Social Media Image Crafting: The Modern-Day Fairytale

The perfect couple in Social Mediaville
The perfect couple in Social Mediaville

Have you ever looked at someone's social media feed, rolled your eyes and said to yourself, " I think I just got a f*cking cavity?"

I have.

Or better yet, have you ever read a Facebook post, spit coffee all over your computer screen, and banged your head on the keyboard because you knew the post was 100% bullshi*t?

I've done that, too.

Deep down, don’t we all wish our lives were as perfect and amazing as they appear on social media? Don't many of us use social media feeds to make our lives read like modern-day fairytales? "Once upon a time, there were these perfect kids, a perfect father and husband, a spotless home, and they all belonged to me, the perfect wife and mother! I'm living happily ever after!"

Well, at least that’s what I had Social Mediaville believing until I left my husband and our divorce petition was filed.

The Perfect Marriage?
The Perfect Marriage?

On some level, I've been guilty of telling the fairytale, too. We ALL have. We all might not go to the extreme, but we romanticize; we embellish; we omit. Here is a perfect example - this photo of me with my children. It's a beautiful picture, isn't it?

But what you don't see is that my picture-perfect daughter was grounded one hour before the photography session for lying to me about having her homework done; that my son's outfit needed to be changed as soon as we met the photographer because he had a massive diaper blowout; and that my jeans were the same pair I had on the day before because our washing machine was broken. Oh, and where's my husband? He was stuck at work and unable to make it, which did NOT go over well in a marriage that was already struggling. But this was my profile picture and Christmas card. Now I can laugh and share the circumstances that no one in Social Mediaville ever knew about.

It’s normal to want to put the best version of ourselves and our lives out there for the rest of world to see. Insecurites, pride, and societal expectations won’t allow us to be comfortable in posting anything that isn't hashtag perfect. However, image crafting isn’t just about filtering only the good parts of our lives to our 723 closest Facebook friends - it’s about constructing an image that isn’t truthful, authentic, or even realistic. Social media has become the resume of our personal lives. Creating this above-average version of yourself and your life feels good, doesn't it? Your life's highlight reels gain the admiration, praise, and sometimes envy of others. You feel validated. The problem is that even though it feels good momentarily, image crafting hurts. When our social media feeds are full of perfect relationships, perfect kids, perfect parenting, perfect workouts, and perfect nutritional choices, all of the perfection being faked makes you feel like your imperfect life isn't good enough. Image crafting tells us that perfection is not only attainable, but the norm.

It's not.

However, not every positive status update is image crafting. It’s normal to want to share your life's highlight reel in public, saving the difficult parts of day-to-day life for face-to-face discussions with family and close friends. But when the constant comparisons of your real life against a created ideal breeds disappointment and resentment, it's time to take a step back.

Let's stop beating ourselves up - because here's a newsflash: It is IMPOSSIBLE to perfectly balance work and family; your hair isn't always going to be perfect; your makeup won't always be flawless; you and your spouse will somemes argue; you might not get along with your in-laws; your sibling might not be your best friend; you might need Xanax to get through the holidays; and, sometimes, you'll have Oreos for breakfast instead of a protein smoothie. Yeah, I’ve done it. And that's ok. THAT is normal.

The breakfast of champions...and exhausted moms.
The breakfast of champions...and exhausted moms.

And don’t we play to a certain audience for a desired reaction? That's not to say we’re being disingenuous, but I recognize that sometimes the humor and satire posted might be difficult for some to differentiate from the truth. Do I really want a mocha-chino-xanax-latte like the funny meme says? No. But I DO want to write with honesty that sometimes life is overwhelming. In that way, sometimes people can be more themselves behind the safety of a computer screen. In some ways, I actually find myself being more honest on social media than in real life.

So how do we figure out what is social media fact and what is social media fiction?

Well, if you truly want to know a close, but not completely accurate version of the real me and what my life is like, follow my personal page. It's difficult to quantify when I’m more "me" than at other times - but I think you'll find that much like most things in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Or you could just turn off the damn computer, put down your smart phone and meet me out for a beer. I read in my newsfeed that people still do that from time to time.

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