When we were kids, my friends and I would stand back to back and stretch our spines as long as we could. Like soldiers at attention, chins up and necks extended, we would do all we could to gain another inch of height. Then, keeping our hands as flat as possible we would draw a line from one head to the other and proclaim a winner in the growth race. Somewhere between childhood and our teenage years we quit the comparisons and focused on other things and I was kind of glad about that – measuring up is hard work.
What I wasn’t counting on and hadn’t even noticed was that I am still standing back to back with the girls around me and suddenly, the playground has gotten bigger, much bigger. Instead of measuring our heights, we are now (thanks to the world of social media) measuring our lives. In the playground of my childhood it didn’t matter if you weren’t the tallest because you could find other areas to excel in. Now though, the playground is Facebook and in all honesty, it’s a bit like living in a movie preview.
We get these brilliant snapshots of life in bite-sized pieces and they look exciting, glamorous and polished. We forget, while we are stalking our friends’ statuses, that what we are seeing is a specially selected, carefully edited and cleaned up moment in a real life. We make the mistake of thinking that others have perfection whilst we are stuck working our way through the blooper reel. When we take someone else’s highlights and make the assumption that the whole of that persons life is sunshine and cupcakes we are setting ourselves up for heartache.
But how do we avoid Facebook’s highlight reel effect? Is the only answer to be found in the log off button?
Maybe, or perhaps we need to change how we perceive Facebook. We need to remind ourselves that this is not the whole of life. For every shiny photo we see, there are just as many other parts of life that we choose not to photograph or quote. If social media is going to lose its power to make us feel inadequate, we need to recognise that the same people who are posting; “The kids came home to hand made macaroons” are probably hiding in their bedroom later that day because they can’t face their kids crazy sugar high.
My point is; no life is perfect, everyone has bad days whether we choose to share them with the world or not. If we can remember that, it makes it easier to celebrate our friend’s wins without comparing our life to theirs.
Whilst we are on the topic of the things we don’t post, maybe we could all do with a little dose of honesty in our own updates. I tend to not post my less than glorious days because I don’t want to be that person (the one who spends their day complaining publically about their first world problems) but the flip side to that coin is that no one else gets to see a complete picture of what it means to be me. I haven’t learned the balance yet between being upbeat and being honest. My friend Suzie though, doesn’t have that problem, she is a great example of a life lived out loud. I love her updates because she is candid about her life (it’s ups and it’s down) without losing her sense of humour and perspective. In fact, here’s one of her recent posts;
“There is nothing like coming home from work to four fighting children and unwinding by sitting on the couch in a puddle of melted zooper dooper! Aaahhh, this is the life!”
Not a perfect life, just a real one.
Honest status updates like these give others the permission to sit back and laugh at our own messy, less than ideal existence and it’s a gift I’d like to be able to give to my friends. The grass may always look greener through the filter of Facebook but if we’re smart, if we can learn to see beyond the veneer, maybe the grass will start to look like something else. Maybe it will look like a safe place to sit down with our friends and laugh together and build the kind of connection that a place like Facebook was created for. I wonder though, can we do it?