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A voyeur is defined as (1) a person who derives sexual gratification from observing the naked bodies or sexual acts of others, especially from a secret vantage point. And (2) a voyeur is defined as an enthusiastic observer of sordid or sensational subjects. Basically, a voyeur is someone who likes to “look in” on the lives of others. The film, The Truman Show (1998), portrays wonderfully our voyeuristic tendencies. Unbeknownst to him, Truman Burbank’s (Jim Carrey) life is being televised into homes, into the local diner, into the athletic club, etc. “The Truman Show” is a live broadcast of Truman’s every move and it has viewers’ rapt attention.  Reality TV shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Big Brother, The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Survivor allow us to “look in” on the lives of others. Oftentimes these reality TV lives are scripted (or staged) but nonetheless, we love looking in via our TV set.  When a car accident occurs or when see a police officer interacting with a citizen, we have a tendency to slow down and “look in”. Of course, this is where we get the phrase “rubber necking”.

Another tendency or rather a need we have is to be known.  To be known implies that an ongoing relational investment is required. To be known is normal.  A wife wants to be known by her husband; a husband wants to be known by his wife.  An employee wants to be known by his employer; an employer wants to be known by his employee.  A football player wants to be known by his coach. In many instances, the normal human need to be known has been replaced with the striving for significance. Or maybe we can say, that in many instances, the normal human need to be known has been replaced with the desire for attention?  Some seek significance by posting, writing or saying outlandish and inflammatory things. Some pursue significance, or better attention, by their scanty attire. Some seek significance by embellishing (or falsifying) their educational or professional credentials. Some pursue significance by out performing their peers on the job.  Some seek significance by their home address (or zip code) or by the car they drive or the company they keep. Some seek significance by sharing quite personal and ‘shocking’ information via the various Social Media outlets.

Speaking of Social Media outlets, it seems to me that Social Media — Snap Chat, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. — brings our desire to be known and voyeurism together.  To be sure, some go over board with striving for significance or wanting attention; nonetheless, we like to “look in” while they do.

Perhaps, voyeurism serves our need to be known.  Social media outlets serve our voyeuristic tendencies.  Maybe that’s why these outlets are so addictive for many. The normal human need to be known is normal; what is not normal is the over-the-top ways people seek significance – most of which is unhealthy. Or better, what is not normal is the over-the-top ways people seek attention.

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