A high school acquaintance recently commented on Facebook that my life seems so great. She could tell because I’m smiling in all the pictures. Of course I’m smiling in all the pictures. I get to choose the ones I post. I delete the ones that show off my wrinkles, my backside, dirty dishes in the background. I don’t post photos of me scooping poop in the yard (except today) or the piles of laundry I’m folding. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy in real life and I appreciate that someone cared enough to comment. But it got me thinking about the phony Facebook phenomenon in which I suspect we all play a part.
There are so many variations on this theme in the voyeuristic world of social media. There are several (I’m not exaggerating) women I know who are secretly unhappy, having survived extra-marital affairs but are always posting romantic sunset vacation photos. I’ve seen several bathing beauties who are svelte, especially given their age-group, but haven’t shared that their lithe silhouettes were achieved through multiple plastic surgeries. For the record, I am not against plastic surgery and wish I had the guts to have my own aging parts sucked out and reshaped, but the photos are not what they seem… There are also posts of perfectly posed kids who are monsters in real life. Trust me. They’ve been to my house.
While we also post the funny, real and sincere day-to-day images, we still feel the need to publish our perfectly primped model selves. We seem outraged by the photo-shopped models displayed in magazines portraying women as smoothed out Barbies, yet consistently “like” each other’s specially posed moments. And what’s wrong with that? We are not perfect specimens, but don’t miss an opportunity to display ourselves in our made-up Facebook worlds. Maybe along with all the funny quotes, cartoons and crazy kid anecdotes, we want the world to see that we clean up nicely too…
My friend and I recently found out a juicy piece of information about a college girlfriend who had hurt her more than 20 years ago. We immediately began a spying mission via Facebook by conducting searches on two separate laptops in two different states. What were we going to find out by catching a glimpse of the offender? And more importantly, why did we care? A short, anonymous and un-scientific poll I conducted revealed that we all do it. We are secret stalkers. For a while we were deterred by the threat of that Facebook program that professed to allow us access to those who looked us up or visited our profile pages. In the end that program did not work, so we continue to conduct searches and extract information from our safe perch behind our screens. Does the fact that the information is out there and readily available make it just too irresistible?
When my first article was about to be sent to print my editor asked me for a headshot last minute. I panicked. What headshot? I had no headshot. Why is he telling me now? In my panic I searched through my twelve-year-old’s cell phone and found a photo she snapped of my husband and me on our way out to an event. She helped me crop out the love of my life, reduced my head to a thumbnail and sent it to the editor. I haven’t bothered to update it, even though it irks me, because it looks like me with a little lipstick. Will a professional headshot make me look smarter or younger? Does it matter? I’m not sure, but I do know I will continue to show off on Facebook anytime the stars align and a good photo is produced…I just can’t help myself. In honor of accepting the real me, I am including a photo my daughter snapped of me scooping poop in the yard. I am fully aware that the gray sweater I grabbed in the garage clashes with my rain boots, and I am grateful you cannot smell that I had not yet showered that day.
My girlfriend and I make it a habit to make fun of each other for posting our perfect pics. We have been friends for 27 years so we feel entitled to point out the obvious. Having your ego stripped down to its core by someone who loves you, can laugh at you and at herself is a humbling experience. We know exactly how our lives look behind the scenes and what it takes on any given day to evolve out of our jeans and tee-shirts and into a glam shot worthy of posting.
At a recent gala I attended with about 20 friends, we all posed for a group shot. We squeezed in very closely and given the number of people in our group, and the darkness of the room, our individuality was barely discernible. We posed, sucked in, smiled and waited. As soon as the camera clicked, my friend whispered to me that everyone is about to storm the camera-man to make sure they look good. She was right. The close individual scrutiny and the instantaneous Facebook post occured within seconds. Apparently we need to show that we look good AND are having a good time in real time.
Is this a facade or is it real? We did have great time that night as we did at many other events together. I am as guilty as the next person for posing, for posting, for promoting and advertising. I’m not sure that it’s a conscious effort — we are so used to including social media in our lives that we see it as part of the event. Walk in, greet people, pose, post, go to the bar, pose, post… Have dinner, redo lipstick, pose, post. At least we will have a record of how we spent our days…. glamorous or not.