You may be really, really happy.
But you are not the happy that I think you are.
Your life may actually be pretty perfect according to your standards.
But it’s not the perfect that I think it is.
Because from behind my computer screen, I cannot see your real happiness.
Yes, your life seems flawless. I see the picture-perfect moments (literally) with a sweet, well-thought-out caption and I think, “Wow. She really has it all together.”
And you just might.
But just as everyone else on social media, your happiness portrayed through your feed is beautifully curated.
I don’t see the real, gut-wrenching hardship that you have faced. I may see the beauty that comes from the ashes, but I rarely see those ashes.
I only see exactly what you want me to see.
The other night, I took this picture with my husband, Jesse, on a date night out with friends.
I put it on Instagram along with the caption, “A fun and relaxing night with my husband and some of our favorite people!”
I was about to hit “Post” on my picture, but I started laughing, maybe a little too hard, and cancelled it instead. Because honestly, it was a blatant lie. It just wasn’t even close to the real story.
And that’s the reason for this post.
Here’s what really happened (our date is at 6:45):
My son, Sutton, and I get home at about 4:30 from swimming. He didn’t nap so he’s in full meltdown mode — I’m talking a body thrashing, screaming as loud as his little lungs can handle kind of tantrum. He’s teething so it’s already been a rough week!
At this point, he’s still refusing to sleep so I’m trying to clean the house before the sitter arrives while acquiescing to basically every demand, because nothing else is helping at this point. I just want the crying to stop.
It’s 5:45 now and my husband is getting home from work. He’s super exhausted and I could sense it, so I’m trying to feed Sutton and start his bath so that Jesse can get ready for our date.
But as always, my husband jumps in to help because he is seriously awesome. He struggles to get our fussy little guy ready for bed, wrestles him to get his diaper and clothes on, while I finish getting ready as fast as I can. I’m still not ready, Jesse still hasn’t showered.
And then I hear from the laundry room…
“Noooo!!! Babe, come here! Hurry!”
My heart sinks – Sutton is starting to cry again so I pick him up and run over. (We’re at 20 minutes until the babysitter arrives and our friends are early so they’re already on their way over to the restaurant.)
If you’re imagining chaos, you’re right on point.
Jesse is standing in the doorway and the laundry room floor and hallway are flooded in a green, liquid laundry detergent; two gallons covering our floor because I didn’t put it far enough back on the washer. It fell and knocked off the lid. At this point, we can’t do anything but laugh, but the throbbing in my head has escalated and I can tell Jesse is dreadfully exhausted.
We clean up the mess, I rush to put Sutton to bed, the babysitter arrives and we run out of the house.
Here’s the moral of my story:
I couldn’t get myself to post that picture because it didn’t feel like the truth. And although the date was so much fun & our friends a huge breath of fresh air for us as always, that was just such a small piece of the full story. I actually almost felt deceitful.
But as I started to think about it – there is almost nothing on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest that does even remotely offer, or even has the opportunity to offer, all of the story, all of the time.
Your life is not what I think it is and I can assure you that my life is not what you think it is.
I do not see what other people see when they look at my life through social media.
Trust me, I do focus on all of the beautiful things – I truly love and thank God for my life and blessings every day. But I also see the real stuff – the stress, the disagreements with my husband, the disastrous mess in my house that I swear I clean up at least 200 times a day. I see frustrating moments with my son, conversations about finances, working as a family through hard relationships, grumpy mornings and late nights.
We all say that we understand that social media is the smallest portion – if even any portion – of someone’s life. That it’s not actually real. But do we really believe that? This is where it gets hard. You’ve read this blog before. Or at least something similar. But the problem is that no matter how many times we acknowledge that truth, we don’t actually believe it.
I want to challenge this notion of Pinterest Perfection every time you look at someone’s pictures or social feed.
Do you really know and believe with all of your heart and mind that a good social media account is someone who just knows how to take a pretty picture and write a pretty caption?
That the stunning home photo is actually a 4′ by 4′ section of an otherwise tornado and toy-ridden house with dust, food and who-knows-what-else hiding in the corners?
That the picture of the really pretty girl you envy is more often than not just taken at a really, really good angle in really good lighting and a really good filter after she decided to wash her hair and dress up for the first time in a week?
That the fit girl who is beautifully, excessively in shape very likely spends her every waking moment dedicated to focusing on what-not-to-eat, meal prepping and working out during her free time?
That the couple with beautiful smiles and the seemingly perfect marriage have just as many difficulties as you do?
That the photo of someone traveling also entails a week of jet lag, travel frustrations, travel expenses and a stressful job that they have to go back to when they’re done?
Or that the person with gorgeous, expensive clothes didn’t get them for free? That she has selectively chosen to spend half of her paycheck on an outfit to display on social media?
Do you really know this truth? Because you should. And of course, everyone’s story is different. I am not criticizing any of these people – social media is an amazing platform that we get to use to express the passions that God has given to us and the gifts that He allows us to share. We get to display and celebrate the variety of ways that we are different. I love it for that very reason! We don’t see the hardship of their lives – we only see what they have selectively & carefully chosen for us to see.
And in my opinion, I don’t think it’s our responsibility to tell the whole story all the time. Who wants to consistently hear about our frustrations, stresses and negativity? We have enough of that going on in our own lives. Just as we don’t want to constantly air our dirty laundry, others don’t want to hear about it. I like to go on social media as a source of refreshment – to see pretty things, happy things, and yes, occasionally, very real things.
All of these are good and helpful in their own way.
But at the same time, we have to be fully aware that we cannot assess the status of someone’s life based on their Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook. I want to encourage you now to think of someone in particular, celebrity or non, whom you are often tempted to envy. Think about the realities behind the pictures that you look at.
Of course, there are those people who have just been immensely blessed.
The beautiful girl who is actually completely flawless in person. That super toned friend who really just has amazing genes and eats whatever she wants. That person’s house that actually does look like that because their gift is organization. Those are truly great things and we should rejoice with them – not allow ourselves to envy them.
But we also have to remember that these people are absolutely not the majority; they are the minority.
In all reality, we can’t be envious of these people that we know through social media because we know literally nothing about them. The only thing that we know is what they carefully, selectively choose to tell us.
Friends, the people who really know us are the people who spend time with us. How often is it that you are envious of someone that you are around constantly?
It’s probably pretty rare.
You see the messiest, ugliest and most real – not the cleanest, prettiest and most fabricated.
And though the envy may not exist in real friendships, the admiration is genuine. The people who can genuinely admire us, in a very real way, are the people who see our authenticity and have watched us come out of the worst, and best, places of our lives even stronger than before.
When we start to acknowledge that social media is nearly completely fabricated, we will also stop feeling the need to compete. We lose sight of the blessings directly in front of us if we are consumed with what another person has. Instead, we’ll allow ourselves to wonder what their life is really like and may even go so far as to reach out to them.
Because nothing is perfect.The most beautiful, most wealthy, most adventurous, most fashionable – you name it- they hurt too. They need love and relationships; relying on an abundance of comments or 20,000 followers on social media will not heal a hurting heart.
We have a responsibility to love tangibly and to perceive these posts through eyes of wisdom and understanding. We have to acknowledge that nearly everything that we are being shown is literally not real. It is one second of someone’s life displayed through a photo. If we’re living life right, things will be imperfect and time spent doing what actually matters will take away from overt efforts to perfect all of the less important areas of our lives.
Let’s do our best to live authentically, appreciate imperfection in others and pursue relationships in which their happiness, or lack thereof, is exactly what we know it to be.
Let’s get face-to-face.
Let’s get messy. That is real life.