What does it mean to live authentically in the age of social media?
People used to live their lives behind closed doors. Before the age of long Facebook posts and never ending Instagram stories, people only shared the imperfect parts of their lives with a few close friends and family. But things are different today. Today many people don’t shy away from posting all the things they are going through right on social media for all to see.
When we are curious about our friends and family, we only have to scroll through their Facebook page and Instagram feeds to find a glimpse of their lives and get an idea of what they are up to and how they are doing. Many times what we find are pictures of their best moments and carefully curated posts depicting life achievements or celebrating milestones such as birthdays, graduations, and weddings. You may even have a few bold friends who will post their responses to world events and political news, or write some commentary about their social-emotional selves. But the truth is that most of us avoid posting about the trials and tribulations of our lives. We don’t air the ‘true’ side of what is really going on in our lives for all to see.
In the age of cancel-culture, many of us are more and more careful with what we post about online. Heaven forbid we write what we are truly feeling. How many times have we heard a friend berate someone they know for posting ‘their whole lives’ online? I sometimes wonder if the age of social media has actually caused some of us to live more isolated lives. I am afraid that very few of us have the courage to post our true authentic selves online.
I am guilty of projecting to the world an image that depicts only the best of myself. As if that was the only part of me that exists. I admit I am guilty of not being authentic. I mean honestly, do I really want people to know about the laundry that’s piling up or the grime that’s accumulating behind the toilets in my home because I don’t have time to run a perfect house? Do I want people to know that sometimes I yell at my kids and am unfair to my spouse? What would people think if they knew I’ve struggled with intrusive thoughts and despair? How would my friends and family judge me? I am sure that if I did share some of those parts of my life, I would find support and understanding because I am blessed with great friends and an unbelievably supportive family. But the truth is, I don’t share most of those things because in the end, I simply don’t care to be judged. I know that inevitably I would be, because it is in our nature and frankly I think it is near impossible to go through this life without being somewhat judgmental of the people around us. I don’t want to, but I do. I judge. Many times I judge unfairly. I judge based on my life experience and with the lens through which I see the world. That lens may not allow me to be as understanding as I would wish to be.
Ultimately I am a product of my upbringing, and if my mom taught me to do things one way and you do things differently, well my friend, I am afraid that I will be judging you based on those parameters. It takes a lot to widen our lens and view the world more fairly and justly. I admit I can surprise myself and be very open-minded and try to see the world through the eyes of others. But that usually only happens when I am being very philosophical and wise. I am not wise most days. Most days I am myself and can only react as my natural self would. And so I judge. And in order to avoid being judged by others who will view my life through a different lens than mine, I don’t post the real and raw truths of my life. Others just wouldn’t understand me. Or so I thought.
I follow hundreds of people on social media and although many of those people are family and friends, I find that the overwhelming majority of the people I follow are mothers. That means we have something in common. We all have experienced all the things that come along with motherhood. The highs and the lows, the beautiful and the ugly. And although I hate to admit it, I have found myself sharing things in common with many of the people that I would otherwise be very judgmental of. You see, it is hard to judge someone unfairly when you have shared the same experiences. If a mom posts a picture and in the background her kitchen counter is cluttered with sippy cups and little bits of food, I can relate because I’ve been there. I too have had the living room covered in toys and have driven in the car full of crumbs. And so just as I cannot judge other moms for going through the same things I’ve gone through, I have found that I am not as judged as I thought I would be when I share the hard parts of motherhood with the world. On the contrary, the first rally of support that I do get comes from other moms. From new moms who are just finding out that it is OK to not be perfect, to the experienced moms who are always willing to listen and share what worked best for them, I find that I can be my authentic self around this amazing group of people who share with me the experience of motherhood.
Thanks to this supportive sisterhood, I am learning to be less judgmental and less afraid to be judged by others because in the end we all have shared experiences that link us together.
If you were to look me up on social media, you would find pictures and videos of all of the best parts of my life. And although you won’t find me posting pictures of my grimy bathroom, or of my garage which is a hot mess right now, you will find me posting more of the real side of my life. I still choose to use social media to showcase the best of me, but alongside the best of me, you will also find the worst and all that comes in between as I journey through life attempting to be my true authentic self.