The gist of the article is that we (and young women today in particular) like to present an image of success and perfection and positivity to the world (particularly on social media) -- when, of course, the reality of our lives is often a lot darker and messier.
I've written before about the pressure we face in today's society to "think positive," look on the bright side and downplay the sad stuff -- so this was right up my alley. Especially when I read this paragraph:
The “lucky girl” hashtag tells the world that everything just happened easily, without lifting a finger. For instance, the woman who writes #luckyat32 underneath the picture of her two adorable children might not have said that she had children after seven wrenching, expensive rounds of IVF. But social media isn’t a place for hashtags like #triedforyears; it’s an alternate universe where everything is attributed to good fortune.Of course, while nobody wants to be a wet blanket on social media, you don't want to appear to be too happy either. Several of my FB friends have been posting about the "#100HappyDays Challenge." I wasn't quite sure what it was all about, until I found this article: "#100HappyDays? I ended up feeling miserable." Hmmm, interesting....
...when I posted something envy-inducing, I was conscious that my 'happiness' was bound to end up making someone else feel rubbish about themselves.
Most of the time it felt like I was contributing to the idea that we all have a social media 'brand' - a carefully edited version of ourselves. I might have been telling the world about my great plans and my career successes – but they never heard about my bad days, or the things that went wrong. It was all very one sided.
And nobody wants to feel like they're oversharing. Coincidentally (or perhaps not??), I also found this article, in which the author begs, "Forgive me if I overshare on social media." In her specific case, she was worried about what her friends thought when she announced on Facebook that she'd had a miscarriage.
I wanted to be honest and open about my experience, so other friends who had been through the trauma of miscarriage could talk to me about it, both for their benefit and my own. And given one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage I wanted my friends to know they’d have someone to talk to if, in future, they had the same experience.
Reactions to my post ranged from “Um, that was an interesting decision” to “Wow, you’re so brave”. Neither of these reactions seemed to fit the bill for me. But I was sure of one thing: some of my friends had relegated the post to the lowest of social media rankings: oversharing.Well. I have a few friends who frequently post about how "lucky" or "#blessed" they are. I have referred to myself as lucky, on Facebook & here on my blog. And I AM truly lucky, I know, in many ways. I have a wonderful husband and extended family, a nice home full of lovely things, a warm bed to sleep in and plenty of food to eat. I'm in pretty good health. I'm 54 and essentially retired. That makes me a rarity these days, I know. Most of my problems are of the "first world" variety.
But these articles got me thinking about how much I share (or haven't shared) about my life on Facebook, and about how I may have shaped people's view of me, for better or for worse.
I am sure some people look at my childless/free life and think "Boy, she sure has it easy." Maybe, maybe not. Sure, I don't have to deal with sleepless babies, puking toddlers, college applications & tuition fees, juggling work and family. But on the other hand, most of my friends with kids have never had to deal with infertility, infertility treatment, or stillbirth -- and I don't think they have any idea of the struggle we went through to try to have a family. I am sure our stillborn daughter is just a shadowy memory for most of them ("oh yeah, that's right, they lost one, didn't they...?"), and of course, unless you have been through a similar experience yourself, you have no idea how deep the wound goes, how much it affects everything else in your life from that point onward.
They might look at me & dh, now basically retired at a fairly early age, and be envious. They don't think about the fact that, for 30-odd years, we worked hard, lived relatively simply, and saved, saved, saved for this day. They don't take into account the stressful jobs we both had, the pre-5 a.m. wakeup calls, the long, tedious commutes that made for 10, 11, 12-hour days, at minimum (often longer).
Of course, there's a fine line that separates those people who like to post about how "lucky" and "blessed" they are, and those whose posts are an endless litany of woe. I've tried not to post too much on Facebook about the joys of retirement, of being able to sleep in and have tea with girlfriends and do fun little day trips with dh. I don't want to rub my good fortune in others' faces.
On the other hand, I've also tried to be careful about what I post about Katie, about infertility & childlessness, pg loss & grief. I know these are subjects that are still taboo in some people's eyes, and I try not to overdo it. I don't want people to feel sorry for me.
On the other hand (yes, there's always another hand, lol), taboos aren't going to disappear unless we talk about them and bring them out into the light. A little discomfort can sometimes be a good thing. So I try to strike a balance. I don't talk about these things a lot on Facebook, but I don't try to hide the fact that I lost a child either. I post about her on significant dates like Aug. 7 & Nov. 14 and maybe Mother's Day. I don't "share" a lot of posts or articles related to these subjects -- but I will sometimes "like" them, recognizing that they may still show up in my friends' FB newsfeeds. (How passive-aggressive of me, lol.)
It's a fine line. But I'll admit that sometimes I WANT others to feel uncomfortable, to remind them about what I've been through. Because life isn't always easy or effortless or lucky or blessed, and it annoys me when people seem to think or imply that mine is, especially when I'm feeling otherwise. Yes, I've been lucky, but I've also been through some tough crap (as everyone has) -- and if I've managed to deal with it with some measure of grace and success, heck, I want credit for it. ;)
How about you? Do you feel the need to present an airbrushed version of your life on social media? Or do you let it all hang out?