1. Look, I gained 20 lbs.!
Do I blame you for not advertising the new, softer, rounder you? Duh. Of course not. Take my profile pic, for example. It’s from a NYC wedding I attended over a year ago. I’m wearing contacts, make-up and a formal gown. It may be the best photo I’ve taken in 10 years. That’s the me I want people to see. I don’t want them to see 6:30am, gray-haired, bespectacled me. In my defense, it is called “Face”-book. Besides, I wouldn’t want to embarrass the kids. Yeah, that’s it. I’m doing it for the kids. Point is, maybe your boyfriend’s ex doesn’t look quite so fine as her FB page implies. I mean, you did see those celebrities on The Talk without make-up, didn’t you?
2. My husband forgot our anniversary. I don’t even know why we’re still married.
OK. So, I’m guilty of posting a brag on my man here and there. But for all the good things I post (which isn’t much because I’m not the gushy type), there’s at least an equal amount of crappy stuff that goes unposted. And, barring newlyweds and the ridiculously blissful, this is true for most of us. Because marriage is hard. Sometimes, it’s really hard. Not that I recommend posting all your couple troubles on Facebook…talk about a sure fire marriage-killer! But maybe next time you come across Sally’s post about her best-ever husband who makes her breakfast in bed every morning and serenades her with loves songs written just for her each night – maybe you’ll remember that even if her husband is perfect (which, trust me, he isn’t) the rest of us are slogging it out in the trenches of love, just like you.
3. We’re struggling financially and now our house is in foreclosure. #soblessed
I write this from a desk in suburban Connecticut, where UGG’s, a North Face fleece and an iPhone are practically requirements for middle school. Imagine what it would be like to endure foreclosure while rubbing elbows with lawyers and brokers at the winter choral concert. It was bad enough having to explain to my kindergartener’s friend how we get on without a garage. I’m so tired of feeling like our financial value mirrors our personal value. This is America, after all…you know, give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses…right?
4. See me and my boyfriend in this pic? Aren’t we the cutest? He gave me an STD and now I’m pregnant. He’s taking me to get an abortion tomorrow.
I know. I know. You’re in love. For real. Like totally. And it’s going to last forever. Yes, I know, for some of you that’s actually true and aren’t you cute? But for most of you, it’s fantasy. So when you see a pic of Ashley-Ann and her sweetheart Lance all snuggled up under the blankets “just watching a movie” remember that when she gets pregnant, catches herpes or gets her heart broken, chances are she won’t share a photo of that. In part, because those who once envied her will then judge her, when what she really needs is support. Lesson: Don’t set your relationship goals by what you see on social media.
5. I didn’t get the promotion I wanted and my boss says I suck.
No one wants to be told they don’t measure up. And sometimes we do measure up and still get passed over. Haven’t most of us been there at one point or another? Of course, no one is advertising their professional failures online, likely because they’re hoping to actually get another job. (And now that companies purchase social media records of applicants, this is probably a good plan.) However, rest assured, you are not alone. And you are more than your career.
6. My son was arrested for DUI. My other son is an A student plagued by perfectionism. And my daughter’s addicted to prescription drugs (which she stole from me).
Now this one’s tricky, because posting negative stuff about our kids online would just be bad parenting. And of course, we all love our kids. We think they’re adorable and funny and talented and loving and generous and compassionate. And they are! But they’re also challenging, demanding, selfish and struggling through this life like the rest of us. They aren’t trophies. We can’t use them as the measuring rods of success. Let’s not put that on ourselves. Let’s not put that on them. Don’t compare. Don’t compare. Don’t compare. Just do the best with what you have and trust God to fill in the rest.
7. The dog has fleas, the kids have lice and the house has bed bugs. #partyatourhouse
When it comes to honesty, some things are off limits. With cleanliness being what it is in America and not wanting to be treated like we’re under quarantine, we keep these little things to ourselves. (Which, in a literal sense, is perfectly fine.) But isn’t hiding exhausting?! If I can’t tell you my dog has fleas, are we really friends?
8. I prayed and God didn’t answer. I worshiped and felt lonelier. I read the Bible…nothing.
How easily we equate a “positive attitude” with being a “good Christian.” Failing to live in victory? Bad Christian. Are you complaining? 40 years in the desert for you. Haven’t heard from God? You must have an unrepentant heart. I, too, am tempted to think that if I’m struggling, I must be doing something wrong. But what if I’m struggling simply because I live in a fallen world? What if there is no explanation? Sometimes, life is just painful and confusing. Ask Job. Or read this book and see if it makes sense to you. Bible quotes are encouraging – seriously, they are – but I need spiritual transparency, too. How else can we travel this road together? And how else can we let others know that following Christ is more than putting on a happy face?
9. I spent the weekend doing homework, staring at the ceiling and wondering why I’m the only one not out having the best time ever. #imaloser
I can’t imagine living as a teenager today, feeling the need to prove my own self-worth with photographic evidence of a booming social life on Instagram, Twitter, FB or wherever. Just trying to find a hairstyle acceptable to the middle school powers-that-be was enough for me. (Especially after my Annie perm debacle.) But at least I didn’t have to worry about someone snapping a shot of my bad hair day and sending it into cyberspace for all eternity. Anyway, remember, no matter how old you are, much of life is ho-hum, looking a lot more like Lorde’s Royals video than My Super Sweet Sixteen. And that’s ok. Mountaintops are great for inspiration but life happens in the valley.
10. You don’t really know me and I hope you never do.
Really, this sums up all the others. In many ways, it sums up social media entirely.
I believe that deep down we all want to be known – truly known, understood, accepted and loved. At the same time, we spend most of our time hiding because we’re afraid that if we are truly known, we will be rejected. So we hide…behind our achievements, behind our looks, behind the personas we create for ourselves, behind the personas people create for us, behind our busyness, behind our defenses.
Social Media feeds this part of our human nature, enabling us to be known by many but only as the person we want others to see. We can live like mini-celebrities, presenting ourselves to the world however we wish while hiding all the ugly bits. The problem is everyone is doing this. And because we are so easily deceived, we begin to believe that the happy, shiny faces of our “friends” are real and constant. Then they, in turn, believe the same about us. Thus, we create this vicious cycle where we think we are relating to each other but instead we are isolating ourselves.
But that’s not what I want. Not really. And I don’t think it’s what you want either. The question is, will we settle for the superficial connections we make online or do we have the courage to seek genuine community and real relationships? It’s risky. Believe me, I know! Because there’s a part of me that hopes you never really know me. But there’s another part of me that desperately hopes you do.
So my advice to you is not that you give up Facebook or that you bare your soul online, but rather that you think about the time you spend there. Why are you on social media? What is it doing for you? Are you honest about who you are? Do you spend too much time comparing yourself and your family to others? How can you connect more honestly with others? I don’t know. Just a thought.
Written for the Weekly Writing Challenge, Dear Abby.