July 2, 2013

Halfway True: The Myth of Online Perfection. ~ Amber Howe

Instagram makes me feel colourless and inadequate.

As I scroll through my feed, I squelch feelings of jealousy. It’s a bombardment of photo after perfect photo of mouth-watering food, adorable pets and enviable ocean views from vacations in paradise.

Not to mention those perfect shots of adorable shoes from above, or cute little bare feet standing somewhere fabulous…I can never get those right. Suddenly, I’m mentally critiquing my long second toe or wishing I’d gotten a pedicure.

My own Instagram feed feels like a feeble attempt to keep up, and makes me think I either need a better camera, or I need a better life

I feel the same way when I look at Facebook, or spend time reading my favorite blogs. It seems like everyone is living a flawless life. Truthfully, I don’t even know most of the people I follow on Instagram. I have no idea what their life is really like. What I do know is that people put their best selves online, display all of the good parts; snapshots of the life they wish they led all the time.

I know that for every perfectly styled photo of a delectable, gooey salted caramel cookie, there is a plate full of flat, half-burnt hockey pucks that get shoved into the trash. I know that someone scrolled through 27 blurry, bad-hair photos before selecting the supermodel-ish, pouty one. I know, because I do it too.

I write a blog about living a blissful life, about optimism and the glass half full perspective. I carefully select the very best photos—of my dog, of my home, of whatever recipe I’m attempting—to include in each post. I conveniently delete the pictures where my un-flat tummy seems extra un-flat. I crop out the pile of wine bottles waiting to be recycled in the background, and enhance the pretty sunset into a spectacular one. I put a lot of thought into what I write to accompany my all-star line-up of photos, looking up witty quotes and pointing out the fact that “life is good.”

And it is—that’s the strangest part. My life is great.

So why do I feel the need to make it seem so much better?

The internet offers the opportunity to show the shiniest parts of our lives, but it’s created a myth of perfection. I’m probably not going to post a photo of myself with spinach in my teeth, but it happens. I have grumpy, defeated days when mustering a smile is next to impossible, but I don’t have to document it for strangers.

That’s what’s so fabulous: it’s our choice whether or not to expose weaknesses and admit faults. My life is good, but it’s not perfect. I’ve written about un-sparkly parts of my past, and found it to be therapeutic. But a blog about intentional optimism isn’t the best venue to write about heartbreak or infertility or fights with my husband. So, I leave out the dirty details and focus on the sunshine. In doing so, I guess I’m guilty of perpetuating the myth.

It’s an interesting aspect of human nature that being exposed to the good from other people makes us feel bad about our own realities.

People are people; we all have quirks and issues and inadequacies that we would like to keep under wraps. I try to remember this as I wistfully scan my favorite sites, trying not to glance at the giant pile of unfolded laundry that has been sitting there for a week.

I will continue coveting this dress or that couch, pinning recipes I have no chance at pulling off, attempting to mimic the pretty things on my computer screen in my own life.

I’ll call it inspiration and secretly salute the burned cupcakes and unmade beds behind the scenes.

We all know they exist, even without photo evidence.

Cheers to real life.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a photo of my feet to edit.

Amber Howe lives and writes in Park City, Utah with a mountain man husband and a crooked-eared dog named Cholula. She chronicles their adventures in Utah and beyond on her blog where her mantra is, “TODAY is the happiest day.”




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Assistant Ed: Andie Britton-Foster/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Julie Nienaber Jul 5, 2013 8:55am

I really enjoyed this post. Why is it that "that being exposed to the good from other people makes us feel bad about our own realities"? We shouldn't feel that way. How enlightening to read your views on what many of us feel. Thank you so much!

Gabbi Jul 4, 2013 11:36pm

I don’t believe that everyone online is striving for ‘online perfection’ I think most people choose not to upload the crying, bad moment picture mainly because there isn’t one (not because people don’t have those moments, but because some people don’t feel like taking pics when they’re feeling like crap) and second because probably those moments are more personal. Happy and fun times have always been more appealing to share. On the other hand there are always those people who tend to think and tell that the fact that someone has their feed full of smiles and interesting places are just pretending to live in perfection. Anyhow, interesting post 🙂 no need to feel bad when scrolling down the news feed lol everyone is a world within, good and bad.

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