Life online – a modern day Truman show

Swimming lake in France

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.




  1. says

    I totally get this! I gave up on beloved snap for this very reason. I now do what’s fun, or gets me most return vs effort. There are so many platforms, it’s just not possible to maintain them all yourself…and unless a personal film crew becomes affordable, I’ll have to do what I can ???? xx

    • says

      I think that’s a really wise approach to take. Not sure I’d want my own personal film crew though – can you imagine the pressure to keep your house looking film presentable all the time?!

  2. says

    I totally get this. I am happy to admit that I just don’t get Snapchat and Instagram Stories just isn’t for me. I just don’t feel the need to be constantly switched on these days. In all honesty I think it has made me realise that I prefer my social media to be a little more polished. When you’re a blogger I think people presume that you want to share every minute of every single thing but actually it has made me realise that I am quite the opposite and I seem to share less and less these days!

    • says

      That’s a really good way of looking at it – I love the idea of “polished”. I do think it’s sometimes about quality over quantity too – I guess in the share-ready culture we currently live in it’s easy to forget that content is still king, whatever form that content takes.

  3. says

    Brilliant post.
    I have both snapchat and IG but I only upload occasionally.
    I had several messages over the last few months from people thinking I had stopped being online. That was not the case. It was just real life was more crucial and important and I think that is it. It didn’t panic me being away (other than the blog work piling up) I knew that was more important.
    I love my online world but my real one has to come first.
    I love seeing the glimpse into people’s worlds but as a blogger of 9 years I remember the days of no mobile online world so I am happy with both.

    Thanks for this post. I had been arguing with myself about my lack of content on Snapchat and IG and it reminded me to look at myself xxx

    • says

      It’s so interesting to hear the thoughts of someone who’s been blogging as long as you have Kara. I think your attitude sounds like a good one and very similar to my own!

  4. says

    I just can’t really get into it. I did once to try out and was pretty meh about it all. I’ll never ever end up putting my phone down if i start doing behind the scenes instastories so something has to give really!

    • says

      It’s definitely dangerous territory – if you think how much many of us are on our phones already we may as well just walk around with them sellotaped to our head!

  5. says

    Really interesting post Molly (and welcome back! Missed you)
    My take on it is this: I’ve always been an over-sharer. If you’re in the pub with me, I tend to chatter away about all the little (and big) things in my life. I often have to keep a check on things so as not to dominate the conversation and make a concerted effort to ask lots of questions to get the other person/people talking too. It’s the same online – when Facebook first got big here in the UK, I shared so many mundane details of my life. That was before I was a blogger, just me, random person, telling my friends/acquaintances about my life. I genuinely don’t understand people who don’t share news on Facebook – I mean, of course I understand it but why wouldn’t you want to share that you’re engaged/bought your first house/have a new job on Facebook? To me, it’s second nature, and how we share news quickly these days. Anyway, I just see IG Stories / Snapchat as being an extension of this – tiny little snippets of life, and I can share as many or as few as I like every day, and people can either watch or not. I think because it feels second nature to me, and it’s so quick to do, it doesn’t detract from family life. Know what I mean? Sorry, I’ve basically written a whole blog post in your comments box 😉

    • says

      Ha – never apologise for a cracker of a comment! Yes I get what you mean, I’m an over-sharer too and I think for that reason I have to hold myself back on the IG stories front as I could have the tendency to slide into total mundane over-sharedom. I guess the issue comes when you need to use social media for work and your IG is part of your brand – if potential clients are going to demand IG Stories or Snapchat are part of your offering then that’s ultimately going to affect the way we use it and, indeed, if we use it at all.

    • says

      Ha – never apologise for a cracker of a comment! Yes I get what you mean, I’m an over-sharer too and I think for that reason I have to hold myself back on the IG stories front as I could have the tendency to slide into total mundane over-sharedom. I guess the issue comes when you need to use social media for work and your IG is part of your brand – if potential clients are going to demand IG Stories or Snapchat are part of your offering then that’s ultimately going to affect the way we use it and, indeed, if we use it at all.

  6. says

    I have found the whole Social media debate increasingly exhausting. That said, I must also acknowledge that I do generate work from it and therefore feel it necessary to keep pace with my contemporaries.
    I had always intended to my mix work with my personal life for variety but as my work audience grew, recently I’ve separated them into two accounts.
    I see first hand how pivotal it is for my 18 year old and 21 year old sons social lives – they seem to live their lives on snap chat!
    On the one hand it’s good for business, on the other I find reading the minutiae of friends daily life utterly exasperating and can often be heard muttering “what were they thinking sharing that”!! I am therefore mindful of what I post as I’d hate others to think I was bragging or showing off but rather sharing a laugh a happy moment or a controversial point of view!
    More recently my mum and mother in law (in their 70’s) have embraced Face Book and Instagram and they tell he how much they enjoy a window in their families lives which, when you’re unable to see family often and just want to enjoy grandchildren from a distance (days out /holidays etc). I think it keeps people connected.

    • says

      That’s a really good point too Linz – my mum doesn’t do any social media, but she does regularly look up my Instagram feed online, especially when we’re on holiday, to see how we’re all doing. So fascinating hearing how the different generations use it. Thinking back to life without social media now seems like a totally different world!

  7. says

    Everything you’ve said resonates with me so much! I’ve really scaled back my blogging because I was fed up of sharing the ins and outs of everything; there’s just no need!

  8. says

    Yes! Totally agree. I don’t feel the need to have two channels on Instagram – something’s either worth sharing or it’s not; in my case, it’s worth sharing if I think it’s a nice picture, not if complete strangers would otherwise not have a full understanding of my day. I take a lot of photos – I have a daily photography project which has been on the go for two and a half years now – but, even so, I want to be present in my daughter’s life and enjoying it fully, not always looking for the best angle to photograph her fun.

    I like the Truman Show analogy but, as parents, it’s more than just us sharing every bit of our own lives – we’re also sharing our kids’ lives and, like Truman, they’re not really aware of what’s happening and what the implications are; that gives us a huge responsibility to be careful about what we show, doesn’t it?

  9. says

    I’ve never really got Snapchat so Instagram stories is fun but not a big thing for me. I just can’t see why if I’ve gone to the trouble of creating a beautiful picture I’d want it to be temporary. I know exactly what you mean about it becoming all very Truman show, the irony being that the Truman Show could never exist now because he’d have googled himself by now! The pressure to keep up with all the latest social media is huge and disproportionate to what I would get out of the time I’d need to put into it given that it’s not my job so I’m quite consciously stepping back a bit at the moment, in search of that elusive balance!

  10. says

    I don’t really have time for videos and don’t understand the excitement of snap chat or point of IG Stories so I don’t take part apart from a couple of tried on stories. I don’t enjoy watching them so it’s just an extra thing I can’t be bothered with. I’ll just use IG normally because that does the same thing and I started using it for me and my photography not for my blog.

    It is so hard to step back from social media and sharing but I suppose now I share less on certain platforms including less on my personal Facebook, but more on the ones I enjoy.

  11. says

    So pleased someone else feels like me. I actually have so much more going on in my life than what I share online (although I’m sure lots of people would be stunned to hear that). I’m not going to start randomly filming myself or my family unless it’s for a specific reason. We have a clear ‘this is work/review/opinion/tell them what you think of it kids’, and the rest is not. I can see why you’d chronicle an event or 1 day for a job, but videos mashing together people’s everyday life are weird and I can’t understand why they’d want that scrutiny or pressure. I have referred to it as ‘The Trueman Show’, and I think attempting to keep it up you’ll crack like he did.

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