Tuesday, September 22, 2015


An article in The Atlantic (via Facebook) this week caught my eye. The online version title is "The #LuckyGirl's Lie: On social media, admitting effort is taboo." On Facebook, the title reads "The #LuckyGirl Hashtag Makes Trying Into a Social Taboo," and the blurb under the article read: "The myth of the effortless life."

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?


  1. Agree fully. It is definitely a fine line between sharing versus oversharing. I've always had a hate-and-love relationship with Facebook (oftentimes more hate than love), though I also cherish the fact that it allows me to connect with some people easier than in other method of communication. I've actually not thought about how other people view my FB version of myself, but someone told me this: "Make social media work for you" and I've tried my best to do so.

    I do share infertility-related stuff whenever I find something good, but these days it's more about sharing with my kind of people (I've got quite some friends who're CNBCers in FB) than about enlightening the public. Most days I don't care what the public thinks whenever I share that kind of post.

    That said, though, I've deleted most of my travel albums. Now that my mom's on WhatsApp, I can share our travel photos with her via WA and I still blog about my trips in my main blog (as my own diary). Funnily enough, in contrast with infertility-related posts, I am worried that my travel photos can induce envy in people, but the main reason I deleted them was because I rarely got any comments anyway even after making the album limited for only selected people (and in turn it made me envious because I could see how other people's kiddos stuff/photos always garnered a lot of comments).

  2. To be honest, I sometimes think Facebook was one of the worst things to happen to the internet. Most people know my absolute loathing for that place and I won't go anywhere near it.

    I really don't know why people feel the need to present a successful image to the world. I would rather know a person, good bits and bad because both bits make them who they are.

    I'm glad you said that you still talk about subjects that are taboo. I think more people should talk about them because it's the only way to spread knowledge on certain issues. For instance, I wish more people spoke out about miscarriage and what it involved because I honestly felt so freaked out when I was told I would be having one and there was not a lot of information out there about it. Same with infertility. I didn't even know about it until I started trying for a baby and started on the long ivf journey. Again, more people need to bring this awareness out there, taboo or not, knowledge is better shared than kept private. Maybe it'll prevent someone from feeling like they are utterly alone in this whole thing.

    The only "social media" I frequent is blogs. And I have never felt the need to airbrush my life. Good things happen, bad things happen and sometimes there is more bad than good and vice versa. It's just life in all its stark reality. Why try to put rose tinted glasses on it?

  3. Yes, I agree it's a fine line. I posters about this some time ago - that I find the "I'm blessed" comments to be bit like humble bragging, pointing out that they're blessed and I'm not!

    I don't post a lot on Fb, and I try not to complain - not because I want to pretend my life is perfect, but because I know I have it good compared to some friends and family. Still, like you I do want to speak out occasionally, about not having kids - I want people to think about it, but at the same time I don't want pity. It's an uneasy balance.

    PS I think you should comment occasionally that you appreciate not getting up at 5 am. I don't know how you did that for so many years!

  4. I think I'm somewhere in between; I don't airbrush but I definitely don't let it all hang out. I haven't shared anything about infertility on social media because frankly I haven't really been strong enough to converse about it in a public forum. Also, it's so personal and involves hubs as well.

    I hate that people can't/don't/won't be real on social media though. Life isn't all rainbows, unicorns, and glitter and it should be ok to share the difficult parts of your life without fear of being accused of oversharing.

    Which makes me think about how if somebody writes on Facebook that they are being tested for cancer or undergoing treatment for it, the comments are an outpouring of sympathy, empathy, and love. But when a person shares about infertility they are bombarded with unsolicited advice, etc. Ugh.

  5. I have so many issues with the word "blessed" (mostly because I feel like there's this implication of spiritual favoritism that I can't stand), even though I know people who say it are generally coming from a good place. The whole share or not to share stuff is why I quit facebook. I've always thought of it as a cocktail party--if you wouldn't talk about it at a cocktail party, you shouldn't air it on facebook. Like, these are the unspoken rules to follow. I hated things like the "RIP Coach" facebook thing someone started when a coach from my high school died. It just felt so insincere to me, by virtue of being on facebook, I guess. But I don't really feel that way anymore--I admire people who are honest and willing to share real things in their lives--like a miscarriage--in spite of the fact that it makes a lot of people feel awkward/uncomfortable. Hashtag mybabydied is a tricky thing to navigate online and off.

  6. So much of what's been said here (and in the comments) remind me why I'm really happy I am not really a user of social media. A fellow babyloss friend likened facebook to one of those cocktail parties where everyone's dressed to impress, shallow, competative, and unfortunately I think that's largely true. I left shortly after my first loss and don't regret the choice for a second. While I appreciate the idea of talking openly and reducing stigma or taboo around important topics like IF or pregnancy loss, it feels to me like on social media these outreaches rarely translate into walking the walk; I like that word 'slacktivism'! I don't know, I realise I'm in a small minority and something of a dinosaur, but I just feel human interaction was so much better off before the advent of social media.
    Thanks for a thought-provoking post and discussion!