We need to stop lying on facebook (and everywhere else)

Last night I posted a really real and really entertaining article article on facebook -if you want to read it I guess you’ll have to come over and LIKE my fb page Winking smile. Don’t question it, just do it. (I know! Shameless! )  Anyway, it has generated some commentary and controversy and since it’s something I think about a lot, I thought I’d put my thoughts here.
The author gave an example of a status update she might write, which was technically true but then reveals the backstory which makes the whole thing a lot less picturesque and perfect. And real.
It’s hysterical and I think that’s mostly because it’s true. At least for me. I could relate to pretty much every part of the backstory. So completely.
Now let me stop here and say that I sincerely try to keep it real here. I think I have proven that a few times with my recent tale of wanting to leave my family the night before Easter Sunday,  with my in depth coverage of my struggles with depression over the years. I’ve told you when I’ve lost my shiz  and refused to shut up about it even when it was potentially offensive to most of my readers. I’ve even written a post where I admit that I feel like a fraud most of the time.  These are just a few of many rants, vents and sad posts that have found their way to my blog over the years. I’ve shared them because I felt as though they were important to share and because they were how I was feeling at the time I was writing them. But by and large this blog is a happy place. That’s kind of the point of it. And to be honest, I only tend to write when I’m inspired and happy.
There are dozens of very pretty posts on this here blog.  Just a couple of days ago, I posted a full colour pictorial of our picture perfect Easter.  It was a very popular post. People flock to my Easter posts for some reason. I suspect a lot of them go over there to point and laugh at the matchy matchy Stepford family. And I’m comfortable with that. A part of me laughs at us too.  We are silly. Ok I’m silly (you know the rest of my family isn’t clamouring to match).  Others probably just find those pictures visually appealing. What’s not to love about a chubby cheerful toddler in a pretty Easter dress delighting over an egg hunt, right? And there are yet others who love and know my family and enjoy watching my kids grow each year.  
The fact is, we were all nicely dressed up on Easter Sunday. We all had pretty, matching outfits and we had a wonderful day.  I was not misrepresenting that.
But it really didn’t occur to me to take a photo of the destroyed Easter cake (although I have revealed my less than successful Easter cake attempts in the past-scroll to the bottom-past all the perfection ;). I didn’t mention the mini tantrum I had when I eventually started gouging pieces of said cake out of the pan and threw them into the sink.  I didn’t think to tell you all that prior to the happy family photos, a bribe was issued.  Whomever gave us the LEAST trouble with smiling for the photos would get a surprise.  I didn’t reveal that since Ella had only slept 3 hours the night before (as had we), Aaron and I actually skipped the final hour of church-yep on Easter-so that she could nap and we could clean up at home. My clean and serene looking living room and kitchen were a mere 2 hours prior to that photo, an absolutely disgusting mess.
It didn’t occur to me to tell you these things, not because I don’t want you to know about them, but because, well, they are not particularly interesting.  I’d forgotten about them by the time I started editing photos. The fact was we were dressed cute, the living room was clean and everyone smiled. And I wanted to remember that stuff and share it!
Now, there were some really conscious omissions from that record. Namely my tennis shoe clad feet and my larger than life butt. (I really  love that cropping tool). I also put Easter eggs over the parked car behind my kids because it was not aesthetically pleasing, but I do believe I copped to that.
Here’s what I think . I think part of the appeal of facebook and instagram and the like is, that to some extent, they are a form of escapism.
Focusing on the positive parts of our lives is certainly not lying. Like I’ve said before,  my blog definitely is heavy on chronicling the happy moments. It’s a cyber scrapbook as well as a journal. Nobody has a scrapbook of "stuff I'd rather forget". The tagline for my blog is, “because if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry-and nobody likes a crybaby.” That’s true too. People get really bored with people who are a bummer all the time.
I think this is perfectly fine and appropriate.  I also agree with the commenter on my facebook page who basically said that we need to be loyal to our kids. I feel very strongly about this. How would WE feel if every time we had a less than marvelous mothering moment they went and posted about it on facebook?? Um...NOT GOOD. Mainly because if they did that, they would never have time for anything else Winking smile
I also think we need to be very careful in remembering that our kids are human beings with a right to privacy and the difficulties in their lives or the trials they may cause us, should not be fodder for blogs and fb updates. That said, I do whine a lot about my non-sleeping toddler-but I feel like she’s not going to be mortified about that one day. Nothing embarrassing about insomnia, right?
I consciously highlight my kids' achievements, how much I love and admire them and enjoy being their mom, and other things I feel they would like to look back on and feel good about. But I also really try to be real about the fact that I am a human being too, and motherhood can be a tough job. Like I’ve said, people tire very quickly of a negative nelly and people like that add very little to society in my opinion. But there's a difference between being negative nelly and patty perfect. I guess what I am trying to say is be sincere. If you are sincerely feeling gushy, then by all means, gush away. If you are feeling bummed out and exhausted you have the choice to be sincere about that too, and I think there is value in it.  Like I said in this post, sometimes the most charitable thing we can do, is to help people know that they are NOT alone in their struggles. Helping people to know that they are understood, and most importantly not judged for the way they may be feeling shows humanity and compassion. Being real can be the kindest thing you do for the world. 
As for everything, I think the answer is moderation and balance. Be sincere, but don’t feel like being sincere means revealing all. Certainly don’t feel compelled to reveal all about things that involve other people. Our families need to feel that we are a safe place. That they can be real with us without fear that we will broadcast their difficulties to the internet. I feel very strongly about this.
Should we balance all our pretty instagram photos and posts with a few more “real” ones? Sure, if you feel like it. I like looking it my instagram feed because it is mostly a collection of pretty things.  I don’t take photos of my dirty dishes and piles of laundry because I don’t find them aesthetically pleasing, not because I don’t want you to know that I have them. Of course I have them! I am a human being with 5 kids. I guess I’ve always assumed that was understood. I think there are a few photos of tantrums in there though. Again, I don’t think Ella will be mortified about those one day. Since they were taken when she was sub-2.  Tantrums when you are 10? Different story.
Should we go out of our way to paint our lives as flawless? I’m going to give this one a resounding NO. If we are going to great lengths to consciously hide our flaws we aren’t living authentically and we aren’t being kind to others. If it doesn’t occur to you to post the tough stuff or it’s not appropriate to do so, fine. But don’t actually LIE. That’s just stressful apart from anything else.  I think we all know the difference, right?
What’s your take on this? I think it’s a really hot topic on the net lately.
PS: the Easter grass I posted on the Easter post was actually only ready a week after Easter.  There were just a couple of sprigs on Easter itself. We always forget to plant it in time. Oh well.

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Anonymous said...

Yes to this. And hahahahahahahaha to the staged grass. How can I trust you now that I know you staged grass? tsk tsk.

Rachel Cotterill said...

One of my favourite things about blogging is that it gives me an 'excuse' to dwell on the happy things - the trips I've loved taking, the recipes that worked, the restaurants I wanted to live in. Writing about the fact that I have a stomach bug right now just isn't fun enough to warrant a mention, though it may pop up in some future anecdote when I'm feeling better :-)

Anonymous said...

Years ago we did a course which encouraged journal keeping. The advise given was when you are angry, sleep on it and then record it. When you are happy, record it right away. I found this to be wisdom. I don't think the facilitator was encouraging lying about the angry making thing, but often negative feelings are amplified by the moment.

Bev Feldman said...

I think you put it just right--it's all about sincerity. You don't want to give off a pretense that your life is perfect and magical (because we all know no one's life is actually like that), but what's the point about dwelling on all the things that went wrong? (Although I do enjoy making fun of my adult-tantrum moments, and I could totally see myself doing that with a cake-gone-wrong!) It's about finding a balance, and I like how you gave the backstory (and now I need to check out your Easter post, because having read this one first I'm very curious!) Happy Sharefest!

Eva Gallant said...

You make a lot of good points in this post! I agree that we need to protect our families from embarrassment. Kids need to feel safe to be themselves when they are with us!

I just stopped by from SITS to say hello; hope you have time to return the visit!

Kim said...

If there is one thing I despise more than anything it's people who make their lives look oh so perfect and loving. Yea, sorry sweetie but I know your boyfriend is not this amazing god 24-7 and you can't always afford those fancy dinners. Quit playin' and quit showing off. (Referring to at least one or three people on my FB page).

I have no problem showing or telling the ugly side of things. I strive for more positive posts and photos but let's face it, even the craptastic moments can be hilarious. I'd rather people know I am real and have flaws than hide behind some fake facade of perfection.

Just my two cents. =) Stopping by from SITS Sharefest.