The Selling of Perfection – Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

The Selling of Perfection – Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

The other day after a pint of beer (which tends to turn my filter off and give me diarrhea of the mouth1) I launched in to a diatribe about the selling of fantasy lifestyles on Instagram.

There is one account that I follow – it’s run by a sub-30 year old couple who live out of their car. They’ve done it for a few years. And the girl who is in most of the photos always looks amazing. No puffy eyes from a shitty night sleep. Nary a stray hair anywhere, perfectly tanned legs and a flawless bikini line in itty-bitty bottoms. Clothes are never wrinkled or dusty.

When I look at this girl who sleeps in a fucking car and how camera ready she looks all the time, I can’t help but think… is this for real? Ladies, just think about keeping yourself hairless while living in a car. That seems like it would be one of the first trappings of convenient life that would easily get lost. No? I want to see some fuzzy armpits!

And the photo captions are always so twee and philosophical. There is never any, “Bob is allergic to the wildflowers growing where we parked for the night. He was congested and snoring like a buzzsaw all night long. Considered smothering him to death with one of my wrinkle-free white cotton blouses. Back is killing me. Car smells like Bob’s boots.”

Somehow we buy in to these lifestyle bloggers and Instagrammers. We buy in to their perfect story, their perfect lives, we throw a couple bucks into their Kickstarter. We think we do it because we want to high-five someone who is living the life we wish we could. But, even they aren’t living the life you think they are.

On the surface, we think that photos tell the truth. But thinking about my own futzing around and trying to frame “ugly” things out of view – I realize now that the pictures that I take only tell a partial truth. They sell a narrative that may be sorta real but isn’t necessarily reality.

Things that look perfect never are. We’re all a little weird, a little messed up and might not have shaved our legs today 🙂
1. Every time I try to type the word “diarrhea,” I mangle it. Often my bungled typing is so bad that my spellchecker doesn’t even have a suggested word. And, no, I don’t type diarrhea all that often. Maybe that’s my problem? If I typed diarrhea once a week maybe I’d finally get my shit together. That… was probably a bad choice of idioms.

14 Replies to “The Selling of Perfection – Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid”

  1. I think that we are all guilty of that to a certain degree. I usually try to not take pictures of the junkyards that a lot of Alaska yards are. Anyone who’s been up here will tell you that people tend to keep things around just in case there is something that they need. But I don’t think that it takes away from the topics being presented. We all look forward to the views, stories and snapshots of other people’s adventures.

  2. Taking a photo that does justice to the things I see is a true challenge. I don’t think there is a lens that performs like our eyes. To tell the story we see, a number of photos are needed, and usually the scene the lens sees is cropped in some way. Along the way some really beautiful photos emerge.

    But ‘reality’ remains elusive.

  3. First — I was angry you didn’t provide a link or user name to the 30-something couple so I could become lost in the fantasy myself and donate some kickstarter bucks. A little research revealed a number of beautiful lifestyle bloggers — living the #vanlife and/or jetsetting. I realize now what some of the requirements for this kind of life are:

    1. Conventional, traditional, natural beauty. Male or female.
    2. Under 35. Preferably under 30.
    3. Have friends who are professional photographers.
    4. Obsessive desire to someday have your own reality TV show.
    5. Ability to never, ever allow any hint of the trials and tribulations of everyday life intrude on your fantasy.
    6. Never write or say diarrhea.

    I do understand the gap between fantasy and reality though. I certainly filter and censor the things I post on Scooter in the Sticks. I make a lot of crappy photographs. I swear and curse. I try to make sure I look ok in pictures. Maybe I’m just peddling some kind of other fantasy lifestyle — just doesn’t have bikinis or exotic locations.

    Bottomline — all of us probably crave a fantasy life of some kind and the internet is the place to find it from lifestyle bloggers to hardcore porn and beyond.

    Right now I’m living the fantasy breakfast lifestyle — bowl of Cheerios sans fruit, slice of toast with a whiff of Promise margarine and a glass of water. For dessert I’m planning a vitamin designed for old coots. I should post a photo of it all…

    Great stuff Fuzzy. You have your head on straight.

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

    1. I felt like it would be wrong of me to point out any one account specifically by name – like i shouldn’t ruin it for anyone else. besides, it could be any one of 100’s that all have a similar story.

      I don’t disagree about craving fantasy. But i think now with the bombardment of imagery in our daily lives, we’re getting warped. “its in a photograph so it has to be real.” But it isn’t. i think young people especially are driven to achieve these absurd standards. when they don’t or simply can’t… they can become disillusioned.

      The truth is, I still appreciate this particular account greatly, but I’m not buying in to the “everything is wonderful and beautiful at all times” aspect of it. The pictures are pretty. I like that they want to make the world beautiful. but knowing the truth about staging photographs and keeping a blog, part of it is smoke and mirrors. any suggestion that “this is our life” in a raw manner is false. At least that’s my take.

      1. Conventional, traditional, natural beauty. Male or female.
      YES! Fat ugly people need not apply.

      2. Under 35. Preferably under 30.
      See point 1.

      3. Have friends who are professional photographers.
      Maybe there’s a business there for you. You can Vespa to where car-people park and live, then for a small fee document their lives for Instagram. You will of course make everything look natural and beautiful. Philosophical quotes can be added for an additional charge. As an introductory rate, 5 quotes for just $10! 😉

      4. Obsessive desire to someday have your own reality TV show.
      “reality” show.

      5. Ability to never, ever allow any hint of the trials and tribulations of everyday life intrude on your fantasy.
      Right? Even flat tires are fun and silly in these fantasylands. Fuck off with that noise. 😆

      the grit, the struggle, the overcoming – it’s important.

      6. Never write or say diarrhea.
      Say it loud and proud!

      Diarrhea!

      1. Your ponderings of perfection have possibly brought you to a nexus — one that requires expanding beyond your essays on your girly motorcycle blog. I’m thinking your pronouncements need a louder voice. Maybe you can start by selling t-shirts displaying wisdom you’ve uncovered.

        The first — “DIARRHEA”.

        Always a pleasure reading your stuff…

        Steve Williams
        Scooter in the Sticks

  4. What you describe (a media-life) is relatively new. It didn’t exist before movies and television. Media presentation of life allows for misrepresentation. And devotion by fans.

    Movies and television created a “celebrity culture” which has been democratized by the Internet. Now everyone can pretend to be a movie-star. So many try. It’s empty and meaningless, but that doesn’t dim the enthusiasm of people whose lives feel poor and sad.

  5. Well said. You’ve pretty much summed up every TV reality show as well. The sad thing is that so many people believe that what they’re viewing is truth – when it is the farthest thing from.

  6. Having half a dozen family members in the movie and TV biz, some behind and some in front of the camera, a 7th who was on one of those real estate renovation reality shows, and a daughter who went through most of the process to be a house-hunter type show before she begged off, I have it on fairly good authority that (BIG surprise coming up here folks) the reality quotient on-screen is something south of 1%. I can only imagine that online reality is even less. Except for moto-bloggers of course. ;^)

  7. So true! Just a couple of months ago someone shared a CNN article in my feed about 2 lifestyle bloggers who had to confess that their 7 years of “living the dream” was not always perfect. First, I was flabbergasted that this would ever make the news. Living the dream takes work! Go figure! Second how spoiled have we become if we believe an adventure is like a 2 week all inclusive beach vacation. Adventures are amazing but they also make you cry in frustration and rage. And you normally start to stink. But I guess in the end no one wants to look at those pictures. At the very least no one wants to get in the elevator with us! 🙂 Great article and thanks for calling attention to it.

  8. I think as humans we’ve always wanted to believe the fantasy was real, hence our fascination with the glamorous lives of movie stars and other rich and famous. We want to see the beauty and the adventure, not the actual reality. What’s sad is when those lines blur and we can’t differentiate. We all have selective blinders on to some extent, but it’s so important to keep things in perspective.

    The flip side to some reality TV is seeing the harshness of the world, relationship struggles, etc., and sadly these are usually as fake as the supposed bright side. It’s just entertainment and revenue dollars after all.

    Great post. Now go ride and have a wonderful weekend 🙂

  9. Wow, so much to think about here!

    I shun ‘reality’ TV in general (with a tiny few exceptions), but really enjoy so many Moto and RV blogs. I think that may be because bloggers tend to share the good and some of the bad, in hopes that others can avoid pitfalls we’ve had to overcome.

    When I look at my media feeds, most of the images are pretty, serene or unusual, which is really ok with me. Mostly because there is just so much ugly in real life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning ‘faking’ a perfect life, but I certainly understand focusing on the good stuff. That does not mean I am going to go live in a car and try to deny the ugly realities, lol, but I am not sub-30 either. And Kathy, diarrhea in a car…seriously awful! 😉

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