Using Social Media Distorts Our Perception of Reality

Using Social Media Distorts Our Perception of Reality Social media became a big part of our lives when we started the Exploring Alternatives project in 2014.  Now, we post weekly videos and photos about alternative lifestyles, and we also follow (sometimes obsessively!) people who are living the alternative lifestyles that we dream of trying one day.  Participating in social media like this has become so ingrained in our daily lives that it’s easy for us to ignore the incredible influence it has on our perception of reality.

When we decide to share something on social media, we naturally want people to see it, so we end up choosing the most flattering / exciting / out-of-this-world photo or video because those will get the most attention.  This desire for attention becomes a bit addictive and in turn creates a lot of pressure for us to always be doing something that is social media-worthy instead of enjoying the real moment.

A similar thing happens when we watch or look at other people’s posts and only see the best version of their lives.  We perceive that their lives are better than ours, which further reinforces our discontent with reality.

The power that social media has to distort reality is one of the reasons we called our project Exploring Alternatives.  From the start, we knew that we wanted to share our lifestyle experiments with people but we didn’t want to make it seem like our lives were perfect.  In addition to the blog name, we try to balance the positives with the negatives by sharing posts like: our top 3 travel nightmare stories and the challenges of living a nomadic lifestyle; and we’ve seen bloggers like Shelby & Simon do the same with their What’s it really like to live in a van? post.

Our goal is to look at alternative lifestyles realistically so that it’s easier to know what we’re getting into when we make a lifestyle change.  There are inevitably going to be ups, downs, and imperfections with every option but if we take the time to choose a lifestyle that genuinely aligns with our interests, priorities, and values (and with the darn budget) then we’re already ahead of the social media game.

Happy Exploring :)


25 thoughts on “Using Social Media Distorts Our Perception of Reality

  1. tames

    I am thinking about early retirement and living in an RV. One of the best blogs I have read is RV Sue and her Canine Crew. She retired and sold everything to live in a 17 foot Casita travel trailer. She has blogged nearly every day from the beginning of her journey for the last few years. The good and the bad. The nice weather and the crappy weather. She doesn’t complain much, but seems to roll with it. And no, she is not rich and lives quite frugally choosing to boondock much of the time.

    Here in the USA it is becoming increasingly difficult to get health insurance on the road. So this is one thing holding me back right now. I am healthy, but who know when something may happen. We have to be 65 years old before our national Medicare system kicks in. You’re lucky in Canada to have national health insurance :)

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Trames – I’ve seen Sue’s blog before but didn’t realize that she blogged almost every day about her RV life. I’m happy to know that there are people letting it all hang out so to speak :)

      I am sorry to hear that it’s difficult to get health insurance when you’re on the road – hopefully you’ll be able to find a solution to that problem soon! Take care and happy exploring!

  2. Amy

    Hi Danielle,
    I found your blog the other day and am absolutely transfixed by it. The information you present is very comprehensive and enlightening. My partner and I are looking to make some changes in our life and I would love to talk to you more about how you make this lifestyle work. I am wondering if you were locked into your mortgage when you decided to sell your house? I believe you both had work before you started on the road right? Was there ever a time where you had to search for employment while travelling? As you can see I have many questions! :) If you are able to respond, I would really appreciate it. Thank you!

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Amy, thank you for taking the time to check out our blog! Your feedback means a lot to us and I’m happy to answer your questions. When we sold our house, we were only 1.5 years into a 5-year fixed mortgage and ended up paying an $8,000 penalty to the bank for ending the mortgage early. We wrote a blog post about our income sources over the past few years and you can check that out here if you like:
      We lived off of our savings for the first year, then returned home to Canada for 6 months to work some more, and then we secured online work after that. We’ve been lucky not to have to find new work on the road since we’re too old to get the working holiday visas that make it easy for anyone under 30-35 to find work internationally. I hope that helps! Take care and happy exploring :)

  3. Francesca

    I totally agree with this post. I actually stumbled upon another article recently that talked about occasionally posting your “bad” pictures on social media or blog, such as being stuck in the airport when flights are delayed, when you may have gotten sick from the local fare, when you have a tough day because nothing went according to plan, when you are fighting with your travel companion, etc, just to give you & your work a more realistic feeling. Everything everybody posts nowadays makes their lives look completely perfect and we all know that this is not reality.
    To make a long story short, I loved reading this post. Good job! :)

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Thank you so much Francesca! Your comment made me realize that we might be more likely to take photos to remember the good times, but we might not think of pulling out the camera in mid-crisis. Could produce funny results if we did though! :D

  4. Terri

    I so agree with the social media sometimes being able to take over your life. I used to be active on twitter many years ago, and the urge to just tweet all your thoughts is out there, good or bad. And I try to remind myself now when I’m on facebook, etc., that people can be very selective about what they put up there, so i try to not compare my life to theirs (other than being jealous sometimes of how photogenic people are!) It’s one of the things I strive for in my blog posts – authenticity. I definitely see your posts as authentic as possible. One of the things I love about your posts and videos is that the two of you come across as being very REAL, and down to earth.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Thanks for checking out the post and sharing your experiences, Terri! It’s nice to know that I’m not the only who gets jealous of photogenic people on FB and I also like the way you consciously use social media. <3

  5. Shelby

    Great post Danielle! This is something Simon & I question and struggle with a lot, as you’ve seen. Not only on social media, but also as photographers. There’s always a balance in art between showing “truth” (if you can), and making beautiful images and objects. Of course, as artists and photographers we love beautiful pictures and we have to constantly push ourselves to move beyond that.

    On a more personal note, I think this whole “keeping up with the Joneses” thing has been taken to a whole new level with social media. I find myself measuring my success in work, or relationships, or life adventures, against what my peers/friends are posting online. Especially now with the updates from “Linked in”. I got an email the other day saying “40 of your friends have started new jobs in 2016” that almost sent me into a panic attack worrying about if I was doing enough. It’s almost hilarious to think about, but serious too.

    Thanks for the mention of our blog! We’re hoping to find more time to write about our “true” experiences on that road.



    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      You explained the creative struggle better than I ever could have, Shelby, and I love your LinkedIn story, too. I had a similar feeling the other day after watching the Blood Brother documentary (about a man taking care of orphans with HIV in India) – I felt like I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile with my life but I was also inspired. It’s difficult but (I think) it’s possible to transform potentially harmful reactions like jealousy or envy into productive, positive actions. Thanks so much for your comment! I’m looking forward to more Shelby & Simon posts :)

  6. Elaine Mari

    Thanks for this post Danielle. I enjoyed reading it and all the comments too. I love to hear about the nitty gritty of travel as well as the wonder and the joy. I like to write about it too. I find so much joy and so much high in being on the road and in nature that it naturally comes through, I think, even when I write about the rough parts. When I read about others ups and downs I feel connected to them as one who travels and lives her life on the edge and knows the worth of it.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Thank you for checking it out, Elaine! I enjoy reading your posts, too – especially the latest one about how you two went on a faux camping adventure <3 <3 <3

  7. John Montpetit

    Well said. For me that just kicks up my trust in you a notch or two. You’re right, I believe, we always present the better side but it seems like you and some others have tried to balance out the reality of living an alternative with the heady freedom we want. So no fear,it’s always “let the buyer beware”, everybody should check out what you communicating, and develop their own sense of reality.

  8. Linda

    Hi Danielle.

    I just found your site from one of your videos and love what you write about. Escaping from the day-to-day, hum-drum life of working inside for a living and exploring the world is very exciting. It’s best done while you’re young and carefree. (no family yet). I wish I would have been more brave.

    What you say about social media is so true. Plus there are lots more sponsored ads appearing and other stuff we may not want to see. Anyway, great work and I will share this post on FB.

    Blessings for safe and happy travel!

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Thank you, Linda! I appreciate you taking the time to check out the blog and share your thoughts :) Happy exploring!

  9. Daniel

    I LOVE your blog, videos and the way you guys live.
    I travel a lot but always by the common way; bus, take a flight…
    I’m planing to build my own camper van and start travel, but the next time, it would be taking my house with me.

    But I’m wondering about how I might be able to travel around Canada with only 3 month Visa allowed as I’m from Spain
    Do you have some ideas how could I do it?

    I also love Mat art. :)

    Thanks to share and happy travel!!!

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for reaching out! You must be so excited to plan a road trip in Canada! We know quite a few people who have come to Canada and bought a campervan, and then sold it at the end of their trip so that might be an option for you.

      Marta from Wanderlust Vanlife is from Spain and they bought a couple of campers while they were in Canada:

      Another couple who buys campervans wherever they travel is Craig & Lauren from Non Stop Travelling:

      Hope this gives you some ideas for your trip :)

      Happy exploring!


  10. Mims

    Hi Danielle, maybe I am just old school, but at 55 yo I see no need to participate in social media. I don’t do blogging, facebook, twitter, instagram. I have a rich social life and actually have time to garden, hike, volunteer, create art and work. But only because I limit my screen time to 1 hour a day.

    I think you millenials will eventually figure out actual life better than virtual life. You got the minimal piece mastered, that’s awesome. Just keep paring down on social media too…

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Mims! I agree completely! Many of us (including me!) need to create a better balance between real life and virtual life. Happy exploring! Danielle

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