Social Media Shame

I wrote this last year around vacation time…and, since it’s vacation season again, I thought it bore repeating.  Happy Spring Break, everyone!  And may we continue to be committed to encouraging and extending grace to each other…in real life and on social media. 

If you and I are friends/followers on social media, by the time you read this, you’ll probably hate me.

As a strange twist of fate and crazy planning, I happen to have two vacations back to back.  I know…kind of a social media faux pas.  I honestly thought about not posting any photos of my second vacation.  I didn’t want to make people jealous.  But, the problem is, I like to take fun pictures.

What’s going on behind the pictures is sometimes different…just like yours.  I thought of all of this because one of my friends commented on a photo I put up on Instagram yesterday.  I mentioned an upcoming trip and her response was, “I want to have your life—or, at least your vacation part.”  I immediately started feeling guilty.  And, I was reminded how photos don’t accurately reflect the interior of our lives.

A perfect picture doesn’t mean a perfect life.  Or, even vacation.  But, if you’re anything like me, it can start to feel like that—at least, when it’s not my life.  I can quickly spiral into social media shame when I look for too long at a college friend’s facebook page, or a co-worker’s Instagram.  I saw (on facebook) another friend who mentioned “perfect” posts the other day.  She commented on how we shouldn’t be jealous of each other’s photos.  We should rejoice with those who rejoice.  She’s obviously more gracious than I am.  Some days I do that…and some days I don’t.  

Some days I think about what I don’t have.  Where I haven’t been.  What I haven’t been doing.  And I would NEVER want my social media to make someone else feel that way.

I played that silly game that was circulating on facebook recently.  You may have seen it.  It made a children’s story of your life, complete with stick figure images. I read all kinds of posts about “This is Laura.  Laura likes dogs.  She goes on fun vacations with her family” type of things.  I thought it would be fun to see what it said about me.  It wasn’t. 

“This is Sissy.  Sissy likes taking selfies with her friends.  Sissy posts a pic in which everybody is good looking.  Sissy is a good girl.  Be like Sissy.”

Literally.  Sissy posts pics where everybody is good looking?  Sissy is a good girl?  Be like Sissy?  And I don’t even like taking selfies (unless it’s for a good reason).  Not ONE of those comments felt like a compliment.  They could have at least said I have a really cute dog.  It drove me into even more social media shame.

I’m not good.  There is nothing spiritually in me that identifies with that statement.  I know Someone who is.  But I am not.  I don’t’ want to only take pictures of good looking people.  And I never want to look like my vacations—or family—or anything about me is perfect in any way. 

As a matter of fact, let me say this clearly.  I’ve counseled families for over 23 years and there is no perfect family.  Everyone has their stuff.  I sit with couples in tears over their marriage, and then see their anniversary posts the very next day.  You know the ones I mean…that can make any of us spiral into social media shame.

But, I like to post fun pictures.

So, I had an idea.  No, I’m not going to mix in a #truthtuesday post.  Those are great for some people.  But I don’t really want to share some struggles with the public…for me or for the people who might be struggling with me.  I do, however, want to do something different.  I want to keep posting photos of my vacation.  You can unfollow me if you want.  I’m going to because I like to.  But, I’m still Sissy.  I’ll be smiling in every photo, mostly because—if you know me, you know I like to smile.  I still don’t have a perfect life.  I don’t have a perfect family, although they’re really great and I love them very much.  (Okay, I do think my dog is perfect…sorry!)  I can also promise you that, no matter how things look on the exterior in a photo, my vacation is not perfect, either.

So, here’s the plan I came up with.  There’s evidently a new emoji in town.  It’s a little face with hands.  I’m going to put it on the caption of each of my photos.  Just as a “Hey.  I’m still here.  Still Sissy.  Still real and imperfect.  And on a vacation where people are potentially getting on each other’s nerves or crying in the bathroom…even though the photos may not look like it.”  

You can do the same.  Or, your version of what it looks like to still be you in the midst of a really great picture.  We’re going to be seeing lots of photos of each other in the next few months as spring breaks start happening across the country.  Let’s remember together that the exterior doesn’t necessarily match the interior…in photos or in real life.  As author and theologian Ian Maclaren said, “Be kind; everyone you meet is facing a great battle.”  That battle is likely not going to show up on Instagram.  So, why don’t we let those photos serve as a reminder that we can pray for each other, give each other grace, encourage one another, and realize there’s much more to us all than what shows up on social media.