Peering Behind the Curtain…

This is the true story, of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, work together, and have their lives taped. Find out what happens people stop being polite, and start being real…

In the early 90’s, reality tv took America by storm.  In many ways, it was the precursor to social media – we got up close and personal with people who decided to bare all (and sometimes it really was ALL) to cameras.  As time has passed, reality TV has undergone many different iterations – we’ve had the Real World, The Bachelor, The Real Housewives of every city under the sun, and approximately 20 different iterations of the Kardashians.

At the same time, as social media has infiltrated deeper and deeper into our everyday lives, we have worked hard to carefully cultivate the public image that we are portraying.  Why do we get so much joy from watching Luann de Lesseps fall from grace, but face tune our own pictures to the point that we are unrecognizable?

Full disclosure – as I write this blog post, I am en route to California for a bachelorette party.  I, and the twelve other women attending, will likely Instagram the heck out of this weekend (feel free to check out #PinotGriSgro if you are so inclined).  Things to be on the lookout for: beautiful Napa vistas, silly bride captions (#LastFlingBeforetheRing) and too many boomerangs to count.  Things that will definitely not appear: the fight that my sister and I will inevitably have about who gets to shower & blow dry their hair first, the disaster that our kitchen will be when 13 women make tacos after spending the day doing wine tastings, and the inevitable hungover scramble to clean the house before checking out on Monday.

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I haven’t studied enough psychology (read: any) to know the underlying triggers that cause such actions, but I’ve got some theories.  Before our phones gave us a behind the scenes glimpses into everyone’s lives, people only knew what we chose to make public.  I made it out the door to school every day, with my makeup and my hair straightened.  But no one knew that I had gone through three pairs of tights that morning because I kept getting runs in them, or that I emptied literally every drawer in my dresser trying to find my tennis clothes for practice that night.  And they wouldn’t have, unless I told them.  It was the pre-social media version of keeping your mess hidden in the closet, where it belongs.

Now that we can share our entire lives, that idea feels like it is almost on overdrive.  Sure, I’m a full-time graduate student who also works as a Graduate Assistant in Admissions twice a week, and has an internship three days a week.  But, at least according to Instagram and Facebook, I also have to post very styled photos of my weekly prep, and filtered gym selfies, and adorable pictures bundled up in cold weather gear lamenting the weather in the city that I chose to move to.  It doesn’t help that right next to the photo my best friend posted of the three-course meal that her husband cooked for her shows up alongside the picture of Chris Hemsworth’s wife, who has legitimate abs after giving birth to twins. 

Social media has given us the ability to curate the content of our lives, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.  After giving birth to her daughter, Chrissy Teigen was very honest and open about the fact that celebrities have resources that the normal person can’t imagine: https://www.today.com/parents/chrissy-teigen-gets-real-about-motherhood-having-it-all-t108853.  But that hasn’t stopped people, particularly women, from trying to live up to these ideals.  There are countless apps that can smooth your (invisible) wrinkles, cover up those pesky gray hairs, and help you lose those pesky 5 pounds you gained over Christmas.  There are numerous diets that promise crazy results in an unfathomable amount of time – I’m skeptical of any diet that guarantees a certain amount of weight loss.  And for the record, rumor has it that Chris Pratt gave up drinking beer for two years to get in shape for Guardians of the Galaxy.

And this trend is having a detrimental effect on our lives: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/05/10/why-kids-and-teens-may-face-far-more-anxiety-these-days/?utm_term=.6e2d1e5ade2e.

Fortunately, as we’ve discussed in class, the Internet isn’t all bad.  Celebrities can be seen posting no make-up selfies or behind the scenes looks at their post-baby bodies.  Or, like Chrissy Teigen, saying that they can do all of this because it is literally their job – they are paid to look good, and have the teams (and spend the money) to do it.

Now I just wish all of the girls from The Bachelor would admit they don’t actually eat carbs.  Until that happens, I’ll try to be more honest about my life on social media – including showing the hot mess that is my kitchen after meal prepping for a week, or posting a selfie as I finally finish my last-minute packing for California and sit on my suitcase so that it closes and I can carry it on. 

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Because the real reality is that no one has it together all of the time.  And that’s okay.

13 comments

  1. I really liked how you analyzed why we love reality tv shows – we want a peek into the real lives of celebrities who seem so distance from us. Typically we only focus on people posting the highlights of their lives without including the difficult moments, so I really like that you gave examples of celebrities trying to be real with us from time to time. I think viewers like those types of posts because once again, we feel just a little bit closer to celebrities. When we see celebrities posting about their struggles with acne or body weight issue, it somewhat makes them feel more human to us. I think as long as remind ourselves that celebrities have the money and means to look “perfect,” we can steer away from the detrimental effects of social media. Great post and loved the personal touches and humor!!

    1. Thank you! And so true- it’s so easy to forget that celebrities (and reality TV stars) have access to resources that most of us can’t even fathom. Remembering that these people are human is crucial, but sometimes difficult to do. I know it’s something I struggle with, but you definitely have the right approach!

  2. I loved this post. Mostly because I am a self-proclaimed Bravo addict, but also because I found it very interesting how you thought to take a deeper look at why reality television has become so popular in recent years. I agree that it is partly because we secretly find pleasure in becoming witness to others’ flaws, especially those experienced by our favorite celebrities (I really appreciated the Luann reference). Even many sports teams have come out with their own forms of reality television series in recent years. For example, the Boston Bruins now film ‘Behind the B’ during every pre-season to give loyal supporters an inside look at what really goes on in both the locker room and many players’ personal lives. If you’re a fan, I’d definitely recommend!

    1. Greetings fellow Bravo addict! Your point about sports teams is so interesting. I wonder how ‘Behind the B’ has affected fan engagement with the Bruins on all platforms. I can hazard a guess that Bruins fans love it, and will definitely check it out!

  3. First, I love that you started this post off with the intro to The Real World, as it immediately piqued my interest and had me wanting to read more. Social media is such a great way to follow along with friends and celebrities alike, but what we’re really following with is their “social media persona”. Yes, there are some people that share more of their everyday lives than others, including the struggles and messes and bad days, but for the most part it’s just snapshots of what we want others to see. I like how you talked about the bachelorette party you are attending and what parts of the trip are sure to make it on to social media and what parts aren’t. This is a perfect example of how just about everyone thinks when it comes down to deciding what parts of their lives to share and post about. I feel like being open and honest about everything when posting would be great and would help others see that there’s nothing that’s absolutely perfect about anyone, but the harsh criticism, constant comparing, and social media “trolls” that exist online make this difficult to do.

    1. So true! There are actually some great Instagram accounts that do this really well. I would recommend checking out @celestebarber – she recreates celebrity Instagram photos, and then posts them side by side. Definitely worth a laugh, and a good way to remember that social media really does allow us to curate our image.

  4. Honestly your blog could not be more relatable. I feel like many of us are guilty of only posting our self proclaimed memorable moments to social media, making our profiles look more like highlight reels than a accurate depictions of our everyday lives. Yes I abhor this fact of social media, but imagine social media without the filters, without the ability to determine which pictures are out there for the whole world to see. I’m sure not many people would use it any more. I think social media gives people the freedom of expression to be who they want to be 1000 pictures and 5 filters later. But hey, who are we to take that away from them. However, I do think that this “highlight reel” we call social media has some major down sides for the mental health of people. Before we used to complain about body image problems from the models on magazine covers that were photoshopped, but how much more personable does it make it when its your best friends posting pictures of their fit bods and you can’t quite fit in? Just some food for thought!

  5. In a society where I feel like we are constantly hearing negative things on the news, I personally think a lot of social media, like reality TV, is used as an escape from reality. Watching the Instagram stories of bloggers or the latest episode of the Bachelor lets us take a break from our reality and the reality of the majority of our peers. Although I’m not a huge proponent of the Bachelor, I do tend to watch episodes with my roommates when I need a brain break and a little levity. While I do realize the negative effects of the “highlight reel,” I believe it can also be used as a way to see all the positive moments happening around us.

  6. Social media is weird. Let’s be honest. I’m also such a hypocrite. I get frustrated with followers who portray an unreal/perfect life. Such as the friend who post a picture of herself having so much fun at a party (even though I’m standing next to her, and she’s actually moping). But I also get annoyed by people who post every detail of their life. Like Shelby I do not need to know that you have the stomach bug and that you gave up soda for 3 days. I think for me its about posting the good stuff, but only when it’s honest. I post sporadically, when I do fun things or when I’m happy, but I don’t go out of my way to make things look good. Even reality TV is fake, people never tell it all. But I guess there are all some things about ourselves that don’t need to be plastered across the internet.

  7. Before I get into anything else, I just want to say that I LOVE Chrissy Teigen for that very reason you described. She keeps it real (sometimes almost too real, but who’s complaining?). I really enjoyed your blog because it sheds a light on the undeniable reality of the world we live in today. Our minds are boggled with unrealistic expectations, false portrayals, and misleading images. We’ve become so preoccupied with investing ourselves into other people’s lives, that we oftentimes fail to give ourselves the proper care and attention we need. I’m definitely guilty of that myself (I can watch hours of KUWTK and the Bachelor). We have to constantly remind ourselves that everyone deals with chaos and hardships, and that’s okay! Thanks for keeping it real!

  8. Loved this post. To be honest I’ve never been a fan of reality TV. I’ve never understood the Kardashian obsession, and I’ve definitely expressed my opinions about how The Bachelor is unrealistic and the concept of the show is absurd. But to be fair, I’m also a hypocrite. Since my roommates conveniently happen to have to show on, where can you find me every Monday from 8-10pm? In front of the TV, telling Colton which girl I think he should send home like he can hear me. I’m definitely guilty of stalking Kylie Jenner’s instagram feed, and have I ever instagrammed a picture of myself where I hate the way I look? Of course not. I think we’re all guilty to a certain extent, and thats okay, as long as we recognize that just as the version of ourselves we put out on social media doesn’t come close to encompassing all that we are and all that we go through, the same is true for every person who posted that perfectly filtered selfie we scrolled by, and every celebrity we think we want to be.

  9. Your post made me think of this article I read recently: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/31/tech/facebook-deactivation-study-happiness-informed/index.html

    Basically, this study showed that people who deactivated their facebook were happier, but were also less informed about factual news. Personally, I’d take that trade-off any time it was offered. I’m happy to get my news from other sources if it means that I’m not comparing myself to an unrealistic ideal of other people’s curated vacation, food, or body photos (yes, guys experience body jealousy too). I love your point that people should be more honest on social media (see: Chrissy Tiegan). Sure, it may not get as many likes but I really think the benefits outweigh the costs!

  10. I really liked your post and the topic it addressed. It reminds me of Professor Kane’s comment that the thing most guys are looking at online is girls and the thing most girls are looking at is other girls. I really appreciate how you wrote about both personal experiences and celebrities. Social media doesn’t truly capture our full lives, only the positive parts. I think your presentation title really captures the fully picture, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” There are so many facets of social media, but it is so easy to fixate on how people look perfect and what they are doing that we are not. Reading your post, it reminds me to stay grounded in reality and remember not everything on social media is true, the girls on the bachelor definitely eat carbs.

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