I have a very love-hate relationship with social media. In past generations, “Keeping up with the Joneses” was about peeking over your neighbor’s fence to check out their landscaping, or perhaps a subtle glance at your classmate’s shoes as he walked by your desk.
In 2017, it has become an entirely new beast. Social media has given new legs to competition with your “neighbors”.
Every day, as we scroll through our social media platform of preference — be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — we are bombarded with the perfect images of the lives of those that we follow. We see pictures of perfect Pinterest-worthy houses with nary a pillow out of place. We see snapshots of cute little families out for a day at the park, children dressed adorably and acting like angels. We see a status update from Sally, gushing about the beautiful bouquet of flowers her husband had delivered to her office. And we see a photo of Mr. Brown-down-the-street’s brand new car shining in his driveway.
Keeping up with the proverbial “Joneses” seems harder and harder to do.
What we don’t see in that 2×2 image on Instagram is the fact that the perfectly designed home only looks clean in that particular corner; the two weeks worth of laundry waiting to be folded are sitting just outside the frame. What we don’t see is that it took two hours to get everyone ready and out of the house to go to the park, and 30 seconds after the picture was taken, the youngest had a meltdown because he hadn’t napped, or the middle child spilled juice down her white shirt. Or perhaps that family outing to the park was the first time they had left the house in a week and a half because the mom has been suffering from postpartum depression. We don’t see the argument that Sally and her husband had the night before that prompted that “romantic” delivery of flowers. And we don’t see the enormous pile of debt that Mr. Brown-down-the-street racked up so he could park that status symbol in his front yard.
I once read a quote (and ironically then posted to Instagram) that said “Happiness is found when we stop comparing ourselves to others.” We are so caught up with the greener grass we think we see on the internet, that we forget to stop and look at our own lives and realize what is amazing about them.
I have a beautiful daughter, a husband who loves me, childhood friends who I consider like sisters and who make me laugh, parents who are my biggest cheerleaders, a roof over our heads, food on our table, and my family is healthy. I honestly couldn’t ask for more. So why then do I start to feel miserable or inadequate when I start scrolling through my news feed?
We are all — myself included — guilty of sharing only the most “Instagram-worthy” snippets of our day to day life. In reality, on any given day, you can usually find a bin of laundry that looks like seven people live in my house instead of three. When I take a picture of Reagan to post online, I usually sweep aside a pile of toys or books and try several times to get the best shot. We have lived in our house for nearly two years and there are still boxes tucked away in closets and the garage that we have never unpacked. There are days that I don’t shower, and Reagan and I never get out of our pajamas. We most often have good days where I marvel over how big and smart she is getting, and then we have not so good days when she refuses to nap, when I cry with her during a meltdown, and when she won’t listen to “no”. (Even though I know full well she knows exactly what it means…)
Our fixation with capturing the perfect moment to share with our followers is also distracting us from enjoying the perfect moment that is actually happening in front of us. It could be a moment with our kids, or the chance to interact with a kind stranger that we missed because we feel the need to pull out our phone every time we have to wait in line at the grocery store/coffee shop/post office.
I don’t want you all to get the wrong idea…I still love social media. I have a huge extended family — my mother has twelve siblings — some of which have either never met my daughter, or have only seen her once or twice. I love the fact that I am able to share photos of her daily and they can watch her grow up from wherever they are. It is a powerful marketing tool for me to promote both my blog and my Etsy shop. I use it to interact with other mom bloggers or “mom-preneurs” and get inspired. I even use it to look at cute pictures of babies and puppies.
My plea for us all — again myself included — is that we remember to stay “real” online. Post about the meltdowns, the rough days. Don’t be afraid of letting that couch full of laundry show in the background of the picture of your kiddos. Let your followers see the not-so-perfect corners of your life once in a while. Log off and take stock of the things in your life that are perfect just the way they are.
Remind yourself that what you see when you scroll is just the tip of the iceberg and chance are, everyone is going through crap just like you are.
I don’t want my daughter to grow up and base her worth on how many “likes” her latest selfie received. I want her to have realistic expectations about her life, feel confident in her skin, be strong enough to be whoever she is going to be.