and musty and dark. I sweat a lot.
Somewhere, in the line of carts being hauled out, is a cart full of vices, of idiosyncrasies, of shameful motives and dark jealousies. And as much as I’m grateful to be hauling them out, sometimes I’m not sure what to do with them, or where to dump them or how to not fill up the hole they came out of with more of the same thing, covering back up what I was looking for in the first place.
And how any of that has to do with the Truman Show may be a stretch for some, but it all made sense for me. Social media, Instagram, Facebook, the like, tempts me to fill back up with the things I’m trying to get rid of. The ‘reality‘ of the world with which I am ‘presented’ becomes a far more perfect and better place than the reality of the world I really live in. And I hate that. I hate that I want to look at, participate in and spend countless time thinking about ways I can ‘present’ myself to ‘the world’, rather than focus on sincere and authentic time with the world I exist in. I know, I know. It is actually a very useful and fun way to keep up with distant friends and family, and I completely agree with that and totally participate in it, too (and probably will in the near future). But currently, it’s detrimental for me. And I have to be honest about that. And I don’t think I’m alone. As happy as I am that people are choosing to document their lives through photos, I’m just as unhappy about how that has shaped us; about how we experience people and places; about how we’ve created an entirely new vocabulary for our social world. We, like Truman, have become an actor in our own life story without even knowing it. No, not all of us. There are plenty of responsible and completely authentic Instagram-ers who don’t struggle with it at all. But for the rest of us, keep reading.
Spoiler alert: I’m about to tell you what happens at the end of the movie if you haven’t seen it already (which you should have considering it was made 20 years ago). After a giant storm at sea in which he is almost killed, Truman recovers and sails his boat in what seems to be the middle of the ocean, blue skies, sunshine, the whole deal. Until surprisingly he runs into the wall of the set, poking a whole in the sheet rock making up the sky of what was the world he has lived in his whole life. And the emotions that play out after that make me cry every time. Best scene in a movie (from 1998, of course).
All he wants at that point is to get out. To experience life, real life, and life to the full; to know real friends and real love.
And I want that, too.
So, with that long winded explanation of my summer social media hiatus, I can help but exit the same way Truman did, “...in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight.”
And, of course, a little extra disclaimer: I will still be blogging and I hope you will still be reading. I’m posting new blog posts in my story on Instagram because I haven’t taken the time to figure out a blog subscription from my website. But, please don’t be a stranger. Even more than that, in fact, be a friend. We have an incredible cabin up near a pretty mountain lake in the Sierras. I’d love to share it with you. For real.