I was having coffee with a friend yesterday who asked me what I typically do at the beach. I ‘laughed out loud’ and asked if she imagined that I have long soulful walks, perhaps holding hands with my husband, as we plotted our perfect retirement together, as the waves gently lapped round our ankles. Meantime my daughter would be reclining at the poolside reading self-improving literature guaranteed to help her obtain optimum exam grades. She responded with a raised eye-brow.
It got me thinking though, as it is this picture postcard perfect existence that most of my friends and I portray on social media. Take today for example: my family did travel to the beach, so a typical facebook post might say, ‘yummy dinner at a our favourite Italian, after a fab day surfing the waves.’ I’d perhaps follow this with a beaming photo of us all holding raised glasses and a jaunty close up of our pizza and tirimasu making my facebook friends salivate with envy! And it would be … well one version of the truth.
A different version might be less palatable.
I most categorically would not post anywhere that I had woken up several times during the night with a glass half full of half-term angst, and even a shot or two of half-term anger. Details not necessary! Internal dialogue during this morning’s preparations would be kept strictly off -line. (Why did questioning the size of the suitcase I’d opted for evoke such a response?) Equally, I wouldn’t tell anyone that the dog had been sick on the floor, in the same way that I wouldn’t remind everyone that many years ago both our children had vomited on the toes of a customer at the very restaurant we were going to that evening. Weirdly, it’s the main reason we go back, but sharing that would be paramount to ‘too much information’.
I wouldn’t share my distress (only visible in more internal dialogue) at our eleventh hour plan to have breakfast on the journey, because it would be fun. Neither would I mention my self-congratulatory magnanimity for not kicking off when we were stuck in Bangkok traffic for an extra two hours, due to our late departure from the city, due to the aforementioned breakfast. Also, I doubted that I’d bother to snap the avocado, tomato and scrambled eggs served, slowly, with the avocado and tomato missing, for my pinterest ‘delicious meals’ folder.
What I might do is try to paint a slightly better version of myself with a little exaggeration or inclusion of half-truths ...
For example, at some point during our journey, I might make a quick comment on twitter about listening to #ReasonsToBeCheerful podcast. The irony of listening to a podcast about well intentioned lefties feeling guilty about sending their kids to private schools would be appreciated by my teacher chums … ( I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our own school is non-profit-making!) I might try and make myself look smart by posting a further comment about having moved on to listening to #InOurTime podcast. In it Melvyn Bragg and a very posh lady discussed Klimt’s Judith. At length, I might add. I probably wouldn’t include that this podcast sent me straight to sleep, though I might say that coincidentally we had a print of the copy of Judith hanging in our UK cottage, but would omit that it had gone mouldy because the house is damp.
And on it goes …I’d definitely mention that I had listened to #Fortunately podcast, because that is funny and I do so want to be mates with Jane and Fi. I wouldn’t though, say that I put on my headphones for that bit, as what would that reveal about the ‘sisterhood’.
And on it goes and on it goes … with my picking and choosing the ‘best bites’ of my days, weeks, months and years, to inauthentically appear authentic.
I am, then, an outed fifty something facebook fibber and sharer of fake news. Do I need treatment for this illness? Should I be banned from ever darkening the doors of social media ever again? Should I make a stand and share a more palatable reality? Does anyone really want to air their actual dirty washing in public? Well certainly not me, and if that is what is required to be an authentic user of social media please don’t expect many facebook posts from me in the future!