What do you see when you look at a perfectly curated Instagram grid? What do you see when you scroll through Facebook day after day?
I’ll tell you what I see…
I see beautiful meals plated out ready for the family to eat. I see happy children celebrating birthdays or going to their first day of school. I see smiling couples on a date night beers in hand. I see amazing “flat lays” — those images with a coffee mug, journal and pen laid out perfectly with just the right lighting. I see canoeing on Saturday and walking into church on Sunday. I see successful business owners moving into a huge new, perfectly decorated house.
Social media has taught us to create these wonderful images to share with all the world. We’ve learned how to capture our lives in a way that makes others a little envious, but not too much. It’s like we’re constantly reworking the photo: wait, let’s get a picture from my good side. We’re only capturing the good side of our lives.
So, let me tell you what I don’t see…
I don’t see pictures of people swatting mosquitoes (as I’m doing right now — one came in with us after a walk and is buzzing around my ear). There are no pictures of couples fighting or the eye rolls behind the back. I don’t see pictures of someone trying to read a map and then getting lost… again. There aren’t typically pictures of the mundane day-to-day life that’s required of adults: grocery shopping, dusting, folding the laundry, picking up dog shit. Speaking of dogs, I don’t take pictures of me trying to train my dog to walk better or of the frustration on my face when I hand over the leash to my husband, feeling defeated once again.
Of course, no one wants to show pictures like that. I mean, no one even takes pictures of moments like that. So, obviously, we are not going to see those moments on social media. I think the downside to this new reality for our society is that we have expectations of what life should look like.
It should look like constant activity and beautiful outfits that look casually thrown together. It should look like pumpkin patches and apple orchards and hayrides every fall. It should look like family get togethers over a campfire where everyone is happy and getting along splendidly. It should look like well-behaved dogs and well-groomed children and emotionally stable adults.
I once said to a group of women “Don’t should on yourself.” Later one of those women said it back to me. It’s true, no one likes to be should on. I can’t live my life based on all of these shoulds… no one can.
My life looks different depending on the day or the season.
For one season my life looked like tracking ovulation, trying to conceive, and feeling the monthly cramps set in once again. I’m still in the season in which my life looks like tearing up at another pregnancy announcement or birth photo. In many seasons my life looks like lots of laughter and a willingness to push myself a little harder. In all seasons I practically beam when I talk about any of our 7 (soon to be 8) nieces and nephews.
My life changes based on nature’s seasons too. I’m able to stay up later in the summer because the sun is out longer, but once the sun starts to fade earlier in the evening, so do I. I have no problem watching movies all afternoon on a snowy, winter day, but in the summer, I have to be outside doing something active. In the spring I’ll wear shorts on a 60 degree day and in the fall I’m eager to put on a sweatshirt when it dips below 70.
What do you see when you look at your life?
Does it vary based on the season, physical or metaphorical? I imagine there’s a wide breadth of joy and grief, celebration and let downs, excitement and fear. That’s what I see when I look at my life too.
What I’m trying to get at here, maybe a roundabout way is this — there is more to the world than what we see on social media. There’s more behind the story than one photo or even a whole album can tell. Sometimes it’s hard to know what season a person is in because she always shows herself smiling in front of some beautiful scenery.
I’m not saying we all need to start posting pictures of ourselves crying, but maybe we can be just a little more vulnerable, a little more true to the moment. I’m willing, are you?