Big Fish: the Potential of Social Media?

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Our sweet Magnolia parked in front of my grandparents home– a place of refuge for any passerby needing a warm meal and a bedtime story.

Today is my Grandma’s birthday. She is a woman who has lived nine more lives than most of us ever will, and she has the stories to back it up. I grew up sitting at her feet with my cousins while she entranced us with her stories– all based on truths, with perhaps minor (ok, sometimes major) embellishments. My entire childhood I could never figure out how a little indian boy from a reservation in New Mexico could grow up to be my grandma, but she was so convincing in her tales of running barefoot through the red dirt, that the logistics didn’t really matter. What was more important was the picture of adventure she was able to paint for me. I wanted to explore the guano bat caves and dart through the sagebrush, watching desert sunsets fall behind the plateaus. Her stories let me taste adventure.

Coming into a new age of technology, where adventure story telling has taken off on various social media platforms, I am left wondering if what Matt and I present to the world through Instagram and blog posts have the same effect on others as my grandma had on me. Of course, I could never match her ability to tell a story– full of drama, laughter, anticipation, and tears. But, as Matt and I have created the story of “The Bus Life,” we have a desire to inspire others to get outside and adventure more. We have worked hard for this life without boundaries, and we wake up in wonderment of what each day might hold. I know this is a unique and perhaps temporary stage of life, but I’d like to think we can live this way forever. I want to strap on my skis, tie up my rope, and tighten my shoes each day as we venture off into a mountainous horizon. If something were to happen, and we end up working full-time jobs again, we always have these stories to look back on to encourage us to keep getting outside adventuring daily.

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Photo taken by our friend Dan Clayton on one of our many desert adventures.

Over the past months there has been a lot of commentary about social media painting an unrealistic picture of reality. I agree with this on the one hand, but on the other, I find it absurd that we take social media so seriously. Models post pretty, edited photos of themselves selling others on the brand  they are paid to advertise, parents post the successes of growing children, and adventurous folk post pictures of their conquests. These are all just parts of people’s lives, regardless of who they are. Of course there is no way of telling the whole story, nor is that something I, and I would imagine others, want to do. As authentically as a person tries to present themselves on social media, it is impossible to know what it is like to live in their shoes (or shorts– Matt hardly ever wears shoes.) Private moments of self-doubt, tender moments between friends, and the many, many daily mistakes we all make are not the things I (or others) want to broadcast on social media. In the end, the snapshots we all present are just pretty pictures and words giving a brief idea of an experience that we can choose to admire, and perhaps be inspired by. I find this to be a beautiful thing.

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My grandparents, Howard and Esther, displaying hand-turned wood bowls at their local farmer’s market.

Now that I have jumped up on the soap box of social media commentary, I want to bring you back to my grandma and her storytelling. For many years of her life, my grandma traveled through the south pacific as a missionary with my grandpa. Imagine the cutest little couple from Las Vegas, Nevada, fully immersing themselves in Polynesian culture, far away from the life they were accustomed to living. They learned from the natives and shared their own skills of art, woodworking, english, and religion with strangers they now call family. My grandma tells stories of sea serpents acting as guardian angels while shipwrecked missionaries swim their way back to shore, and of a broken man coming from the dark world of a wretched god into a world of light and love with a new religion and beautiful family. Story after story. Experience after experience. My grandma tells her stories, and I still listen with the same wonderment I had as a child– even though I can’t always determine truth from fiction. If the story inspires, are the fuzzy details really that important?

We are all masters of our own storytelling– and let us all tell our stories! As creatures yearning to connect, we now more than ever, have a platform to express ourselves. Let us all learn from each other and find inspiration daily. And please, let us not take each other, and particularly each other on social media, so damn seriously.

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