If you were born after 1998 the chances are you’ll never have seen The Truman Show. It’s about a guy who unwittingly stars in his own TV show. He’s surrounded by hidden cameras and – even though he doesn’t know it – everyone in his life is a paid actor. It’s pretty scary.
This past year, I’ve increasingly drawn similarities with life online in 2016 and the fictional world created in The Truman Show. Sure, we’re not all surrounded by hidden cameras or living with a family of secretly paid actors (at least, I hope not anyway), but there’s something about the world of Snapchat and Instagram Stories especially that feels a bit… Trumanny.
When I first joined the world of blogging over five years ago I didn’t have an iPhone. I used to log onto Twitter via my computer and check Facebook maybe once a day. Back then, I probably spent a few hours a day online but a large chunk of that was creating content – either for my own growing blog or for other magazines or websites. I read blogs too, and I’d chat on Twitter and Facebook, but that was about it.
Fast forward to 2016 and I have an iPhone complete with a gazillion apps. Via Snapchat and Instagram Stories, I can watch a stream of edited “life stories” from some of my favourite people online, and I can share my own too. Creating content online in 2016 is just as much about filming your feet walking down the street (yes, really) as it is about coming up with an original idea for a blog post.
It’s not enough now to take a photo for Instagram, edit it, think of the best time of day to post it and the best hashtags, not to mention a witty caption. Now we have to show the “behind the scenes” view too. And, of course, if we’re vlogging it all as well then we need to remember to get those shots for the Day In Our Life video that we’re planning to upload to YouTube.
You could look at it all as just a bit of fun and, for many, it is. But when a large part of your income relies on being visible online, it’s not all about the crazy fun timez any more. It becomes essential to keep up with the Joneses of the blogging world and jump on board the Truman wagon, even if you don’t really want to. And as your favourite bloggers share more and more of their day you can feel the pressure to do the same. Or maybe that’s just me.
I guess like with everything else it’s about that over-used, annoyingly self-satisfied word: balance. For me, that balance comes in the form of being a mum and friend first and being a blogger second. If I find myself watching my kids’ childhood through an Instagram Stories filter on my phone then enough is enough. If I can’t have a regular conversation with a mate without surreptitiously feeling the need to tell everyone online about it afterwards then things have gone too far.
Personally, I don’t have the time or interest to watch every mundane update in the life of strangers I’ve never met online – even if some of them are hugely paid blogging celebrities. A quick one or two updates is enough for me. I don’t need to see what their feet look like walking along the pavement (unless they’re showing off brand spanking new shoes, obviously) or which randoms they’re standing next to at the bus stop. Equally, I don’t expect you to have any interest in my morning cup of tea shenanigans or care about what I’m having for lunch every single day. No offence taken, honest.
So, as we head into this brave new era of life online I promise you two things: 1) I’ll only ever update my Instagram Stories app with stuff that may be considered vaguely interesting and 2) The minute I find myself with camera in one hand, phone in the other and no hand free to soothe a wailing toddler is the minute I give it all up completely.
Where do you stand on this new micro vlogging side of life? Is it all Insta-mazing or a bit Insta-much? I’d love to hear your thoughts.