So often I see the quote floating around saying “the problem with social media is that you are comparing your behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel”. Or something like that. And I get that. Truly, I do.
I’ve sat in my messy living room, kids bickering in the yard, a sink full of dishes, and dirty carpet only to take a quiet minute to sit down, catch my breath, and scroll through perfectly appointed living rooms with fresh flowers, kitchens with marble counters and white cabinets…but just the right amount of rustic farmhouse charm!…with kids in ruffled aprons eating ice cream and it’s not even dripping down their arms and chins, and no one is freaking out that THEY’RE STICKY MAMA! Filters and brightening and truckloads of gorgeous natural light, and SWEET ALMIGHTY HOW ON EARTH IS EVERYTHING ALWAYS SO GLORIOUSLY WHITE?!?!
I’ve even been known to see the “real life” Instagram of a fellow blogger where she shows her laundry pile, and I bitterly think: “How is even her laundry aesthetically pleasing?!”
But then I click over to my profile. The one where I share photos of our day. Our lives. Our home. Our hard. And I scroll. And scroll. And scroll. And I smile. And eventually, if I scroll far enough, I let out a hearty belly laugh. As one child shrieks in pain out back because they fell off the trampoline, another walks by with a stinky diaper, and my husband will be home in 20 minutes and I haven’t even THOUGHT about dinner. In fact, did I brush my teeth today? Pass over with my tongue….um, yes. I think so. Maybe. Crap. Set the phone down.
The truth is that I’m very purposeful in what I share on Instagram. I filter, brighten, zoom, crop and adjust images. I don’t share every moment, and most of the moments I share have a degree of magic to them. In fact, when I scroll my feed, I can’t help but think: “Hot dang, I live a charmed life.”
BECAUSE I DO.
And you know what? SO DO YOU.
If you have access to running water and a roof over your head, and um, you know…a smart phone and wifi so that you can SCROLL INSTAGRAM TO BEGIN WITH…you have a really, really, really rad life.
Oh, I know. It’s not perfect. You have your own brand of Hard. We all do. I have a daughter with a severe seizure disorder and cerebral palsy. My husband and I bicker. My kids are naughty. My house gets dirty. I have extra weight hanging on for dear life around my middle. In fact, our life is really really really hard some days. Knock the wind out of you hard. Some days. But mostly? I have to pinch myself to see if it’s really actually true.
I think that’s healthy. And I think we should all have Pinch Yourself Moments.
I think about that comparison quote and wonder how it applies to my own feed. I worry that people think I have a perfect life (I don’t), or that I have perfect kids (they aren’t), or days filled with ethereally easy days of childhood magic (they aren’t). In fact, I stress over this sometimes. Because I hate to think that people get the wrong idea of me from what I put out there. But the truth is, I only put out there what I put out there. So, what, exactly is that series of tiny square images saying?
Sometimes I peek at my feed and look at it as if it were a storyboard that movie folks use, and I think “what is the story being told here?” I don’t want to be so nauseatingly happy it feels fake, but not so negative it feels yucky. Balance. Not just for you. But for my kids too. I don’t want to be accused of “that’s not really what our life was like, mom”.
I don’t live a perfect life. Anymore than you do. And I’m not manufacturing a life on social media to be deceitful, or to paint a picture that is untrue. Because the truth is that every moment I share is actually from my life. I don’t stage anything. I don’t orchestrate events. I don’t ask my kids to do certain things in certain ways to serve any kind of purpose. At best, I coax a smile out of them, as mothers since the invention of the personal camera have done for decades. “Honey, look up. Smile for the camera! Seriously. Just smile. One second and I’ll leave you alone. For real? I gave birth to you. The least you can do for your poor old mother is to smile for the camera. Now do it. Or you’re grounded. Now was that so hard?”
Mostly, I whip my phone out of my back pocket and capture the moment just milliseconds before it vanishes forever.
I love that I can do that. Not because I desire fake, but because I love that I noticed it at all.
Just because I post a photo of my husband and I happily eating ice cream (look close: smudged mascara), doesn’t mean we have a perfect marriage. We fight. Just like you and your husband do. I get mad and cry. He gets mad and yells. But I’m not gonna post a photo of myself weeping in the corner of the closet and tag it #pissedatmyhusband because that would be weird and inappropriate, and frankly, I’m too busy bickering with him in that moment. Besides, do you REALLY want to see that? It’s implied. Because Real Life.
When I post an idyllic photo of my girls at the beach, it’s a sweet moment captured. I caught it and snuck a memory for posterity. It doesn’t tell the story of how I huffed and puffed and almost died halfway across the sand while hauling my 6 year old with cerebral palsy piggy back and three armloads of beach bags, all the while dragging a boogie board and coaxing the two year old along the sand so hot your feet might blister soon. Is that deceitful? Am I purposely hiding the Ugly and the Hard? No. I’m literally huffing and puffing and convinced that I’m going to collapse and imagining tomorrow’s headlines in the local paper MOTHER OF FOUR DIES TRYING TO GIVE HER KIDS A SUMMER BEACH TRIP.
What I love about Instagram is that it allows me to quickly, simply, and aesthetically capture real moments from my real life that I would surely forget in the hustle and bustle of crazy. Grocery store moments when your girl walks through the aisles for the first time in her life and exudes a joy that makes you grin so hard it hurts your cheeks. It’s so easy to have a really crappy day and forget all the beauty hidden in the creases of the ugly. When you’re bone tired at the end of a long day, you don’t seem to remember that silly moment at the kitchen table so many hours ago. But with a quick snap, bend your knees, zoom in a bit, crop and filter…is that fake? Some would say so. But I don’t. I call it You Live a Fantastic Life Filled With Hard And Filled With Beauty And Here’s The Proof.
I’m careful to share the hard stuff too. I want to be real and true and join in community when our family needs it. I’m intentional in how I share the Hard. I want it to serve a purpose. Not waste our suffering. I want it to be encouraging and real and shed light on the reality of Different. I crop and zoom and analyze the finished image. Always with the thought “if she were 16 and looking at this photo with her friends would she feel embarrassed? Violated?” So I won’t ever post a video of a seizure. It’s rare that you’ll even see her face during an emergency. It’s too personal in that moment. That isn’t fake or hiding truth…that’s respect for her dignity. The line is vague and changes with time. I’ll get it wrong sometimes. Hopefully I get it right sometimes too.
I mostly share on social media for ME. I need reminders of how glorious our life is, even when it feels like everything is falling apart around us. I need to see how ridiculously gorgeous our days are, even when I call 911 and spend the night in hospitals. I need to see sweetness between siblings on the days they are at each other’s throats and I’m about to lose my ever loving mind. These aren’t Hollywood special effects and carefully crafted scripts on my phone…those little 3×3 photos are actually, truly, 100% from OUR LIFE. And I need that pick me up sometimes on rain cloud days.
I share on social media for YOU. Because it’s silly and funny and goofy, but also because I want other special needs mamas to see the beauty too. Because I want all the mamas to see that we have naughty antics and tree climbing toddlers and Hard Stuff too. But we also have flowers on the coffee table and silly grins and IT’S ALL JUST SO BEAUTIFUL IT HURTS. Don’t forget to look. It’s there if you just look.
And when I say “it’s” I’m not referring to my life. But LIFE. Mine, yours, ours.
Social media is the ultimate set of rose colored glasses. It isn’t manufactured. But it is selective. It is authentic. It isn’t the whole picture. It is real. It’s been artfully filtered. But it’s still an actual moment. A true reminder for me. Maybe a little bit of solidarity for you.
Don’t feel guilty for sharing the slivers of beauty you happen upon in your day. Share the Hard in a way that serves a purpose and with intention. Don’t be boastful, but be thankful. Don’t exaggerate the truth, but be honest. Don’t feel bad about your own life after seeing the images from another, go see your own images again. Take a minute to view your own feed. Do it to bring a smile to your face and be reminded of your own version of Beauty.
Be honest in what those images you chose to share are saying. You don’t have to be so dedicated to authentic that you overshare intimacy that belongs close to home, but remember too that sticky sweet can be nauseating in too big of doses. Look at your own feed as if you were a follower. What is the story you are telling? Is it true? Is it inspiring? Does it serve a purpose?
Don’t stage moments…you don’t need to. I promise. They’re all there. You just need to capture them.