Smoke and Mirror Storytellers

While I continue my self-imposed exile from all social media, I’ve been going out for a number of morning walks and observing things around me.

It’s pretty interesting what you start to notice once all the noise of modern life and the internet world is shut off, and one thing I’ve noticed in particular is the smoke and mirrors behind the lives of most people.

I started to think about this because while I was out for my walk in a park, there were two young men – likely university students – who had just bought some Starbucks coffee and placed their phones down facing them and leaning against a lamp post.

I’m pretty sure the intention was to get some kind of video recording and showcase their Starbucks coffee and fashion sense on a bright and early morning. I think it was TikTok on their phones.

Anyway, these two young guys were waiting for people to pass behind them before beginning whatever it is they were going to do, and to be honest I found it kind of strange to observe.

I don’t mind that people really use social media or post photos that look neat, but one thing I noticed was the positioning, timing, particular pose work, fashion etc. was all being lined up to make it seem like they were in an overexposed, heavenly place with clean floors, cool fashion and a hot Starbucks. It was all presented as a fantastic, dream-like life.

I then looked around them and it was just a cold, quiet but sunny morning with a bunch of cute ducks waddling around, nibbling on food. It was beautiful in its own simplistic way, but the reality of that was closed off to the world of TikTok – the kids were doing kickass pose work looking like BTS in a model shoot. The reality is though, they’re probably university students living in tiny dorms and with little life experience.

I mean, I get it. It’s just peacocking – and for those who don’t know what peacocking is, it’s behavior that all animals do to attract the opposite sex – and yes, we’re also animals. We all do some peacocking here and there because we’re horny and like attention, whether you claim to do it or not. It’s pretty natural and everyone has their own style to it. And if you insist that you don’t and you’re different….stop fucking lying, because that is also peacocking (I’m different than other guys hurrr).

But I digress, I get the point and I understand it’s just a thing that people do, but what made me really think about it was the complete smoke and mirrors behind it all and what it presents to people who observe via the app vs what actually is in reality.

Outside of the applications, the filtering, the photos and professional cropping to make you look thinner than you are, reality is very different. The heavenly, overexposed light is usually not there, people are mostly getting in the way of the photos, and while it looks sunny and warm, it’s actually really damn cold – it’s winter in Japan, after all.

The smoke and mirrors is all of what people see when they observe through the lens of the digital though, and when it’s compared to their own life and without knowing the full context, it can often convince people that their lives are mundane, without color and lacking in excitement.

Well, given my social media exile, my daily walks and observations recently, it’s not entirely untrue that your life is mundane – but here’s the thing, everyone’s life is quite mundane.

That sounds rather pessimistic, but I don’t mean it in that way.

Think about your daily routine. Mine for example, involves getting up and prepping my coffee, taking a shower, having my coffee then heading out for a walk. It’s quiet, cold and dark. After that, I do a lot of document work or prep for a lesson, then I ride my bike over to an office and teach. Sometimes, I head back home and do some exercise, writing or what have you, then get on with my day.

My life is pretty routine, and it’s actually quite mundane – but if I word it differently, I can paint it in a more vibrant way:

I get up and brew my European coffee, take a hot shower, enjoy the sunlight while I drink my fresh black coffee, then head out to enjoy the glorious sun on my 5km, cool and breezy walk around a park with clean streets and cute ducks that quack away in the morning. The air is clean and the world is quiet.

That’s all story telling, and it makes for more engaging writing, but it removes all of the mundanity of what actually is, and social media filter photos and videos do that even better with its video footage, music and effects.

It’s all smoke and mirrors, it’s all peacocking, and it’s all designed around building up a nice ego, telling a story about yourself in such a way to escape the reality of the ordinary.

Your life is probably very ordinary, as are the lives of many people you follow on social media – but the perception is designed to show you it’s not.

Clearly, there’s strategic benefit to this. You’re marketing yourself aka peacocking. Like I said, everyone does it. It takes a long time to get to know someone very well – years in fact. What we show on first impression is our best, and the stories people create about us is based largely on that first impression. My rule is to be as unfiltered and raw as I possibly can be and to go against that, which some could argue is also a type of strategy – I just find it’s a bit of a bridge burner, too. Anyway…

Why is all of this social media shit a problem?

Well, for starters, it distorts reality. When you’re presenting your life as being in Ibiza all day with big breasted chicks and tight asses, you’re telling people that this is your entire life – and while all of that is desirable and fun, it’s highly unlikely that what is being shown is all there is to your life.

You might just be on holiday, or renting out the girls (people really do this) for a girlfriend experience or whatever. Of course there are some very wealthy people who can do this on the daily and quite often, but what’s the bet that the other 95% of their life is doing mundane tasks like paperwork, managerial shit, general morning routines, etc?

I don’t doubt that these experiences are a consistent thing in a lot of people’s lives, but social media gives the impression that it’s all there is. It’s a distortion that drops context and can make you feel like your life is complete shit.

Next, it’s destroying your enjoyment of reality. I walk approximately 5km on most mornings, and while it’s cold and often cloudy, being able to sit and just enjoy the silence before work and admire all the animals waking up, alongside trees gently swaying in the wind is really nice. It’s calming, I observe a lot of details and am able to just enjoy the process of being alive and the sheer mundanity of it. It also gives me a ton of time to think about my goals, what needs doing, etc.

Living and the process of it is often very, very ordinary – and that’s fine. The problem with the world of social media though is it tends to show people that the world is way, way more interesting than your shitty life. It’s one of the main things I’ve noticed since beginning to cut off social media – I just enjoy my whole life much more, including the seemingly mundane parts.

I think this is part of why depression and mental illness is on the rise, too. It’s absolutely fucking insane looking at the statistics of people popping pills in the US in particular – it just keeps going up, and I think that it’s not just because of bad philosophical ideas in ones life, but also because people have distorted, overblown expectations as to what they need and what their life ought to be. Sure, you live in a nice city with access to basically everything, but sigmawolf69 on Instagram has photos of him leaning on Bugatti Veyron’s on the daily in Switzerland somewhere. He also has really expensive clothes and there is a group of hot models all around him. My life sucks and my wife is fat (omitting the fact that you too, are a fat shit).

It’s all marketing really, and marketing often conditions you to think you need more than what you have, and diverts you away from truly enjoying the things you already have.

On the less extreme, you see people post photos of their families and houses, too – showing a big house, telling the story of how they “own a house” and everything is slightly overexposed, filtered to omit any dirty details and enhanced in color saturation to really make it pop on the screen.

It’s nice, but it’s still storytelling – it’s smoke and mirrors to hide the days of the kid shitting on your favorite shirt, the house having termites, the wife being a bitch and the husband mad because he can’t get a blowjob anymore. The story also omits that maybe they don’t own the house, but just own a mortgage – the bank owns the house. You’d be very surprised how many houses the banks actually own. Cars too. Holy shit you better hope a recession doesn’t hit.

It sounds like I’m trashing people’s lives but I’m not, I’m trashing the smoke and mirrors and asking what the reality of the situation is. It’s more relatable that way.

There’s a certain grit and realness to a lot of older photos that isn’t really in the modern day anymore. You’d see cranky old geezers with a wart on their face and a house that’s halfway built. Women who don’t hide their beauty spots and it adds a certain charm and attraction to them. There’s reality in those photos.

Everything now is AI filtered and calibrated to perfectly outline someone’s face and fix their slightly wonky nose, and music is plastered on top of all videos posted online because it dramatizes the scene of what is really just people walking down a street with rented Gucci bags.

Much of it is marketing, a lot of it is narcissism, and it’s a rat race of who looks the best. Smoke and mirrors, none of it is real, and it distorts what reality is really like. Can you tell I’m a cynic?

When you switch off from it all though, your mind tends to “reset” and you start to just notice what is around you. It might initially be somewhat disappointing to realize that most women do have skin pores, majority of men don’t own Ferrari’s and Gucci bags are actually a pretty big waste of space and cash for most people.

But there’s a grit and sense of joy in being around what is real. It keeps you grounded and aware that nature, time and movement are a constant, and nothing stays plastic and perfect forever. Perfect is also astonishingly boring. There is also no dumb BTS music playing while you cook your fucking eggs.

The silent noise of reality is what we all share in common and build something from. I’m fully aware that we built social media and all this amazing technology, but like any tool, it’s how we use it that dictates if it’s doing good shit. if we use it as a means to evade what is real and construct a false image, then we disconnect from reality itself and lose touch with what makes us human.

Building stories and narratives is a good thing – it’s what we do to share ideas, experiences and build from there. It’s also the reason why good art and stories are good and remembered forever – they remind us of what is good, what is worth pursuing, and gives us the spiritual fuel to keep going.

That said, if we build stories that manipulate and compartmentalize the world, omitting all the ugliness and dirt, then we see everyone as a perfect façade – we see the mask of the world of forms, but not the mask of here and now. Social media looks perfect, but underneath it is potentially insane.

It’s all storytelling and false ego.

There’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of narcissism, bravado and filtering – just don’t let it cloud who you actually are.

…That’s all I got. I don’t know how to end this. Go donate.



7 thoughts on “Smoke and Mirror Storytellers

  1. I loved every word of this blog, Mr Frog. It really IS smoke and mirrors and as a girl (okay I’m 44 but whatever) there is a HUGE pressure to suddenly look like an Instagram model which as you’ve rightly pointed out – just isn’t realistic. Or achievable. I love that you go for a walk in the mornings and I love that you notice ducks. I found myself guilty of ‘setting up’ the perfect photo while I’m on the beach, at lunch with a friend or on holiday. I wait ages sometimes to get that perfect shot – with no one else around and the insta filter makes the sun brighter, the sky more blue and suddenly I’m on a million-dollar holiday instead of in a tent by the tea…which as you reminded me – is probably far more amazing. Lol. I learnt so much from this blog. Keep writing. When I sell my book for millions, I’ll definitely send you money xx

    Liked by 1 person

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