In Emily's Words: Social Media Meltdowns
I've come up with another New Years Resolution. You ready for this?
For the last several weeks my beloved overpriced iPhone has ceased to function. The internet connection works whenever I have WiFi access but the moment I leave my home, zilch. This means that I've been paying for a cell phone every month and it's no more useful than an iPad. No phone calls, no internet away from my house or job, and if anyone needs to get ahold of me, like, say, my daughter's school, that's too bad.
All of this also means that I haven't had immediate access to social media in recent weeks.
No more sitting in the parking lot outside City Market trolling Instagram, looking for dinner inspiration, hair inspiration, or life inspiration. No more stoplight Facebook glances. No more waiting room social media check-ups. No more Pinterest while I wait in line for my lunch at the café across the street.
Time and time again, I'll come back to the idea that we're given things in life as we're able to handle them. I'm beginning to wonder if this involuntary break from immediate social media access is happening at a crucial time in my life.
I can scroll through my feed all day long looking at immaculately-arranged fireplace mantle displays, wooden tableware beneath glistening dinners made from locally-sourced pasture-raised meats, floral murals behind vintage baby basinets, golden braids adorning the heads of clear-skinned moms without a hint of exhaustion under their eyes. But I never see another mom living my exact life. Other women I might be able to relate to in one way or another, but nobody's story is exactly like mine.
These social media sharers come in two columns: we have our fairy woodland nyph moms who paint pictures of mystical lives and storybook narratives, creating an image straight out of Mothering Magazine meets Pottery Barn; and we have our couldn't-care-lessers who use Instagram as a way of documenting and connecting with distant family and friends. I like to think I'm somewhere in the middle: I try to be honest in my captions and photos but anyone who knows me well knows I don't put everything out there online.
I get hard on myself - and these women I've never met - when I see the former. Are you kidding? Your life looks like that? Why can't my life look like that?
I momentarily, but often, catch myself comparing my real life to the edited lives of strangers I've never met.
And then I get a grip.
"Your Instagram feed is so magical. Do you really hang out on top of mountains every day and frolic in the snow with Quinn?" my friend back in New York asked me teasingly one afternoon over FaceTime. She knows the intimate details of my life that I never in a million years would share on social media.
I glanced over at my shrieking two-year-old flinging herself off her new wooden picnic table I bought off Amazon for her birthday. Racking my brain, I tried to remember when I last found myself at the top of any hill.
I rolled my eyes.
"I don't hang out on mountains. That's not my real life, you know that."
Maybe those moms on Instagram, the ones I follow religiously for hair inspiration and recipes and gift ideas, maybe they're not the only ones curating feeds, and their lives, for public consumption. If I'm allowed to post a dreamy photo of my baby on a swing at the park in Redstone, edited with three apps, then so are these other moms I've never met. I've been holding strangers to higher standards than the ones to which I hold myself.
Many days I hide in the bathroom sometime after I arrive home from work but before dinner has been made, seeking refuge in 90 seconds behind a locked door while my toddler hasn't yet realized I've left the room, mindlessly scrolling through social media. It's here where I try to escape from the mundane tasks of grocery shopping and dinner preparation and laundry sorting and diaper changing and the nonstop scrubbing. So much scrubbing. I'll look at my own Instagram page and marvel at the beauty of photos from last fall or last summer, thinking to myself, "It's not all that bad."
It's certainly not all that bad.
Not having immediate access to social media these days has been an overdue breath of fresh air. I feel like I'm on vacation in a foreign country and nobody can get ahold of me, nobody can find me, and I can't stay updated on the world's affairs at the touch of a button. I can live! FREEDOM!
My Instagram feed, like many others', is a highlight reel. You won't find relationship details spilled out for the world to know. You won't see anything about family drama or money problems or that I had to verbally tell myself to go back to school and finish my degree. Instead you'll see flawless-looking shots of me standing in front of a mountain range, of my baby playing by a river, and the view out my passenger-side window overlooking the road to Crested Butte. I don't want to re-live that time my daughter pulled a knife off the kitchen counter and split open her lip. I don't want to remember her little purple cast covering her broken wrist.
My social media platforms exist for connecting with other moms as much as they exist to remind me during those exhausting days that feel like they're 34 hours long that it's really not all that bad. Maybe all those other moms are thinking the same thing. As frustrating as it can be to see someone else's perfect social media life, I have to remember just that: we get to pick and choose what we put online. I don't owe the world every nitty gritty ugly detail, and the world doesn't owe me.
This year I'll work on having less judgment and less comparisons. Nobody else is living my life. And nobody else is curating my Instagram feed. In the meantime, I might get a flip phone for emergencies and only give the number to my daughter's school, my boss, and maybe my family. Maybe.