Last night some friends and I were talking about how we all share images of ourselves on social media as if our lives were perfect. We curate impressions. We manage what we share.
When I recently posted a Facebook cover photo of myself on a swing, one friend commented, “You have such a fun life.” I wanted to rip the picture down. I felt disingenuous… because obviously I’d posted the picture to telegraph my fun quotient, my free spirit… but I was self-aware even on the swing when I saw my friend snap the photo. I realized I wanted to be seen that way. I had created a photo opp more than I had simply chosen to jump on the swing and go.
And I was caught when I saw the “You have such a fun life” comment. Because although I do have a fun life in many ways, and I definitely do have many/most elements of a very good life, and my problems are all First World problems (“Where should I go on vacation?” “Do I have time to run by Whole Foods?”)… well that’s not the whole picture. I’m often angsty, intense, or interpreting things wrong and spending too long in a people-pleasing zone. I’m often dragging around with menopausal symptoms. I’m often listening to broken records (lies) in my head telling me I’m not enough, I’m not good enough. And I don’t always feel fun.
So of course we manage what we share; I sure do. No one wants to be the poster child for a broken, messy life. No one wants to be the person who Instagrams a breakfast plate that tells the truth: that we had Eggo waffles for breakfast, Eggos with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” drizzled (or glopped) on top — and that we ate that in the car while yelling at our spouse.
What if we waged a war against curated lives and simply told the truth? Just for a week. Reality checks on Instagram. What if we all showed the averageness of our days, the fact that often nothing media-worthy was happening? But better yet, what if we believed that the joy is in those quiet moments of paying attention to the person in front of us, to the bug on the windshield with its neon colors, to the grumbling of our stomach or the beauty of the sunset? What if we believed that the present moment was cool enough, even in its ordinariness, particularly in its ordinariness? What if we remembered that it’s even more amazing if we simply stay in that present moment and don’t rush to share it with an audience that we play to, hoping they will think our lives are perfect and hoping they will “like” whatever we have curated for their reaction.
If we all told the truth — life is ordinary and special, painful and beautiful — then we’d all feel less despair or disappointment when we compared our own lives to others. And besides, we’re usually comparing our insides to someone else’s outsides, as some wise person originally put it. And coming up short, unnecessarily.
If anybody wants to have a reality check for a week, go post your Instagram handle over at our Facebook page. Mine is CaryUm.