Every day, people spend a combined thousands upon thousands of hours cultivating an online perception of how they want to be seen on social media. You might craft the perfect status, doing your best not to offend anyone in today’s sensitive PC culture, while also trying to be unique enough for it to stand out and get those ‘likes’ that validate your opinion and make you feel important.
The validation is addicting.
You might take dozens of pictures of the best parts of your otherwise mundane life, trying to capture the perfect image of your coffee, dessert, bike trail, yoga mat, avocado toast, your face. Then you throw a filter on it and inspired quote: “It’s the little things in life that remind me how #blessed I am!”
Then you go to sleep, eagerly awaiting the responses and interaction on your posts. Each one feels like a pat on the back for a life well-lived.
Morning comes, and you wake up, late as usual, and check your phone to see how popular your post was, feeling a bit nervous. 52 likes and 3 comments…not bad! Back to the real world, where you head to your entirely non-glamorous and non-Instagram-worthy first job as a sandwich maker, cashier, server, receptionist, accountant.
You hate your job, and you don’t much care for the people you work with either. You spend most of your shift on Tinder, trying to hook up with cute strangers who have also crafted the perfect #blessed post. It distracts you from the fact that your significant other broke up with you last month–through a TEXT message nonetheless, after 8 months of dating–and now they’re posting #blessed pictures with some new, way cuter than you blonde as of last week. It distracts you from feeling like a failure, a thought which occurs frequently and makes you feel like you’re going to be sick.
Or maybe you ARE sick…sick with worry because you barely have enough money to pay rent most months. Sick because you eat like crap most of the time; those avocado toasts and fancy coffees are expensive as hell, and you can’t afford to do that more than twice a month. Sick because if you really are sick, with some kind of illness, you survive on hope and Emergen-C because you don’t qualify for health benefits at either of your jobs, and you can’t afford to go to the doctor.
You feel sick because you aren’t happy. This is not how you imagined your life going. You thought that by now, you’d be exploring the world and going on exotic getaways, possibly with a very handsome, college-educated man who doesn’t complain about how many shoes you buy and who has deep talks with you about the current political state, about whether or not God exists, and about what happens to us all when we die. At the very least, you thought you’d have an idea for your career nailed down and maybe finally go to college, but so far, every path you’ve dabbled in hasn’t felt like a good fit. You can’t tell if it’s the paths, or if it’s just you and your inadequacy.
Meanwhile, all your friends on social media seem to have it all figured out, and you can’t help but compare yourself to them and their poolside daiquiri photos, their perfect makeup selfies at the most flattering angles. Tina is getting married to her perfect boyfriend next spring. Miranda and her high school sweetheart just had their beautiful 2nd child. This one’s a model. This one has a full ride through school on a football scholarship. Andrew and his two best friends spent three weeks in Europe on their summer vacation, because they could and why not?
And then there’s you.
You don’t want to admit how short you’ve come up, so you post your (as perfect as they can be) makeup selfies too. You post inspirational quotes and talk about how much fun you’re having being single, even though you feel like you might hurl yourself off a balcony if you hear one more man-bun tell you how much better he’s felt since he started doing crossfit and “eating clean.” You’re so goddamn tired of pretending to care about how much water it takes to milk an almond, or about the power of healing crystals. You’re tired of reading boring books to impress people and make yourself seem sophisticated, of watching stupid shows that you only watch so you’ll know what everyone is talking about when they ask you if you’ve seen it and INSIST that it’s the most life-changing thing since Bird Box.
But you just don’t care. Pretending to care is exhausting, but one thing that you do care about is what people think of you. You care that they think you’re clever, interesting, and that you have your shit together, like all of them do. You don’t tell anyone how you cried on your drive home from work thinking about the cute blonde dating your ex, or how you haven’t eaten a real dinner in four days because all you have left to eat is cereal and granola bars until you get paid tomorrow.
You have no one who could relate to you, right? All of your perfect friends are doing great–your struggles would just be a burden to them and an unwelcome spot of darkness in their perfect lives.
You have no way of knowing that Tina’s perfect boyfriend cheated on her a couple months ago, but they’re going ahead with the wedding anyway because they’ve already sent out invites and paid for everything, and even though he’s the one that cheated, she’d feel too embarrassed and humiliated to call it off now. Her fiance sleeps on the couch, and she spends her nights looking at places to live once they get a divorce.
Miranda’s second child was unplanned; so was her first. She in fact never really wanted kids, but her husband wanted them–she wanted to pursue a career in interior designing. And so, when she became pregnant, she would have to learn how to become a doting mom and put her career on hold for an indefinite amount of time. Now that her kids are her life, she talks of nothing else on social media, and no one would suspect how trapped she feels in this new, foreign role and that she’s doing the best she can.
You get ready for bed, making sure you snap a quick pic of your bunny slippers that you really only have so you can take pictures of them, add a filter and a couple hashtags (“Sweet dreams! ❤ #lovelife”), and you try to shut out the void of emptiness that you feel so you can get to sleep and do it all over again. At least you’re meeting up with your friends tomorrow for some payday drinks (even though you really should buy some actual groceries), so that’ll be fun, right? You wish you could tell them how you’ve really been feeling, but you won’t. You’ll fake it. You have an image to uphold, even in real life now. You’ll take pictures of your drinks, and of course there will be many group selfies. You’ll all act like things are magnificent, beaming large, whitened smiles. “Girl’s night out! Love these ladies. #blessed”.