Real life – reflections on social media

Sometimes, when we spend quite a lot of time on social media, we get a skewed impression of our friends’ lives, and perhaps even life as a whole.

The images posted online are usually envy-inducing ones, or portraits that collectively paint a consistent life of idyll, or of recurrent consumption of the luxurious.

It’s hard to fault people for putting their favourite photos up. Of their happy moments, as opposed to sad ones. Of an expensive photogenic dish, rather than a hum-drum plate of fried rice. Of an accomplishment that says “look at how wonderful I am!”, rather than weaknesses that we are battling with.

photogenic dessert by yours truly

After all, it’s the things we are proud of, that we would like to share, so that others can celebrate with us. I suppose there is a small minority who put certain images up purely to show-off, and generate bitter envy. But I’d say most people just want to share their happy moments.

Someone once said that many forms of social media are manifestations of narcissism. Or the need for adulation. In some extremes, even a direct correlation between the number of likes a post or photo gets, with one’s self-esteem for the day.

It’s natural to feel pleased that folks “like” or respond enthuasiastically to a photo, but I guess when we feel too sad that there are no “likes”, then that’s probably a warning signal that we’re getting too involved. 🙂

Writing all this has also made me reflect on what I choose to post, and has made me more aware of what I should post, and how I should feel about the likes I get, or lack thereof.

For those who say that Facebook is depressing, or Instagram is full of posers, I feel that what you see, depends very much on who you follow. If you don’t like what shows up on your feed, then review the list you follow!

At this stage in life, I am only too ready to ‘unfollow’ any acquaintance who whines too much, or floods my feed with self-absorbed selfies, or thinly-veiled nasty comments about others. The latter is simply cowardly. Have the guts to say it to the person’s face, or don’t say it at all. Making people guess is juvenile.

It’s a cycle I guess. Especially on Instagram, which is highly visual, we choose to follow those who post pretty images of perfect homes and lives. Why would I want to see photos that are not well-taken? Why would they post photos that reflect a recent quarrel?

There is also, the other issue of privacy and concern for others’ feelings. Why would I post something that would hurt my nearest and dearest? Why would I post something on a blog, open to the whole World Wide Web, that I wouldn’t even tell a work colleague?

Images of ‘perfect’ holiday sunsets?

The recurrent thought I have though, and as many other articles have highlighted, is that social media only represents a small facet of life, as compared to its full reality.

Should we then go the extreme of eschewing it all? Of making the broad sweeping statement that “it’s all fake impression-management”, and take a trendy facebook-fast?

Or possibly do the harder thing, which is to filter all that we see and read with a lens of balance. Of acknowledging the sublimal messaging beneath everything we come across, and remind ourselves that whatever we see in media is not full reality.

Rather than excluding social media from our lives, I think the harder thing to do, is to remain engaged, whilst having the strength and wisdom not to think that everyone is merely what they post.

I am a great believer in the saying, 家家有本难念的经。However happy and wonderful those images look, everyone has their own trials in other aspects of life that might not be immediately evident. 

Think that someone is living the dream as a perfect wife and mother? She probably has some very real struggles that you know nothing of, that she is trying to come to terms with daily, that she does not talk about on social media because she’s trying to keep that her happy place. So envy not. We all have our challenges.

For blogs, I think because bloggers like to write, it might be slightly easier to be real, in a sense.

I’m also come to realise that the blogs that attract the most loyal readers are those that are honest about their struggles, their imperfections, and how they are all works-in-progress, trying to learn about how to be better spouses, parents, and the like.

So the quest to keep the blog real, rather than a reflection of a perfection that does not exist, also has to be balanced with not making every sordid detail of the imperfections of my life public.

Suffice to say that I will consciously mention that my life is not perfect, in general terms, and leave the details for the things that I could actively do to strengthen my marriage, my parenting skills, as well as my relationships with others.  A couple of blog posts coming up, in that vein.

Look at the sky, not just your mobile.

As with many things that have potential for addiction, social media is a good servant but bad master. Rightly used, it challenges the mind, fends off ennui, and creates strong community bonds. Wrongly used, it could generate jealousy, dissatisfaction with life, and an addiction that causes us to neglect our family.

How will you use it today?

  4 comments for “Real life – reflections on social media

  1. June 27, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Love your thoughts! And I feel just the same way too. I am very much reserve when it comes to posts or updates on personal fb.

    • August 8, 2014 at 8:45 am

      Thanks! I suppose there’s something to be said for being very transparent and honest on blogs, since it makes blogs feel more real. But guess as with everything it’s a balance. 🙂

  2. July 29, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Thank you for the article . It is written with much insight. I like it. 🙂

    • August 8, 2014 at 8:43 am

      Thanks for the encouragement! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

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