As human beings, we are born storytellers. We edit millions of our moments, preserving the brightest ones to form a narrative. Social media has made this even easier for us, providing spaces to collect and share moments, memories and our personal taste. This builds up into an identity, and helps us carve our own space in the world.
Except, something seems to be missing. We don't have the full set of tools we need to connect with others. Lately, I am encountering more and more people wanting to emphasise that their life is, in fact, pretty tough. I bumped into a friend the other day and commented on how she'd been doing some amazing travelling recently. Her instagram feed is a montage of sunsets and early morning stretches in exotic beach locations. While she had enjoyed a few great work and personal trips in succession, she had also suffered a traumatic robbery at home, and her mom was really sick. For obvious reasons, those details didn't make the instagram cut.
A few fashion bloggers I know are often perplexed by the adoration of their wide social followings. So many images get comments like, "OMG I want your life"; "You are perfection"; "Hair and body GOALS!" In reality, these are smart women with good taste who have made a conscious decision to make money or build a personal brand out of their style. Their feeds are living, constantly updated fashion editorials. However, when I'm scrolling through them in my raggedy home clothes, hair gone wild, covered in cat hair, I don't think for one second that these girls ever live a normal life like mine.
Yet the way I represent myself online is similar. I love fitness and healthy eating, so my Instagram is covered in posts about the workouts I am doing or the latest recipe I have tried. How could I begin to express that this year I've had a thyroid illness, where for a period I gained 1kg a month no matter how perfectly I ate! It felt too sore, so I just lifted the camera phone a little higher to get the right angle. Same goes for my Twitter feed. I post a lot of writing inspiration, news about my clients and general updates on my writing life. Sure, I do this because I like to share, but sometimes, I feel like I have to share to stay relevant and build a business. Some days, I wonder if people can read the subtext, "Can't you see how hard I'm trying? Can you tell how tired this makes me?"
We live in an incredible time. We are the ones making sense of the digital tools that will be as natural and pervasive to our children as air. We are the ones figuring out how to be. I don't have an answer to how we do this authentically just yet. And in December, you're going to see a whole lot of sparkly pics of my wedding and honeymoon in Bali, where for a few weeks, I will gleefully be that annoying girl doing yoga poses (well the ones that photograph well at least) with a glorious sunset backdrop. Just remember, that the joy/aspiration/beauty someone expresses is only part of the picture, and that it would all do us a lot of good to get off our devices, see our friends in person and hear the full story.