Let’s be honest for moment. We have all at some point compared ourselves to someone else online. We have all wondered how their lives look so perfect on Instagram. How they seem to have their s**t together and we are all falling apart at the seams. I read so many parenting blogs so it was easy for a while to assume that this starts when you become a mum (or dad). But that isn’t true. If you look at the social media and mental health of our teenagers the comparisons start as soon as we start using the platforms.
It becomes very easy to blame social media…
It becomes very easy to blame social media for our feelings of inferiority, of in adequacy. Some of my favourite blogs and Instagram feeds are those that are aesthetically pleasing. I myself have wondered on my darker days why my life can’t look like one great big perfect feed. Well it can’t. Thats life! But if I were to be honest with myself my insecurities are not caused by social media they caused by myself. My own incessant belittling of myself. The constant self doubt and ‘Mum guilt’.
Is one beautiful photo of a gorgeous bunch of flowers bought by a loving husband going to make me feel worse? How about a perfectly captured blue eyed bouncing baby? Perhaps at my more emotionally vulnerable days they may. If the girls are climbing the walls, I have a headache and have soothed the eightieth tantrum that day, a seemingly endless day. Yes, perhaps it will make me feel bad. Like a failure. Unloved. But that says a lot more about me than it does the person who posted the picture don’t you think?
We forget the history of photography…
We forget the history of photography. As with all technology, it was invented. And when cameras were invented photographs were very expensive items. As were the cameras themselves. Most families couldn’t afford to have a family portrait taken let alone have thousands and thousands of the things digitally saved on a smart phone.
During the early stages of photography many family portraits were taken after a death in the family. The family of the deceased would have a photo of themselves taken as a whole family for the first and last time. The dead body would be propped up and secured however the photographer saw fit and the family would gather around. The really sad thing about these photos is that due to the amount of time the photo took to develop the subjects would have to remain very still so as not to blur the picture. Can you guess who was the only person in the picture not blurred? The deceased. Due to natural movement in the living they were often blurry no matter how hard they tried.
Now do you think those families hid those sort of family pictures away in a dusty attic? No. They proudly displayed the to everyone that visited. Do you think they cared that their loved one wasn’t living in the picture? Probably not. They were probably more occupied with the grief itself and just happy that they had some form of visual reminder. What good would have come from worrying about what other people thought? What good would have come on concentrating on the negative aspects of the photo?
(Obviously this isn’t all photography was used for in the Victorian times but I am trying to make a point here.)
Showing the ‘best bits’ isn’t new…
Showing the ‘best bits’ isn’t new. People have been doing it for generations. How many pictures in your family albums show tantrums? Are there pictures that show a mum in tears, at her wits end? How many show a teenager on the brink of suicide from bullying? I would wager a guess of ‘not many’!
The difference now is we live in a digital age. The age of Social Media. It is new and exciting but it also means our family albums are more accessible to the world. Not just Great Aunt Josephine who has popped round for a cup of tea. What we choose to share is scrutinised and judged. Don’t for a second think just because you have judged someones life as perfect that makes it ok. Just because you have assumed someones cream house and blue eyed baby (one of eight most likely) are all perfect. Mummy looks immaculate and the kids seem just divine. Do you actually know? Is everything perfect? Have you asked? Do you know the person behind the Social Media. Assuming is judging. Just because you aren’t criticising doesn’t make it ok.
The simple fact is that these beautiful social media feeds and captions may highlight the nicer side of life but don’t forget that is one very quick look into someones world. It is also a quick look that they have chosen to share. I would say they have chose to share it with you, the outside world. But you have you ever considered there may be a deeper reason for sharing that beautiful image? Perhaps they have had a dreadful day and yet through it all they somehow got this one perfect picture. This one perfect picture is a window into a world where maybe things aren’t completely falling apart. Maybe the kids aren’t 100% feral. Who wouldn’t want to remember that one moment. Who wouldn’t want to numb the pain of the rest of it? Even just for a moment.
We all have bad days…
We all have bad days. The ones, as parents, where we search #mykidsareassholes. The days we Google “Is it normal to cry so much as a mum?” or “I think I hate my child.” We have all been there and the amazing thing about the internet and Social Media is when you search for those things a whole stream of people going through the same thing will come up. You will find a network of people willing to share the worst bits. To help you laugh about it.
There are people out there making a huge success of showing the crap life throws at you. Some do it with pictures of screaming kids, some do it with beautiful photos but a very descriptive caption. Each are very effective at helping us feel normal. We must not forget it has been their choice to share the rubbish side of parenting but that is no more a valid choice than clinging onto the best bits.
Photos are just an instant capture…
Photos are just an instant capture of an infinitely small amount of time in a much bigger lifetime. (There is probably a really profound quote on the internet somewhere but I haven’t bothered to look). Is it ever possible for a photograph to be truly reflective? Is it possible even for a Vlog to be truly reflective? Both are hugely editable. And both are open to interpretation by the viewer. We don’t all see art in the same way. We enjoy different genres of films. Our life experiences will directly effect how we interpret the world around us. How a perfect Instagram picture makes us feel is another reflection of that.
A few weeks ago there was a terror attack in London. During this attack a couple were run over. The husband died and the wife has been in hospital recovering. A couple of weeks after the attack she took her first steps. The Internet was full of photos of her. One photo stood out to the Trolls. She was beaming in it. A huge smile. Many felt the need to pass comment “Why is Melissa Cochran smiling so much? Didn’t she just lose a husband?” Really I don’t like giving Trolls the time of day but I will happily use them to make my point. This was in instant snapshot. If you read the article and the captions that went with the pictures it makes sense for her to smile in this. Plus the woman has just managed to f***ing walk again! Leave her alone. No one knows how she is feeling but her. We don’t know that that smile didn’t make her feel so guilty she broke down in tears straight after. We just don’t know.
Stop comparing and stop judging…
Stop comparing and stop judging others from what you see online. You can not be like someone else. Learn to love who you are. Don’t ever assume. If you like pretty and want to remember the positives then do that. If you like to share the grit and feel like you are helping others feel normal then do that. Your social media is your social media. We have a responsibility to use to properly. Not for the benefit of others but for our own mental health. If something upsets you, move on and work out why it upset you. Stop considering other peoples feeds as your goals and aims. Instead, perhaps start concentrating on building yours into a family album you want to remember. However that looks.