“Don’t let this social media stuff go to your head,” my college classmate Kiare tweeted. Of course, newsfeeds and home pages are awesome. Electronic birthday, anniversary and event reminders are clutch.
But, social media pressures and vanity metrics (like likes, favorites and comments) can keep the online world more aspirational than candid. My social media snapshots a life stream that does not have an indestructible dam to plug the flow of pain. I spotlight certain aspects of my life and sequester others.
Be clear: Everybody with a Wi-Fi connection is not owed our innermost thoughts or concerns. Our pain is not Girl Scout cookies, seasonally consumable in return for cash and orders. The street committee does not need a primer of our insecurities. However, shaping the narrative certain ways (even through pictures on Instagram) can create a perception that nobody struggles anymore.
Everybody is ecstatic to live lives devoid of worry. Everybody loves like never before. Everybody is always on honor roll. Everybody graduates early and contributes the most esoteric point to in-class discussions. No one worked that unpaid internship compensated in connections and experience. Baby weight evaporates. Cars immediately upgrade. Promotions come early. We are all the most socially conscious (i.e. “woke”), quirky and connected to public figures and celebrities. We all travel more than we work and never juggle a bill to do so. We know literary canons and obscure political facts without Googling. We are post-modern. We are yogis.
I push myself to be honest. I try to propel a positive mindset and slay my personal dragons. Yet to be fair, a few ways I have managed my online image include:
- Not posting full-body selfies when period bloat puffs my figure.
- Not posting photos, videos or otherwise capturing in real-time the day my face slid across the dinner table, sobbing over a guy (who I would later delete and block and awkwardly listen to as he begged in-person for a pathway to inclusion back in my life because God is the ultimate headlining comic in this show called life).
- Untagging, erasing or suppressing pre-braces photos that captured the lone snaggle-tooth that kept my smile from being as Crest-y as I wanted in early adolescence.
- Generally, locking my struggles in a safe until I am ready to share.
Some people call the comparisons “yardsticking.” Others say knowing what everybody has going on (in actuality or through cyber make-believe) creates F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out). Some say we never actually break up with the past because cyber-creeping (online lurking the social media pages of people, organizations, entities and more) prevents clean slates for new experiences.
I do not advocate telling all of our business to anyone who will listen, read, tweet or subscribe. And still, we can wrestle with a culture that reinforces existential curating over collaboration. We can resist the urge to use another person’s most public accomplishment as the rubric for our most painful one. We can decide if or when a social media reprieve will rejuvenate our spirits.
We can determine the line between honestly portraying challenges and letting hellions invade our quiet space. We can disempower the trolls, emboldened by egg avatars, pseudonyms and hatred. We can support those who support us.
We know that social media is amazing. Informative. Stressful. Transformational. Dangerous. Global. Unifying.
We should also know to live as fully as possible, share with care and honor universal auntie advice: “Do you, boo-boo.”