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Megan Marx: The impact of social media, reality television & the ego

Megan Marx has had to endure her fair share of controversy and public scrutiny – one suspects more so than most who leave The Bachelor mid-season. From turning down a rose on the show, to then going into a relationship with one of the other female contestants, to then having to choose between two guys on Bachelor in Paradise – the drama seems to follow Megan around. Yet she really isn’t someone who looks for it – nor deserves it.

Growing up in a strict religious community in Geraldton, Western Australia, Megan was married at 18 and divorced at 22. But would she turn back time to do it all again differently? Apparently not, with Megan telling us she doesn’t regret the path and experiences she has taken – despite all their challenges and twists and turns. Indeed, it’s been these experiences that have now become the inspiration for her latest project – penning novel Episode Eight.

Drawing from her own experiences, Episode Eight dissects the dilemmas and emotional challenges of the story’s main characters Henry and Poppy as they deal with the aftermath of participating in reality dating show, The Eligibles. With clear parallels between Megan’s life and those of the characters, we decided to use the book launch as an opportunity to pull Megan aside to discuss everything from exploring the darker sides of the ego to the effect of social media on her life and psyche.

Congratulations on your first book. While it’s not an autobiography as such – can you talk us through the key messages in the book that align with your own personal feelings?
I’d say I’ve definitely taken aspects of my own experiences and feelings and shoved them into a few of the characters. With Henry, his hearing loss was a bit of a metaphor to what I felt coming off The Bachelor. There was an extreme sense of loss – a loss that I felt was taken advantage of by the media/’fans’ at every turn. Although ‘I knew what I was getting into’, it really was not what I expected or was prepared for. Even though I proclaim to be someone who is fairly thick-skinned and relaxed, the public scrutiny was still too much for me – it was as if my thick skin needed to be Magneto’s f*cking helmet, because otherwise I wasn’t safe from the world. It’s taken time to take off the armour and be vulnerable again.

On Poppy’s side, I wanted to explore the darker sides of the ego. As much as coming off the shows made me feel like a useless ‘thing’, there was some kind of delusional sense of self-importance I claimed over the fact I was a little ‘known’. What kind of people go on these shows and why? Why do people want to be ‘famous’ and at the expense of their dignity and privacy? They are the questions I’ve had to grapple with, and maybe still don’t have answers to.

In your author’s note about the book – you touch on a lot of issues related to social media. Do you think that social media has changed the way the world operates?
We all portray a version of ourselves that is light on social media. A ‘reality’ without shadows and darkness, which doesn’t exist. Then again, I think this has been happening forever throughout history, just using different platforms and in different ways. As far as we all knew, Marilyn Monroe was a beautiful, perfect person – but in reality, hid a lot of pain – this was before SM. Maybe SM is just an accessible ego-boost, if that makes sense? Which I guess, is bad, because we can all partake… wow, I feel like I’m learning something here, ha! We’re all f*cked!

What role does social media play on your own psyche?
I feel personally very immune to the ‘fake’ of social media, because unfortunately I understand its labyrinth too well. Then again, social media can be beautiful, and also good for society if used in the right way. The #metoo movement has really helped society move forward, for example, and impacted my own psyche greatly.

If you could choose a world with or without social media, which would you choose? What career path would you take?
I’d choose without, for sure. Easily. I’m the happiest when I turn my phone off and connect with nature. My career path – I hope – is and will be writing books!

Do you believe your true identity is not able to be portrayed on Instagram?
Gosh, I don’t even think one’s true identity can be portrayed in real life! Humans are complex and it’s f*cking hard enough getting to know yourself, let alone explaining that to the world.

In an ideal world, what role would Instagram play in your life?
None.

In your author’s note – you spoke about a simpler marriage with Chris. Do you think that without Instagram, yours and Jake’s relationship would be different?
I do think that Instagram is a lot about ego. I am unsure whether it’s possible to have a meaningful relationship when you are outsourcing affection from the world in terms of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’. I know this has affected a few of my relationships – from both sides. In a way, it’s a form of emotional cheating, isn’t it? Maybe that’s a bit dramatic – but I certainly think social media is an a**hole when it comes to love.

With Episode Eight, do you feel like you got out some personal messages that you wanted to share with the world?
Yes. About the fickleness of fame, the tragedy of social media, and the darkness we all have but are unwilling to admit or express. The looming Episode Nine really gets into other issues I’ve really wanted to discuss but that didn’t really work for Episode Eight. It’ll explore more issues of sexuality and grief.

Have you always wanted to get into writing?
Since I was a little one!

Do you feel like through writing, you were able to come to some self-realisation that you hadn’t faced before?
Writing has always been a way for me to get my convoluted thoughts out onto paper. It’s an incredibly cathartic experience and I’d recommend it to anyone. Although sometimes I end up with more questions than answers!

If you could have your time over, would you stay happily married without the fame?
No. I appreciate all the experiences I have had. I feel like my skull has been pried apart and my mind filled with self-realisation and knowledge. A lot of that self-realisation was a hard wake-up call and revealed many things I didn’t like about myself – but I’d prefer truth than ignorance. I’d prefer to deal with pains, mistakes and hard-truths than to live under an umbrella. Although I talk about my marriage with love and admiration for the simplicity – there was a lot of emotional manipulation in terms of the religious environment and the sexist lifestyle I lived under the strain of. I’m so happy to have been removed from that.

Five year’s time… what does your ideal existence look like?
Maybe I’ll be on my fourth or so book… pregnant, happy. I’m not sure I ever want to be in a relationship again, but I definitely want kids. Who knows where I’ll be!

Click here to purchase your copy of Episode Eight.

All images: Megan Leto Marx | Portrait images shot by Jody Pachniuk

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