The Tale of Social Media Post Lies
It’s been quite a bit since I posted a blog, so I was excited to have some time to write and share some insight with you.
You all know I love to blog about trends I have been noticing and today is no different. Actually, today is a little bit different … because not only am I going to posting my thoughts and experiences, I’m going to be calling myself out on some past bulls&*t to prove my points. So that should be super fun for you.
Over the last 6 months or so, many of my clients and I have been discussing the stress of expectations that are placed on us by society and norms and how that increases our levels of anxiety and feelings of unworthiness. If you follow my blogs, you know I’ve ranted previously about this idea of a fake timeline that we create for ourselves – like getting married by 28 and having kids by 30. Or needing to know our exact career goals by 23 so we can be living the dream by the time we are 30. (For some reason 30 seems to be this deadline for people as opposed to another year of opportunity to live, grow and transform however we so choose). But if we think about this for a moment – where the f*%K did these ideas even come from?
Sure, sure – past generations truly did emphasize the need for females to wed right out of high school and pump out those babies, while the men went to work and made the money. But that sh*% is played the hell out. However, we’re still stuck with those little voices in the back of our head that keep us playing tug of war with old beliefs and ones we want to live by without feeling judged. So what if I’m 30 and single? So what if my career is my number 1 focus right now? So what that we haven’t had kids? So what that I’m not a size 2 instagram model? So what that I don’t meal prep every week with plain boiled chicken and ½ a cup of broccoli? So what that I haven’t bought a house yet? Who cares? Not me! Or do I?
We love to say we don’t care about those things, yet we find ourselves grappling with stress and anxiety because we aren’t those things or at those points in our lives yet. We feel like we must not be doing something right because we haven’t found love yet or aren’t posting pictures of our kids at pumpkin patches or because we don’t know what we want to be when we grow up yet. As if all of this is some sort of race. We want to stand out and win against our Facebook peers and show how kick ass our lives are, but win what? What mystical, prestigious award is this that we are going to perch onto our mantels?
Now while I can go on a rant about how what other people do doesn’t matter, and I’m sure I will at some point (maybe in another post … or this one, we’ll see where the universe takes me), one of my biggest qualms is social media. Is it great for connecting to friends, family and for business matters? Absolutely. But social media is a HUGE. FAT. LIE. And even though we maytell ourselves it’s full of masks and projection, we still find ourselves comparing our lives to the fake or overly optimistic/positive posts we see. Perhaps Katie from high school got engaged and she posts about how amazing her fiancé is and flashes that ring, and six months to a year later she has this perceived stellar bachelorette party with her 486 best friends all wearing matching shirts on Marthas Vineyard, and you stop and think just how shitty your life is and how you don’t have any friends, and no boyfriend, and you yearn for the day that this would happen for you but fear it won’t, all while wanting to smother Katie with a pillow in her sleep. Or perhaps JohnJohn, the super smart, well known, entrepreneur who started his own company is racking in the dough, has employees under him now, and just made it into Forbes 30 under 30 and his smug little face is everywhere and you think to yourself, “I’ve done nothing with my life.” Or perhaps Suzanne just posted a picture of the most gorgeous Pinterest worthy meal that she made for her perfect Pinterest worthy family (THREE kids and a husband, and they all wear matching outfits in pictures and look SO happy!) and you not only hate Suzanne, but critique her annoying ass meal because it’s vegan and *eye roll* looks gross anyway … while simultaneously wishing you could make your potatoes look like that but they never fluff that way and how does she even have the TIME TO COOK FOR CRYING OUT LOUD?
Are you guilty of this?
C’mon now. Don’t you go lyin’. We are ALL guilty of this.
And this. Is. Problematic.
You see – Katie, JohnJohn and Suzanne may all have really exciting things going on in their life – but that’s all that they are going to be posting about on social media, so that’s all you’re going to SEE.
Do you think Katie is going to post about how she and her fiancé have been together since high school and how she was too scared to be alone, and was simply used to her fiancé in her life? And now she feels like this is the next natural step and she’s so wrapped up in the relationship that she can’t “just leave,” despite the fact that they’ve grown miles apart and aren’t anywhere near a good fit anymore?
Do you think JohnJohn is going to talk about how overwhelmed and stressed he is every day and that he struggles with anxiety and depression? And working for himself, while flexible and convenient and certainly a notable thing in his life, makes it ten times harder? Because now the spotlight is on him and he feels like he has to save face because he’s “important” and wants to continue to succeed? But he also has this massive hole in his life because work became such a focal point for him that he has no time for relationships and when he goes home, he goes home alone, and wakes up alone, and he tries to fill the void with many hookups and posting about his exciting, successful, bachelor, partying lifestyle full of “freedom,” but every day he struggles more and more and turns to substance to try and make it better and it simply just masks his pain for a short while?
Do you think Suzanne is posting about how every night she goes to bed crying because her husband is actually an abusive bastard and cheats on her constantly? So in order to try and please him, she makes extravagant meals and makes him feel like he’s king and does whatever he wants, whenever he wants, while she carries on with a fake smile and a pit in her stomach each and every day?
No. None of these people are posting about that. Are they posting the truth? In part, sure. Katie did get engaged. JohnJohn is successful in business. And Suzanne sure knows how to cook. But they’re only posting partial truths. People rarely are going to air all of their truth out onto Facebook and Instagram and because of that we only have a fraction of a picture to compare our lives to. (Which you KNOW I’M SCREAMING THAT WE SHOULDN’T BE DOING ANYWAY!)
To prove my point, I have been using the wonderful Facebook Memories option over the last 6 months to screen shot posts that I made years ago, including when I was in an abusive relationship, to show you just how full of shi* and how little truth of the story it is that we actually post for people to see.
Let us begin this epic journey through my embarrassing posts, shall we?
May 16, 2011.
My ex (the abusive one) and I planned a trip to Universal studies so I could finally go to the Harry Potter theme park. I was so excited. I remember asking if it would be okay if we did that, seeing as we’d never been on vacation together, and at first, I was hesitant because he was always so uptight about money and whenever I asked to make plans, he would get pissed as if I interrupted his entire existence to do something other than work and smoke pot and play video games. I remember laying on the floor bawling my eyes out and journaling about how I didn’t want to go to Universal with him anymore because he was so mean to me and I knew he would make my trip miserable. Yet here, on Facebook, you see what I wanted you to see. That I was excited to go on vacation with “my honey.”
Fast forward a week. May 23, 2011
I made frequent posts about how AMAZING my day was at Universal. Granted, Harry Potter kicked ass and very few people could ruin that for me – so it was partly true. But I never disclosed how we barely spoke the whole time because we had nothing to talk about and how the whole time I was wishing we had friends with us to fill the massive void that lingered between us.
Fast forward a few more days to May 29, 2011 / June 17, 2012
We had a wedding to go to. I had to make it a point to let everyone know that I was hanging out with his mom. Why? Because to me, at the time, combining families was one of the most important things we could do. I wanted marriage and I wanted a forever relationship, so by showing the world just how close his mom and I were, it would give you the picture that we were in a really solid relationship headed toward matrimony one day. This was also demonstrated in the following post about having a joint pool party with our families.
June 14th, 2013
I post a lobster meal onto Facebook and Instagram. Why? To show you that not only do I cook meals that are yummy, but I have someone “to cook for” and we have a “date night.” Date night consisted of us eating, and him going back upstairs to play video games. I also post about how “our” obsessed with Gordon Ramsey led me to want to cook these butter poached lobsters. Correction/Truth: While I do love to cook, and still do, I always felt obligated to cook for him because he had an expectation that that was my role (to be in the kitchen). It was the one thing he always said I did well, and made nice comments on. To receive his praise, I did whatever I could to try and impress him with my cooking. And I needed everyone else to validate what he said, so I would post about it so everyone else could say, “GREAT JOB, BRITT OMGGGG COME COOK FOR ME!” and hopefully, HOPEFULLY, he would see that – and realize that he really did have it good with me and my cooking.
June 19, 2012-13
Here I sing his praise. I let you know that he buys me things. That he made all of this effort to give me a great birthday. I do the same in the following post for the following year. Why? Because my viewers need to know that someone buys me stuff and therefore, they love me sooooo much and they are an amazing significant other. MEANWHILE. IN REALITY.
He never took the time to even get to know the person he was dating. In order to cater to my birthday needs, he consulted with my best friend, who would tell him what to do, and he would follow verbatim.
Every birthday ended the same way every other day ended – a huge fight, him screaming at me in a drunken state and gaslighting me like a damn stove. (For more on the abusive relationship and how I coped – click here!)
The melting pot one was a fun memory. We almost didn’t go because the night before he had a party that he didn’t invite me to – didn’t even tell me he was having, nor did he answer the phone when I was texting to see what was up, which was resulted in a terrible hangover for him and he missed the family party I had that afternoon.
But I wasn’t going to post about those things and tell you that, was I? No. You were going to see the picture I created – a great guy showering his girl in gifts. I didn't post the year he didn't get me anything or even acknowledged my birthday, did I? You wouldnt have known unless you just read this blog or knew me closely. Because that would have skewed the vision of me I wanted you to see.
I was going to post a bunch of the pictures that I would post onto social media for you – these images of how “happy we were” celebrating things and doing things, but I wanted to be careful in the event of identification and not wanting to get in trouble for defamation of character, so I am going to omit that. But I would post pictures of either us together, or pictures of him doing something around the house often – so you could always see us doing things together. I never stopped and took pictures of the eyeliner running down my face or the blood shot, puffy eyes that I had after most of those pictures were taken though. Because then you’d know what was really happening. Not what I wanted you to know.
This was a fun and nauseating one.
I remember LOVING this. Because it meant that everyone could see that my mom and family members wanted us to get married. Which also made me feel good inside that he would hopefully see it and feel pressured to pop the question.
And finally, I will leave you with a series of posts made throughout the years. Really passive aggressive, angry posts that I made about how I was feeling. You never knew why. You never knew who it was directed at. I just came off like a loose cannon with bipolar disorder and a significant amount of anger.
Every single one of these were posted because I was so overwhelmed in my relationship that I didn’t know what else to do. And I wanted him to see these posts because I felt like if he saw them, it would somehow shed some light on how he was treating me and he would have some loud AH-HA awakening that said, “OMG I’VE BEEN SUCH A TERRIBLE PERSON, LET ME CHANGE!” And perhaps I was hoping someone might hear my semi-silent plea for help because I was clearly in distress, but doing nothing about it except for posting on social media. If it's not clear, all of these posts were really about him and my situation in the relationship (haha). And yeah, I get it - I sound like a secretive emo teenager in some of these. I didn't say I wasn't a whiny person who couldn't organize and make sense of her own emotional turmoil, okay? Don't lose sight of the point I'm making. Especially seeing as these posts were all hidden gems that I'd occasionally drop in between posts of talking about how wonderful my relationship was.
Now why the F did I put myself and my past relationship on blast like this, you ask? Because I want you to see how much of a lie social media is. I want you to see that JUST BECAUSE someone is posting something positive and exciting happening in their life that it doesn’t mean it’s true, and it doesn’t mean that everything else in their life is going wonderfully. You know, I always joke I can tell who’s life is really going well based on their social media feed, and in a way, it’s not really a joke. Never mind the whole intuitive side of me, but it’s kind of easy to see what relationships are forced and what ones are truly going well when you stop and ask why it is that they’re posting what they’re posting. Maybe that’s just the therapist/psychoanalytic side of myself.
Now I want to be ABUNDANTLY CLEAR when I say that not everyone who posts something positive going on in their life is full of it. That is NOT what I am saying. What I am saying is that what we post is not the entire story. What I am saying is that we do not want to be COMPARING OUR OWN LIVES to the lives that we see on social media because the truth of the matter is WE DO NOT KNOW THE TRUTH.
All this time you could be comparing yourself to a lie; comparing yourself to a fake story … a FAIRY TALE. ::Insert rant here about not comparing yourself to others anyway::
The picture perfect families, lives and posts you see are not 100% real. And we need to grasp that reality. The sooner we grasp that reality the sooner we can scroll through social media and not feel a surge of jealousy or anger or unworthiness because Katie, JohnJohn and Suzanne are living the damn social media dream. The sooner we grasp that reality the sooner we can turn the focus back inward on the things we WANT to work on and shift in our lives … and not doing it by basing it on others’ posts/fictitious lives.
I know it’s hard not to compare yourselves sometimes. Looking at others’ lives does help us recognize what it is we want to work toward, sure. But make sure that you put it into perspective for yourself and recognize that a post only shows one piece of the pie. There’s more to their story just like there is more to yours.
I hope this post helps you with any comparative, time line stress/anxiety you may have given yourself over time. And who knows, maybe now we will even be more honest in our posts – because how great is it when we see someone struggling and can stop and say, “hey, I can vibe with that. I know what you’re saying and I’ve been there before!” rather than feeling like we’re not supposed to be where we are at in our lives.
As always I’m here to chat and help in anyway that I can! Just give me a shout!