I’ve been thinking a lot about the expectations we set for ourselves and how those expectations are affected by outside influences, primarily social media. As a social media manager I’m constantly watching and evaluating the choices that people make about what they post on their social media channels. As a mother I find myself (consciously and probably subconsciously) comparing myself and my choices to the choices of the people in my social circles, which are composed in part of social media networks. Lately, as a matter of interest, I’ve been comparing this social media public or sub-public (as in “shared with particular people”) content with the content shared by the people in Private Groups (as in “only open to invited guests and heavily regulated for conduct”). My conclusions are far from ground-breaking or unique here, but I think the implications make this an important topic to discuss – NO ONE IS DOING AS WELL AS FACEBOOK SAYS THEY ARE.
Now, we all know this, or at least suspect it. But I have a sense that we all still look at our friends social media accounts and do the quick comparison. For moms, this can be particularly damaging. Mom #1 took her kids to see Santa and they all wore matching outfits, while my kids didn’t see Santa and didn’t even wear matching outfits on Christmas day. (Translation – I must be lazy and my kids are suffering for it). Mom #2 is always posting pictures of her kids doing fun, age appropriate, educational activities and I can see in the background that her house is immaculate. Meanwhile my kids are watching Spongebob as I attempt to scrap canned peas (not even fresh or organic) off the walls and ceiling. (Translation – I’m not doing enough for my kids AND I’m a bad housekeeper). Mom #3 is so crafty and together that her kids rooms look like they’re straight out of Pinterest, while my kids walls are still covered in primer with the original horrid color showing through. (Translation – I’m too lazy to give my kids stimulating and interesting environments AND I have all the Pinterest fail guilt). Granted, these are seriously first world problems, but my point is that we set ourselves up to fail. Because all social media, and Facebook in particular, is the highlight reel. It’s the clean house, smiling children, loving family, fabulous life that none of us really have. Or at least that none of us have for more than a fleeting moment at a time. I may have canned, non-organic peas on my ceiling but I threw my kid a kick-ass birthday party that she’ll remember for the rest of her life (and I told you all about on Facebook – but notice that I didn’t tell you about the peas).
That’s where the Secret/Private groups come in. You see, I’m friends with these moms on Public Facebook but also on Private Facebook. So I know that Mom #1 didn’t want to go see Santa that day because she had just had a miscarriage a few days earlier but her mother-in-law had gotten the kids those outfits explicitly for a Santa picture and she felt obligated to follow through. Mom #2 only gets her kids 3 days a week so she’s trying her best to make her time with them count. Mom #3 is just plain crafty, and working with her hands relaxes her.
The vignettes that we see on social are the very best moments, the equivalent of our online resume. We’re not getting the behind the scenes view, and that’s ok, but we can’t compare our everyday to someone else highlight reel. I just wish that every once in awhile we could all be brave enough to post a picture of the dirty kitchen, the pile of laundry, and the peas on the wall. My BBF has dubbed this “The Year of Real” and it is unbelievably uplifting and refreshing to see pictures of her unmade bed, cluttered kitchen table and jam smeared children. Her life is just like mine – sweet and messy and cluttered and chaotic and beautiful. And it’s wonderful. It’s authentic. It’s real. So, I’m going to work harder to embrace the beauty in the mess and the joy in the chaos and make sure that my Facebook goes from highlight reel to real life.
To quote my favorite singer “This life is a thump ripe melon, so sweet and such mess.” Let’s celebrate the mess.