Most people don’t think about the consequences of what they post online. We hear about it once a week or more; someone posted something that got them fired, or arrested. In other instances, people bullied or harassed someone, and their social media was shut down for a period. There are all sorts of examples of people doing “dumb” or even “harmful” things online, but what about the everyday posts? The posts about this great thing, that great vacation, this new promotion, that new car, etc.?
An old high school friend wrote to me on Facebook last night and said that a year or so ago he connected with a large group of us from high school after not hearing from any of us in over thirty years. He said the connections were great initially, but then he realized everyone had accomplished so much, but he had not. He said this realization made him feel so bad, that he got off Facebook altogether. I assured him that half of Facebook is a well-curated lie.
So many people only post the “greatest hits.” or highlights of their lives. You don’t see too many people post pictures of themselves running to the store without makeup, cleaning the toilet, or bombing that big interview or presentation.
My favorite Facebook friends are those people who post about the underbelly, dirty, difficult part of life. Those people who post stories about their medical problems, their children’s difficulties in school, how they had to eat Ramen for supper two nights in a row because they were having a hard time budgeting on their income.
I don’t want to think that people are having a terrible time. I don’t want to think that people are struggling and suffering on a regular basis. But I do want to know that life isn’t one trip to Europe, one trip to Cancun, one trip to Morocco, and then gourmet meal after gourmet meal after gourmet meal all while having the perfectly coiffed hair, nails, and makeup. And don’t forget if you eat the right things and take the right supplements and do just the right amount of exercise you too, can have perfect health (a myth that is so damaging).
We don’t owe anyone anything on social media, not in any real way. We can create and put forward any story about our lives that we want to. But if I have to chose which friends I would like in real life and which people I would reach out to help in a pinch, it is going to be those who occasionally post about life’s difficulties along with life’s pleasures. A little salt with that sugar, please.
Life isn’t easy or without suffering for anyone. The great equalizer in life is that we all die. The very fact that we must face our mortality should give us compassion for each other in ways that don’t seem to present themselves frequently on social media. I’m happy that everyone I know has some picture perfect moments in their lives, but I’m even happier to know that the people I like and associate with are human and have the occasional struggle. Somehow, and maybe it makes me a terrible person, I can relate to those who struggle more than those who constantly say they are sailing.