This blog is an op-ed piece written by Rachael Heffernan, writer and researcher for The Drawing Board.
Recently, I’ve noticed an influx of articles discussing the phenomenon whereby people tend to portray their lives through rose-coloured filters when they are posting on their social media platform. Failures are covered up and bad days don’t exist in the ideal life presented before the world in the form of Facebook statuses and Instagram photos.
There are people that see this phenomenon as frustrating or dangerous. They understand it as perpetuating an unrealistic standard of living, or consider it representative of the inauthenticity of interactions online.
To tackle the latter problem first: it is important to realize that you will never get, nor are you ever owed, unadulterated, complete, and utter honesty from each and every person you interact with. To have that expectation is frankly insane. People hang their best pictures on the wall, people choose stories to tell depending on their audience, and half the time people don’t know what the “truth” is, anyways. Whether online or in person, you will only ever get a partial picture.
And that’s okay.
You are allowed to choose what you tell people. You are allowed to focus on the positives and refrain from posting about your hardships. I have absolutely no problem with seeing the ideal versions of people’s lives. Why?
Because I like seeing joy. I like when people are posting funny videos and beautiful photos and uplifting statuses. I don’t like looking at other people’s happiness and success and feeling bitter, resentful, jealous, or judged. I like feeling happy for them. I like feeling inspired. I have had many a bad day where looking at pictures on Facebook made me feel better. I have posted things specifically to make myself focus on the good in my life during rough patches. Social media can be a place where happiness is shared and shared and shared and shared. And to feel joy at another person’s fortune is a choice you can make – and a choice you should make.
If you don’t find Facebook representative enough of reality, go spend some time in reality. Let people post their filtered photos and snapshots of their best selves, because ultimately a stage of 1000 “friends” is not an appropriate place for everyone to post their gruesome, unedited vulnerability.
The hope is that we all have enough close friendships, enough face-to-face conversations, enough intimacy and wisdom in our lives to realize that everyone has hard times, bad days, rough spots, and bumps in the road. We should be able to recognize that our social media profiles are not meant to be our biographies – they are parts of our public selves, and as such, are representative of the things we want to project into the world.