She argues that "by only sharing the cute and cuddly moments, I ignore the importance of the raw and the real hours that are spent in the trenches making mistakes and learning from them."
Damn. That's true, isn't it?
One of the beautiful things about social media is that it enlivens our communities, expanding them beyond the borders of our families, geographical constraints, or even physical meetings. If it takes a village to raise a child (or write a dissertation, or bake the best chocolate cake, or get ahead in a competitive field, or anything, really) then we have broadened the borders of our villages through technology, and it should be easier than ever.
But this lying thing. That's going to hinder that.
If we feel the pressure to constantly give a shining, perfect version of our lives, then we aren't really letting anyone in. We can't share all that knowledge, support, and experience because the sanitized (and, dare I say, Photoshopped) version of ourselves can't let on that we've had it.
When it comes to the cultural narratives we construct, we do a more global disservice as well. By showing parenthood to be all dance parties and long walks, we make parents who aren't experiencing it that way (read: everyone) feel like they're doing it wrong. That makes them less likely to share their own real experiences and further sends the message that we have to edit ourselves into perfection before we can present ourselves to the world. It's a never-ending cycle.
So, let's all stop lying on Facebook. Problem solved, right?
Well . . . not so fast.
See, there's an opposite problem on Facebook that I think deserves equal attention. I'm sure that you all have this person in your feed, and I'm sure that many of us have been guilty of being this person from time to time. The Facebook Debbie Downer. The person who's projected social media reality is so negative that just seeing a post is enough to bring your whole day down. I'm not talking about someone who is having a genuinely bad day/week/month or in the middle of a crisis. I'm talking about the person who only posts their negative experiences and posts them all, no matter how mundane. If this person's favorite newspaper article was too coffee-stained to read, that's post-worthy. If this person stepped in gum on the way to work, it's getting tweeted. If this person's kid has a runny nose, you're getting pictures, perhaps with various Instagram filters so that you get the full gravity of the situation.
This person is certainly not editing their life down to its grandest moments, but isn't it still lying on Facebook?
All of our lives are complicated mixes of the good and the bad. At some moments, the good outweighs the bad. At others, we're on the wrong end of karmic balance. If social media is a projection of ourselves, then it will necessarily reflect that balance.
Since it is only a projection of ourselves, though, it won't reflect that balance fully. We always make choices about what we share with the world (whether it's in person or on the comptuer), but social media allows us to make those choices more carefully. If my hair's a mess, I can't choose who sees it while I'm out in public, but I can choose whether I post a picture of it on Facebook. I can't choose whether my kid wipes her runny nose down the front of my shirt in the middle of dinner in front of my co-workers, but I can choose whether I tell you about it on Twitter.
We all have to find our own personal way to balance that out. We're going to look more or less polished, more or less negative, more or less positive. The projections we create in our online worlds will never be complete versions of ourselves, but we can make sure that they are proportional.
I'm thinking of this today because yesterday was not a good day. It was one of those days in parenting when I felt like throwing in the towel. "You win," I wanted to scream to the universe. "Come get me tomorrow!"
What I put on social media was this:
Facebook: Today was one of those days. I've got a sick kid whose illness manifested in ways disgusting (think Linda Blair and pea soup) and insane (think Linda Blair climbing down the stairs backward). I am exhausted, gross, and mentally checked out. I think it's time to watch some zombies.
Twitter: Words of encouragement for someone who has had one of those UTTERLY EXHAUSTING days of parenting? I'm asking "for a friend."In both posts, I was trying to be light-hearted. I was trying to balance out the absolutely negative, grumpy, exhausted, angry thing I actually felt with the generally upbeat projection I usually have.
What I didn't put in those posts, though, was the full truth. I didn't say that my daughter had woke me up at three in the morning with projectile vomit, some of which landed in my mouth, and then I went to work, still in pain from the oral surgery I had three days before but unable to take pain meds if I wanted to teach, and then I came home early so I could sit with my daughter while my husband went to work, and that she then proceeded to stay awake for three straight hours when she should have been napping, and that she spent those three hours alternating between running around the room throwing things, hitting me in the jaw (which was still sore from the surgery), kicking me in the ribs, and screaming, and that I was literally crying by the time she finally fell asleep.
Did my online networks need to know that? Was I lying on Facebook? Surely some mom out there somewhere would sympathize, but just writing it out (even now, a day later) makes me feel tired all over again. I like the ability to filter out pieces of my life because sometimes they aren't pieces that I want to dwell on either.
Where do we draw those lines? Can you tell the truth on social media without telling the whole truth? Are you lying on Facebook?