As we edge towards the thick of 2015 there is a growing sense of disappointment. We have not been gifted with flying cars; time travel is still not a thing; and many of us are left with large gaping holes in our lives where our hover boards should be. What we do have though is an abundance of Social Media. I don’t know if I want to praise the Zuckerbergs, Systroms and Kriegers of the world or hurl abuse at them.
It’s undeniable; social media is wonderful. It connects us with the world, even if we sometimes don’t want to be. As expats that’s important for us. We can enjoy a nomadic lifestyle, while remaining connected with events back home. No longer must we miss out on the milestones that continue to happen even though we are not there. Unless, of course, you’re me, and have a mother that doesn’t believe my grandmother breaking a rib is a noteworthy ‘event’.*
As blissful as this all sounds, however, Social Media can also be seen as a bit of a curse. We all spend too much time over-thinking our public image. We obsess over the perfect status update, what our Instagram photo looks like with that filter and where the best check-ins are.
We spend so much energy developing our Cyber-Selves; investing valuable time ensuring that our lives are full, active and perfect – at least at face value. In reality, we still have to work 5 days a week (or more); some in painful, soul destroying jobs that they hate (with good reason). The stress of finances, relationships, schedules and appearances are all still there but for some reason we pretend (lie) that those things are no longer bothering us; the truth is, it’s a relentless part of existing in a modern world.
Recently a friend back home made a comment about how my life looks so glamorous and exciting. She said to me “All I see on Facebook is how you party all the time, you travel and you look fantastic doing it. You must never want to come home.” If you were to know me you would know that that is not the case; at all. Unless, of course, you believe a life of working overtime and Netflix binges to be ‘glamorous’. Clearly my obsession with my social media presence is working in my favour. I have succeeded in making people think exactly what I want them to.
Don’t get me wrong; my life is pretty grand at the moment. I have a great job; I have a found myself a group of friends that enjoy a pint – or 6 – just as much as I do and Europe is so close I can smell the croissants (and for a few pennies I can pop over and taste them too)
This is all true.
Even truer though, is the fact that I don’t go out nearly as much as people might think, I’m not gorging on fresh Parisian croissants on a weekly basis and those complimentary love handles that I received over a year ago are still being tediously worked off. That Heathrow Injection is a bitch!
When I take to my social media I am implementing a specific strategy. One good night out will give me a month’s worth of Instagram photos. One weekend trip away will give me enough to write about for weeks; and if I take a photo where I think I look amazing, I will milk that until the cows come home – making sure every media outlet gets a slice. Thank God for hashtags like: #memoriesmonday, #thattimewhentuesday, #waybackwednesday, #throwbackthursday and #flashbackfriday; these hashtags keep me in business long after the moment has passed.
What is intentionally neglected on my Instagram feed, however, are the long hours I spend at the office. I don’t post one-line tweets about those Saturday nights I lay in bed eating an endless amount of Snickers, crying over the finale of Friends. There are no statuses about how much money I actually don’t have or those pangs of regret I sometimes feel about leaving friends, family and a life of stability to move across the world with no real plan.
Something that I do know is, even if you don’t want to freely admit it, you do this too; we all do this to some degree. It’s our Cyber-Self. A heightened, almost perfect version of what we would like to be. I can assure you, you’re not the only one spending upwards of 10 minutes formulating that perfect tweet; revising and considering every filter available on Instagram or going on a status hiatus when you’ve had a rough week.
So, next time you find yourself scrolling through your news feed feeling sorry for yourself, comparing and contrasting your real and complex life to someone else’s Cyber-Self: Remember we are all lying bastards. Each and every one of us. We are competitive and insecure and all looking to win at Life’s Grammys. Gleefully trampling over our ‘friends’ victories to make way for our own, whether subconsciously or not, because we are desperate to look like we have everything figured out.
We (and I am definitely included in this) need to accept that no one really has life figured out. We are all lost in this Wonderland we call life, trying desperately not to fall down too many rabbit holes or drink too many potions at once. Once we do that we can stop comparing our lives to the heightened reality that someone else has created. The trick is to know that when that cheeky grinned cat tells you up is down; he’s probably just pulling your leg to get a reaction.
* I love my mother – when I confronted her about why she didn’t tell me, she gave the world’s best mother response “Because you never call me anymore”.
Mum – I promise to call you more often.