#046 Completely Normal
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I’ve been thinking about how often we’re faced with stretching the truth for more visibility online. I would say this thought is specifically for writers, but since everyone has the right to publish on social media, we’re all writers.
The fastest growing social platform, TikTok, is built entirely on the premise of “Holy shit there’s no way that’s real” type of stuff. But unlike Instagram, everything looks real. iPhone footage in American suburban homes with unkept bedrooms checks off the familiarity we all need to trust a stranger, while the illusory dialogue or performative act that you would never see on a day to day basis keeps us coming back.
My life is not eventful most weeks. I go to the gym, work most of the day, eat dinner with Kenz, then fall asleep 15 minutes into some show or movie. That’s really it. That’s the entire story.
And your life probably looks similar to mine. Mostly mundane, with a few interesting moments. But what you said about your life online may appear to be a different story. Whether you added some extra words to a conversation for the perfect tweet, or fired off a #tbt photo from Santorini to give the illusion that you’re always traveling, or just simply made a TikTok because everything on that platform is a human concoction and dice roll hoping that the algorithm picks us to be viral. When everyone is constantly trying to figure out how to make their lives worth talking about, we’re almost always faced with a few options before we hit send.
Tell the truth
Stretch the truth
The Internet rewards options #2 and #3, mostly because the things that don’t actually happen to us are more fun to think about. At this point it’s near impossible to determine whether or not what we consume on the Internet is reality or a stretched version of what we know to be familiar. And perhaps the scariest thought of it all is that I don’t care how true it is. And you don’t either.
*Clicks ‘like’ so the algorithm feeds it to my friends*
I found this Reddit thread earlier this week that talks about all the things that happen in movies and TV shows that don’t ever happen in real life. Like responding to emails and text messages right away, or how characters never set a time and place for things.
They’re just like “I’ll see you at the thing” and the other person is like “Okay yeah I’ll see you there.”
Then in the next scene they’re all there on time and nobody took a wrong turn or texted each other to confirm if the function was still happening or stood outside awkwardly while texting the person who invited you asking how to get into the building. Life is displayed perfectly because entertainment is designed to be performative. And that’s okay because the people on screen are acting and we know we’ve signed up to consume an idealistic slice of life.
Jean Baudrillard talks about the effect media was having on humanity in 1981 through his writings in Simulation and Simulacra—where he argued that modern life was becoming increasingly isolated from what is “real.” He stated that life today was nothing more than a murky system of symbols and signs—culture, media, consumerism. And from this, coined the term hyperreality.
Instead of recognizing our motivations as distorted responses to this simulation, we see our desires as reasonable responses to our actual reality. As a result, true meaning cannot be defined or explained. I guess the easy way to put it is that the cultural forces in the world are rendering life to become more meaningless every day.
While reality is crumbling without us realizing it, we’re subconsciously making it all about us in a bigger way than humans ever have before.
A TikTok trend emerged during pandemic that showed Gen-Z kids looking out the window of a car while it’s raining or dancing and running off into the sunset while an audio track played that says:
“You have to start romanticizing your life. You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character. ’Cause if you don’t, life will continue to pass you by. And all the little things that make it so beautiful, will continue to go unnoticed. So take a second and look around. And realize that it’s a blessing for you to be here right now.”
Kyle Chayka covers this well in an article titled We All Have “Main Character Energy” Now, where he explains:
“The impulse to see oneself as the focal point of the action is all the more powerful as we emerge from the dull isolation of the pandemic, when activities were limited to the likes of re-growing scallions and feeding bulbous sourdough starters. Post-covid, we want to reclaim control of our stories, exert ourselves upon the world, take our places as protagonists once more—and then post about it. During quarantine, the Internet was one of the few tethers to public connection. But publishing evidence of any social engagements, even C.D.C.-compliant ones, came with the risk of being shamed as reckless or self-indulgent. Now, suddenly, much of that fear of critique is gone. The “return of fomo,” as a recent New York cover described it, means the return of jealousy-inducing Instagram stories and glamorous TikToks.”
We’re all on screen now. Your favorite influencer, artist, and girl you went to high school with. They’re all performing, all the time. Every single day we contribute online is an audition at center-stage, and when we press send, we’re crossing our fingers that an algorithm chooses us and fulfills our basic human desires—to be loved, to be cared about, & to be funny.
We’re so enamored by the altering of reality & seeing ourselves at the focal point that we’re likely unable to tell the difference between what is real and what is not real. And in a world that doesn’t exist, there is little consequences for our actions. Stuff generally matters less, impact is hard to measure, and we’ll always do what’s best for ourselves. For example, we can say insensitive things about characters in movies from our couch because they can’t hear us, and they’re not real people with real feelings.
We’re the main character inside a world that is becoming artificial but remains real in our minds, putting ourselves in a position that allows the whole world to watch our every move.
In some capacity, we have all to perform to stay afloat. But these days, when my life is uneventful, I’m doing my best to acknowledge it and let it be so, before I wake up one day and realize that I’ve spent an entire lifetime chasing after human necessity in a way that is impossible to obtain
Ideas from me
You either find something you care about or you’ll be stuck with something you don’t.
Either way, life demands our commitment.
II. EVERYTHING WITHIN
It seems obvious but I’ve actually found it quite difficult to explain how connected everything is.
People often come to us at MW.S for only a website, but we often have to express that you don’t just “get” a website. It’s the design, user experience, strategy, transitions, hover states, interactions, load times, bounce rates, art direction, typography, the color system, logo mark, photography, video, and copywriting.
A meal is never great because of one ingredient, a book is never worth talking about because of one individual chapter, and a home is never made beautiful by one piece of furniture alone.
The things we covet most in life are the result of the choices we make from the beginning. The components within ultimately matter the most. Not individually, but collectively.
III. GROWTH BOTH WAYS
If you’ve ever seen the growth diagram of a tree, you’ll notice that the growth that is happening beneath the ground is often just as large, if not larger, than the visible part of the tree above ground.
Nature and humanity are the same in this way, and many other ways. The systems and habits that we practice behind the scenes are required to take place before results become visible.
A quote from somebody else
"Funny how the way people assess risk reveals whether their confidence stems from entitlement vs. compounding competence. It's much easier to be brave when you never really expected to get this far to begin with. [I] think bravery is a speed thing too. If you built a lot of risk tolerance through consistent exposure therapy, you’ve probably trained yourself to crave forward momentum and the thrill of making big bets. Having something handed to you doesn’t come with that same need for speed.”
— Molly Mielke
Links worth sharing
🧸 MOUTHWASH and Jay Cover design a playable web identity for kids brand Woset, It’s Nice That
🖤 I stopped taking photographs for a long time because I was frustrated with finding a look & feel that felt right. These new ones I made for PDA feel like a step in the right direction.
👔 Mackintosh’s Prodigy Kiko Kostadinov, SSENSE
📖 How a Book is Made, NYT
🪑 Really loving Vince Skelly’s primitive and sculptural design practice.
👁 Headline.Vision uses headlines from the New York Times to creative generative images using AI.
Thanks for another week!
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