Recently this person I follow on Instagram called out another person on Instagram for posting a picture that was classic “just me in my bed loving mornings look at this light everything is perfect” with a tray table covered in literary classics, the New York Times, perfectly sliced fruit, a steaming cup of coffee, and OH! a plant.
The utter absurdity of presenting this picture that was supposed to represent a “day in the life of” but that had been styled so perfectly is apparent. It’s almost as if by styling our pictures with such precision we are creating a caricature of our own lives. Except instead of comically oversized noses and eyebrows we have delightfully rumpled sheets with the light casting just so over a cup of coffee that’s gone cold with time spent taking pictures at hundreds of slightly different angles.
I apologize if I am shattering the illusion of Instagram or Facebook of any social media that isn’t Twitter, because honestly that place is a real hell hole that could maybe use a little styling (kidding ilysm twitter), but if you hadn’t realized this already we probably have some serious conversations ahead of us.
This all begs the question of W H Y. Why are we creating picturesque scenes of our lives when we know that we pushed aside an empty bag of gummy worms and 5 empty La Croix cans to take this picture? The answer is obvious: we want to present our lives as better than we perceive them to be.
WE ALL DO THIS. Whether on social media or in those really long Christmas cards our parents used to send out that gave a lot of details about our accomplishments and what we had done over the past year so as to show their friends from high school that they were doing ABSOLUTELY GREAT – JUST FINE THANK YOU.
There is nothing wrong with this, to an extent. We work hard. Life is difficult. We are disappointed. Bad things happen. We put on a brave face. We style an Instagram to show that WE ARE ABSOLUTELY FINE – WONDERFUL ACTUALLY. And that is okay! It is so very hard to be vulnerable. It is especially hard to be vulnerable when you are hurting or disappointed or when you fail. It is a lot to expect of yourself and others. And being vulnerable SUCKS. People will find out that you aren’t perfect?!? and that you were depressed and gained twenty pounds, you didn’t get into the school you wanted, you were broken up with, you were passed over for a promotion you should have gotten, you aren’t happy with the life you chose… And they might judge you for it. They shouldn’t. But they might.
There is so much disappointment and pain in life. I learn this every year and I have lived a privileged life where very little has gone “wrong”. I am beyond lucky. I hear about the obstacles and pitfalls people have faced in their lives and I cannot imagine surviving them. It is so hard to exist, life doesn’t make it easy and neither do the people that surround us.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s nice to see the people with the coffee pictures and the perfectly rumpled sheets and the sun whispering into their bedroom. Sometimes I need to see that to know that that might exist. There is nothing wrong with showing your life in any way that makes you feel better for living it but there is something wrong with pitting your own life against the rumpled sheets and whispering sun pictures. You have to know that even if that moment existed it was momentary. The sun moved on in the sky and hell, by the time they took a sip of coffee you know that it was lukewarm at best.
It is okay to show your life the way you want it to be. It is not okay to judge your life by the way other people want their own lives to be. It is hard to live. It is hard to be vulnerable. Just know that you are not alone. You will never be alone in disappointment, in sadness, in pain, in existence. No matter how curated the Instagram pictures may be, humans are all plagued with problems and disappointments.
If you are curating your social media, your life, your cat so that she’ll pose really cute in pictures and maybe you can be featured on that cute cat instagram page (AHEM), that’s just fine. Just remember that vulnerability is the greatest showing of strength. Just remember that people hurt just like you hurt. Just remember that pictures of empty cheetos bags might just get the same amount of likes.
You are on no timeline but your own. You aren’t something to compare to others.
But, come on, let’s not pretend we woke up with a plant on a tray, just so in our beds.