I’ve heard the argument, in various forms, that social media, blogs and our now prolific online presences in general lead people to feel unhappy. Studies have shown this. We see people’s lives only as they want to show them. They filter the information and often times literally filter the pictures. We put a nostalgic tint over our breakfast and take the extra off our thighs. Why? Why do we all do this when we all know we are doing it? Just like anything I guess, because we can.
I’m actually not advocating the dissolution of Instagram or the boycott of Facebook. I love social media. Love it. I love the connection and the creativity and the information. I’m sad that this kind of sharing can make people sad, and I hope as it continues to evolve there will be some kind of bell curve where people start realizing or remember that we are ALL doing the same thing. I’m not arguing that our love of social media is altogether a bad thing.
What I’m actually saying is enjoy it, visually, and read it, for leisure, and know that just like you are portraying things exactly the way you want to, so is the other person. It is what it is. Use your frontal lobe and realize that. And as T. Roosevelt said in the way a wise person with a mustache can: Comparison is the thief of joy.
Not long ago we had our annual family photo shoot. Our very talented very lovely photograph Samantha somehow took an hour of windy weather and 3 year old gone wild into these really lovely pictures of our family. She does this every year for the last 4 years. I love these pictures, LOVE THEM. And I immediately changed my blog header, my profile picture, my desktop background.
These pictures are images of my family that I love to share. Maybe these are the epitome of the filtered nature of our visual self representation. Taken by a professional. In outfits we planned. With mascara on and my hair done and some gorgeous editing. Guilty. As. Charged.
But I love these pictures even though this isn’t how I look on your average Wednesday at 1:15pm. Because it isn’t. I’m not sharing them because I want people to think my life is a touched up photo op. My life isn’t. Your life isn’t. No one’s life is. But damnit can’t I just look cute in some pictures?!
I recently spent 3 weeks parenting our girls without Dave when he headed to Japan ahead of us. My parents were amazing and helped me so much but at the end of the day no one can replace you partner.
It was hard.
Fun. But hard. Manageable. But hard.
We talked on Skype every day, sometimes twice, and a few times we would take screenshots of each other for fun or for blackmail or whatever. I love the moments of seeing our girls see their dad on the screen, but let’s be honest. If you want to see the anti-Instagram version of yourself, look at a grainy screenshot taken in bad lighting over Skype, caught with your face in a pose you usually try not to capture. Or with your teeth out, as it may be.
I’m not going to put these on our holiday card anytime soon, but I don’t really mind sharing them either. Because this is how I look sometimes. This is the face my baby makes when she is over me as much as I am over her. It just is what it is.
But are these photos, almost certainly (hopefully?!) worse than the real thing, any more ‘real’ than the shots from our family photo shoot? Probably not. It’s all somewhere in the middle, in the gray, where most truths live. On the day to day I look worse than my professional photos and better than that sweaty Skype shot. Use your imagination.
As fun as it can be to choose and share the versions and visions of yourself that you do over your social networks, at the end of the day it is just an image. A portion. A bit of what you let people know about you. The real me, the middle ground me, isn’t embarrassed of the grainy-screenshot version of herself. And I have no illusions that we are simply and only the uber-smiling perfect family captured in our professional pics. It seems like that should be obvious, but I know with the constant stream of information we see and the control we have over our perception and our obsession with perfection, it probably isn’t.
Neither image is ONLY us, but the beachy, laughing, hair-did shots are the ones that show how I feel about us. I’m as tired as I look in the Skype pic, more tired maybe. So so so tired. But I’m also as happy as I look in the ‘better’ photos. Happier maybe. Very, very happy.