6 June 2018

Truman Show - the reality TV and social media prophecyImagine being watched by the world 24/7/365, having every move scrutinised, having thousands of people invested in your life and wellbeing, purely for entertainment.

Last week I wrote about a sci-fi writer who’d made an uncanny prediction on how our lives would be affected by smartphones. It seems that David Gerrold wasn’t the only writer whose work became accidentally prescient.

Twenty years ago, The Truman Show gave us a peek into a world where everyday life became entertainment. Mundane tasks were fascinating. Yet the concept was seen as far-fetched, surreal, even though reality TV was already growing in popularity.

The Real World in the early nineties influenced Big Brother and the now constant stream of Love Island, Gogglebox, Kardashians and Housewives of various places, there’s no escaping modern reality TV. All of which are dialled-down versions of The Truman Show.

A recent magazine article covering the film’s anniversary noted: “In addition to forecasting the reality-TV craze, the film predicted… privacy invasion and the existential quandary of whether to live for yourself or an audience—be it television or social media.”

Reality TV has become reality

Living for an audience is now part of modern life. For me, though, the eye-opener here is the reversal. In the film, Truman discovers that his life has been carefully orchestrated to entertain others. Now, we’re actively choosing to orchestrate our lives to entertain others – whether that’s with the perfect Instagram or quirky YouTube clip. The tables have turned and we’re choosing to open our entire lives to a public audience.

In the aforementioned magazine article, The Truman Show actor Laura Linney said: “The Truman Show is a very foreboding, dark movie—and, unfortunately, our world had gone even way beyond that.”

She’s right. We are so distracted by not only constructing our own perfect lives for the consumption of others, we’re also continually distracted by the lives of others. We’re forgetting to focus on our own growth. Instead of investing time and energy into constructing an image within a screen, we should be ploughing that into creating meaningful changes in our lives and others.

Couldn’t that time we spend watching others on television or comparing lives on social media be significantly better spent on our own development?

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