Lately, the web is full with stories that call for a reality check. You might have heard about the photographer who “exposed” with a series of interesting photographs our “lying” friends. It struck me what kind of buzz this stirred on the Internet. It’s as if people were surprised to see and read that pictures are only snapshots of the world around us. More importantly this hasn’t necessarily anything to do with lying to anyone.

The Instagram World

The people should rather ask themselves what kind of reality they are looking at when checking out an Instagram post. What is this small square telling me exactly? Which part is actually important? Does it matter that the neatly presented notebook, is sitting in a messy room? I don’t think so. The picture emphasizes on the part of reality which is important for that person in that moment. And that’s why they’re sharing it.

messy room

The stir of Socality Barbie taps into the same source. The account owner deconstructs what Instagram is about: showing people something you want them to see. This will, in the long run, lead to staged pictures. And again a chosen reality, which in the case of Instagram does lead to a selfie and food porn culture, but also to scripted holiday pictures or similar positive or even inspirational pictures.

Sociality BarbieInstagram

Everything is a Stage

This is not new, maybe the channels are, but people staging and manipulating scenes in a way to show others what they see, is around since we started taking pictures. Back then you had to stage them in order to bring, whatever part of reality you wanted to show, on paper. Ultimately any kind of photo-shooting is staged and the photographer (hopefully) did this in order to show us something interesting, different or maybe odd. Where is the harm in that? We know how it works, yet there’s this web-buzz about it. It’s as if we would start complaining about actors faking to be someone else on the stage, calling them liars, while we’re at it. We don’t. And we don’t because we realize and accept that it’s staged, scripted and just one version of reality.

For that reason alone we have (for better or worse) remakes, remixes, covers and other copies of media. People see something different in them.

I like to see reality as something very personal, relative and unfinished. Reality is something which belongs to the owner. It starts with things like vision (colours), hearing (sound, the sound of your voice aloud and the recorded version are rather different, aren’t they?). But it doesn’t stop there. Depending on your experiences and circumstances your reality might even change over time.

As reality is a relative matter, its perception is subject to the “owner” of it. This reality is like a tunnel vision.  Tunnel vision is  the

loss of peripheral vision with retention of central vision, resulting in a constricted circular tunnel-like field of vision. And, by extension, any very narrow point of view.

Tunnel Vision

The Reality Tunnel

For that reason I’d like to call it “reality tunnel”. This term has been introduced by Timothy Leary and later Robert Anton Wilson discussed and developed the idea further. As with beauty, so lies reality in the eye of the beholder. Wilson described this in his typical eloquence in “Maybe Logic”:

Every kind of ignorance in the world all results from not realizing that our perceptions are gambles. We believe what we see and then we believe our interpretation of it, we don’t even know we are making an interpretation most of the time. We think this is reality. – Robert Anton Wilson

But it really doesn’t have to be that complicated, French novelist Anaïs Nin brought it to the point when she stated:

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. – Anaïs Nin

This obviously doesn’t mean that reality has (necessarily) an objective truth, but rather that we are accessing that truth-reality with the help of our senses, conditioning and other filtering systems. Hence, the reality tunnel allows us to focus on a particular thing without being distracted (see also the cocktail party effect).


Wilson (left), Leary (right)

Ultimately this means, that staged happenings (photos, interviews, conversations or even this blog post), are merely a snapshot out of someone’s reality tunnel.


After reading this post, I hope to have made the importance of questioning people’s motive clear. They don’t have to be bad or negative but merely showing you something and you need to fit it into your reality tunnel. The transition from trying to understand their reality tunnel begins with understanding your reality tunnel. In order to understand it, you need to fully and openly understand yourself, your surroundings, your and their hopes and fears.

This is a difficult and hard process, but it gives you plenty of insight in mechanisms of this world and allows you to enjoy yourself and everything else that much more.

Understanding yourself is zen and that’s reason enough to conclude with a typical zen question:

Who is the master who makes the grass green?

Let me know what you think.

17 Replies to “Reality”

  1. TheDeath185

    This remembers me of the movie “Truman Show”. Truman Burbank lives in an utopia he doesn’t realize that he’s part of a show. But he’s the main star of the show without him realizing it for years. His perception of the things is his “reality”, but the the reality itself was outside. For him it was his reality where he lived and had his friends. Matrix the same thing…

    So the master who makes the grass green is yourself. It’s what you make out of what you know and learn that makes your own reality. You’re the point 0 in the universe and everything around you is your reality.

      1. Stefan Post author

        Interesting story! She should have really tried to find a way to be part of both worlds. It really seems she only lived for the exposure in social media. They can be a great enhancement, but it should only be that.

        1. Daniel Suranyi

          See, that is an interesting subject, which may deserve its own reflection. I thought the same at first: social media is a way to expose your reality. That is how most people use it. Sharing your reality with others. Then we have the example of your article, where someone creates or stages a little piece of reality. It could be to give a message to the world or to give the public a different picture of your reality. Then we have cases like this girl: creating a complete reality within cyberspace, which is not only disconnected from her as a physical person, but at a certain point even takes over this person. Kind of feedback effects, it reminds me of the TV show “Max Headroom”. I did not yet make up my mind if I should consider it really bad as such to create cyber-personas. We actually do not know since good old chat-days and now even more in social media if the person behind the profile is as it seems or if it is even real. Similar to fictional figures like James Bond. They have their own biography, you think you know them, they are simply filled with life by an actor. Humans always seemed to have this need to be someone else or to create virtual personas that represent certain things that they can’t have themselves. James Bond has the action, the martinis and the girls, while his creator sits in a shabby room with a midlife crisis (I don’t know if that is treu for Ian Fleming, this is just to make a point :))

      1. Stefan Post author

        That’s the question, yes. But ultimately I don’t think it makes a difference as long as we manage to differentiate between our personal realities and the fact that we have to somehow create a reality in which we both know “this grass is green”. This doesn’t answer the existence part, but then again, if we agree on a reality we make the grass exist 😀

    1. Stefan Post author

      it’s all in your thoughts. Therfore it exists even when you don’t look at it or don’t recognize it. As you think of it. At least that’s how I see it. 🙂

  2. braindan

    A bit less philosophical, but trying to link what you have in the introduction on the laptop picture and in the conclusion on trying to understand people’s motive: You might be right that a large proportion of the online buzz was just a kind on the surface political correctness and trying to join the wave of “how can someone lie to us by trying to tell us his room is clean while it is not”. The social web makes people judge faster and considerably lowers the barrier to voice first un-reflected ideas. They would not have written that by letter or even email to a newspaper if they would have shown the same picture. First this would force you to reflect, the action requires more effort. Second you would not have the immediate audience: liking, sharing and snowballing things very quickly without checking even the source. So my real issue with the limited view on a scene is not if they guy tried to hide the fact that his room is messy by posting the only clean spot in it or if maybe his message is rather that he is happy to have a new laptop. What makes this combination of limited information and fast-paced delivery dangerous is rather conscious manipulation. Looking at pictures from the refugee crisis, articles on the wars in Ukraine or Syria or simply re-interpretation of statistics. Politicians and journalists very often are very skilled in showing you a small part of the image and then turning the message. In a way that sometimes you even cannot prove it wrong. That is where the real issue comes. There are several examples of smart cropping or more advanced image editing where the real message the picture would have given is turned completely around. To take the messy room analogy: I have no problem, as you rightly state, to widen my thinking beyond the laptop and the messy room and reframe it into my reality tunnel. I do get a problem if a politician would take the very same picture to tell us how clean their party is. Once you show the rest of the room, he would blame terrorists for the mess. And people would believe both messages. Not even asking if the picture even shows his room.
    The social networks and pace of the web caused public opinion to be much more volatile, more radical and lowered the barrier between opinion and action. For the good and for the bad. Society should not only try to understand the motivation behind a post, with or without surroundings, but be much more critical in checking the real source, not bluntly believing the headline and the over-simplification a picture presents.

    1. Stefan Post author

      I see your point. My text was focusing primarily on a single being, and in a way excluding society in its totality. Nevertheless you highlight an important and intriguing point. If I understood you correctly you established the potential gravity of publicly exposed people or entities doing similar things. This could lead to a distortion of reality which isn’t easily discovered by individuals, even if they put a lot of effort to look around and question statements or facts.
      You are certainly right when you state that social networks caused public opinions to me much more volatile, radical and have lowered the barrier between opinion and action. Especially the latter two aren’t easily distinguishable anymore. Coming back to the room analogy, even showing the laptop isn’t an obvious statement anymore. Is it about the laptop, about the design, the brand? Or maybe it’s about a personal opinion, let’s say “how I do home office”. On a bigger scale this can get scary, as people seem to be less opinionated “offline”.
      One of the positive side-effects, so to speak, of the realization of an individual that there is such a thing as a relativity tunnel or filter on your mindset is, that you find questioning even (personal and general) established believes much easier than without this effect. At least this was the main upside I had once this concept hit me.
      The “what”, “where” and “why” are hard questions. As they force you to truly reflect on things and not just take them as they are. Fact checking is in this world in many ways easier than ever. Nevertheless, people tend to take “facts” as they are, never even thinking about questioning it. One important reason of this phenomenon is the huge amount of information (useful, correct, exaggerated, distorted, truly informative or simply not) to which we are exposed. Basically we get bombarded with all sorts of things continuously and then stepping aside, taking some time and actually put in some effort to check something seems simply too much for people. They just “go with the flow” and hope (knowingly or not) that swarm intelligence will take care of what’s truth and what’s lie. Unfortunately we have seen it plenty of times that this doesn’t work and can cause serious problems (such as wars).
      As society is a coexistence of many individuals, it is of utmost importance in my opinion that individuals know themselves in order to be able to question society.

      I am very happy that my article nurtured such an interesting discussion!

      1. Daniel Suranyi

        Thanks Stefan for the elaborated reply. Indeed the “swarm intelligence will take care” argument you bring is the dangerous bit. Not on an individual level of course where you can choose which things you believe, not believe or simply don’t form an opinion on. On the level of groups, politics, nations this very effect is one of the main reasons if distortion we see these days.
        Look at cases like Turkey, where radio and TV channels are shut down and Twitter is controlled. Turkey is still a democracy… Not to speak of Ukraine and Syria of course and the so-called refugee crisis, where the “crisis” word for it is largely media made and social media boosted… Also not the reality as such, but a picture cropped in a very elaborated way…

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