Life is Not Your Newsfeed

JANUARY 9, 2014

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I have the coolest friends on Facebook. Every time I check my newsfeed I see all the amazing trips they take, their beautiful family pictures, the witty statuses they come up with, and the overall better life they live. Yep, my friends are living it up.

I bet your friends online are pretty amazing, too.

The more I notice their superior lifestyle the more mine seems pedestrian. While they are finishing marathons, I am watching a second hour of SportsCenter. While they Instagram their delicious meal, I am having a hummus and chips dinner. Their tweets are funny, and their Tumblrs are so artful. And I have nothing near as great to show for my existence…

This is life on social media.

Our online personas, via any social network that allows you to carefully curate your image, are deceivingly beautiful. Your friends are just like mine, because they are human beings who want to look good. I know I do. I want to show my best face. I don’t plan to post a picture of my messy room, or check-in at Taco Bell via Foursquare any time soon. I want to feel good about how others perceive me. It’s a very human need, so I don’t blame any of my friends for looking cool online.

The tricky part comes in when you consider the other side of the computer screen. When my friends post something online that further adds to their already glossy avatar, that causes a reaction in me. I compare my life to theirs, and, since theirs looks so well-lived, I get a little disappointed at my own.

But there’s a crucial assumption that I often forget, and that is that online life is not completely real. The stuff that any of us can post, tweet, or capture can be controlled to a degree that is nowhere to be found in the offline world. Social media is our very own tabloid that we get to editorialize. It can be a beautiful collage of our life experiences that we share with friends, but when you are on the other side of that sharing you have to take it with a grain of salt. Those pixels are not the full picture.

The full truth lies somewhere in the middle. We all have amazing moments and insights to share, but we also have many hours that we spend farting around. We all procrastinate from time to time. A good deal of us are insecure, which is why we had to take that selfie a dozen times before we liked it enough to share it.

And that’s fine; it’s totally human to try to share our best selves.

But when I take a look at what my social network is up to I need to remember that what I’m seeing has gone through a very thorough filter. I need to be kind to myself and not measure my worth by an unfair yardstick. That, and obviously take much better pictures of my delicious meals.

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