Caution: naughty language below!
My husband said to me yesterday that it’s called Facebook and not Assbook—because everyone is putting their best faces forward.
Yet, here’s a “real-life” story:
I go to the zoo all the time with my two daughters. Together the three of us ride the carousel, eat snacks at a picnic table and ooo and aaah over animals (and sometimes ewww too).
On the carousel, for instance, I sling the baby and help my oldest child onto her seat of choice (usually the ladybug). Rarely—okay, never—do we get told niceties when the girls are behaving.
We get a small handful of “aren’t they cute” gazes, but, in general, not much attention. (No one, for example, comes up and high-fives me for trying to be a good mama—even though, frankly, that would be welcomed.)
Yesterday, however, I lost my cool a few times. I was physically tired (not that I’m making excuses), and my baby was unhappy (teething—she’s allowed excuses) and my oldest daughter was just in a “trying mom’s already limited patience” mode (or so it seemed). I got plenty of nasty glares. I’m not making up the handfuls of attention that my normally under-the-radar, currently under-the-weather threesome received.
On the carousel, there was a grandma and her granddaughter behind us. She commented, not unkindly, on how the baby wasn’t too happy being in her carrier instead of on a merry-go-round creature. (Normally she loves being eye level with her sister, but, yesterday, that woman was right—she was ready to go home.)
I said something back, along with a smile, “Yeah, it’s barely 11 in the morning and my patience is already used up.”
She awkwardly smiled and quickly looked away—back to fake smiling at her grandkid.
Now I’m not one for unnecessary drama, rudeness or even over-sharing. That said, sometimes people don’t know how to deal with someone being genuine and not fakey polite. (I guess I should have awkwardly laughed back at her—hahahaaa!—and quickly looked away myself after her initial commentary.)
It must be nice to see 30 seconds—or, generously, five minutes—of someone’s day and life and make a judgment.
Actually, yesterday made me a better person because it was a wonderful reminder to not make my own snap assessments of other parents and children when we’re out at the zoo on a better-mood day.
In 30 seconds we can’t see how someone slept that night—or that week, or that month.
We can’t see the postpartum depression beginning to lift, but still lingering, like a fog, or a skipped cup of coffee so the family could have an earlier start to the day.
We can’t see a lot, if we’re being honest.
I put this picture up on my Instagram and personal Facebook accounts over the holiday weekend:
It’s a pretty picture, right?
I took it as a commemoration of my baby’s first Independence Day.
My flow-y dress is feminine and sweet and I looked at her accidentally—naturally—when taking the image, because she was softly cooing at me. I liked this photograph better than all of the other versions, so I shared it.
What isn’t visible is that I smell like the outdoors. I smelled like grass and sweat.
I was playing outside with my girls and husband in this dress and I smelled, not like floral aromas coupled with the subtle scent of baby, but of nature and my own perspiration.
Because social media is not real.
Pictures are real, yes, and they convey an awful lot of authenticity in their own rights, but places like Instagram and Facebook are warehouses for what we want the world to see, not for what we don’t. This isn’t completely bad.
During my conversation with my husband about “Facebook versus Assbook,” he said people solely put up the good stuff. Now, I know we all have at least a couple of relatives or friends who don’t do this.
Instead, they inappropriately share personal dramas and spin their lives as miserable. Usually, I “unfollow” these people, if not outright “unfriend” them.
Because life is hard enough without being surrounded by people who only wish to see the negative.
I also posted this picture on my social media sites yesterday, after that frustrating day:
I took it in the zoo’s aquarium and captioned it this,
“Today sucked, but I saw this (at the zoo). I had a husband who supported me like crazy when I felt like I could fall apart from overwhelm. I ran a mile, at ease, to clear my head. (It was my first time running in a looooooong, loooooooong time—it felt great and I can’t believe I stopped at a mile.) I had my best full-wheel/backbend yoga practice since before having a baby. I ate the best meatloaf I’ve ever heard of (that husband again). I wrote more in a secret (ssssshhhhh!) book I’m working on. And I sat in the white rocker on my front porch, holding my oldest daughter while we looked at cars. Today, the baby laughed over and over, while repeating her word of the moment, “yeah,” and she ate well and has a good “pincher” grasp. You know what? Today had some really horrible moments—but some absolutely stellar ones too. Nighty, y’all.”
I think more than actually caring to put this out there for other people to see and read, I wanted to remind myself that the day had been a challenge, but that a plethora of beautiful moments had happened too.
Life is never all bad or all good. Never. Our attitudes can perhaps be all bad or all good, but life—no. It’s not that dichotomous.
Do I think we should all over-share regularly on Facebook or Instagram about our “real-life” days? No, not really. I’ll be the first to admit that I typically scroll right past a super-long, “self-indulgent” post, and I’m sure people could say the same about what I post from time to time.
So, no, this isn’t a call for social media shares to completely change, but it is a call for us not to forget that social media is not real life.
Let’s remember this especially when we see a mom at the zoo having one bad day—we didn’t see the other, three glorious days she brought her kids in a row, without problems.
Let’s remember this ourselves—we are not pictures of idyllic perfection. We are living, moving, breathing, feeling creatures and not those ideally posed on a merry-go-round for others to admire and enjoy.
Life is not picture perfect, even if we want it to be.
I posted this on my social media sites too; this image of me in the dress that I had worn over the holiday weekend.
I captioned it this:
“You know what we can’t experience through social media? How someone smells. Scent is so huge to me personally. Vivid memories from very early on can come back instantly through a smell. Does this dress look feminine and sweet? Because I smell like the outdoors. I smell like grass and sweat. I played outside with my kids in this dress and quickly threw it back on this morning. Can you see the faint image of my coffee cup? My house smells like freshly ground and brewed coffee in the morning. This world we create online for others to see is not real, on either end. Let’s not forget to get out there and play for real.”
And, as I sit here sipping that photographed coffee from that pink mug, in the dress that almost overwhelming emanates the aroma of too-tall grass, sprinkler runs, sunscreen, outdoor barbecue, gentle summer kisses, and sweat, I think what a world this would be if we all really did try to live and be the best versions of ourselves, while still allowing space for reality.
Author: Jennifer S. White
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: courtesy of the Author.