I just stopped myself from styling a photo featuring my laptop, wireless mouse, cell phone, and cup of coffee in order to illustrate a Facebook update about being back to work and reality.
And just this weekend I stopped myself from taking photos of a beautiful smoke ring on a brisket my husband spent hours to cook, a giant jug of sangria, and half dozen kids eating barbecue while sitting on top of my shed.
I stopped myself from sharing those things because I realized I don’t need to get on Facebook and prove my good time every time I have a good time.
I feel like Facebook and Instragram have taken spontaneity away in favor of a more stylized approach and I’m not being honest – not only with my friends on social media, but with myself.
Perfectly Styled Activities
I see staged, styled updates more often through my friends who work in social media than those I like to affectionately refer to as my “civilian” friends, but almost everyone does it to some extent.
If you’re on social media any amount of time you might recognize the following:
- The laptop with notebook, pen, and cup of coffee (or wine if it’s after 5:00) strategically placed around so as to reveal a cozy lifestyle of writing and social media updates. Even the screen saver or task highlighted on screen has a purpose.
- The spontaneous selfie that just happens to be taken in front of a bookshelf filled with books authored by friends – all of whom are tagged in the Instagram update.
- Children adorably focused on a particular task as if they weren’t told five minutes before not to look at the camera.
- Selfies of parents attentively listening to children reading, except they’re somehow able to take a photo.
- Selfies taken while the subject is sleeping. How does that work?
- Perfectly manicured toes in front of a beach or pool backdrop. (I took a few of these before I realized no one needs to see my feet, even in front of an ocean.)
- Food with strategically placed fork, knife, and obligatory glass of wine, craft beer or 740 year old Scotch.
- People who you meet in real life who look nothing like their photoshopped, airbrushed, 20 years ago photos on social media.
People are welcome to portray their lives however they want. But I’m also starting to feel as if we’re losing the honesty, innocence, and integrity of a situation when we stop being spontaneous or candid in order to perfectly stage it. When we have to stop life in order to make it better for a photograph what we’re saying to our kids is “You’re not doing this well enough. Let’s make it picture perfect to mean something. Let’s perfectly pose you to receive validation.”
As someone who stages my life I know I’m part of the problem and I’m not comfortable with that anymore.
There’s a Difference Between Story Telling and Telling Tall Tales
I’m starting to think a lot about oversharing and what I post online. I have the same uncomfortable feeling I had back in high school or when I worked in an office and I tried so hard to impress others so they’d like me or think I have this amazing life.
Social media is about story telling. However, in this public-facing world we have to be careful not to cross the line from story telling into tall tales. There’s a difference between sharing a fun moment and invading someone’s privacy or making others feel bad for not leading a particular lifestyle.
Though I’m guilty of staging my life online – and I do admit it – I’m not embarrassed of who I am. So please don’t be surprised if you find I’m sharing more spontaneous and less staged. I hope you’ll still like me.