It happens every week. Sometime once a day. Maybe more often than that.
You see someone on social media who has a "better" life than you...
and you feel worse.
Perhaps it was a post of their clean children with matching clothes and an ice cream cone that is somehow magically not all over their white shirt. You then look over at your child still wearing their pajamas with a milk stain that you're fairly certain was from yesterday's breakfast.
Maybe you saw an Instagram photo of a perfectly-styled kitchen with matching appliances, nary a dirty dish in sight. Then you look up at your tired cupboards and chipped counter tops and a sink full of spoons. How are there so many dirty spoons?
A strong, fit body; an enviable wardrobe; a family you wish you had; a dreamy vacation; a talent you don't possess; a friendship you envy... all of these things are easy to take from a simple social media SQUARE and compare to your real, filter-less life.
But seriously, YAWN, this post has been written before.
"Don't compare yourself to the little squares of others." And while you know it to be true, it is still something you struggle with. Because we ALL struggle with it. There is ALWAYS someone with BETTER SQUARES than you. Always and forever. Amen.
And oddly, that's not even what I'm writing about.
(Get on with it, then!)
Ok, I will.
I want to discuss the thoughts we have AFTER the initial comparison. The thoughts that go like this: "Yeah. But. They don't know what it's like to deal with (fill in the blank with your struggle, illness, issue)."
It's the justification that makes us feel a little better about feeling a little worse. Because while you know that the SQUARES aren't completely accurate representations of the social poster's life, you feel warranted to assume that their lives aren't as difficult as yours. Or as complicated. Or as sad/frustrating/lonely/etc.
Maybe they are not. Maybe they are. Maybe you'll never know. That's not the point.
(My goodness, woman, what IS your point then?)
I often see comments on @kidsaretheworst that quickly assume that "you don't understand what it's like with # of kids" or "try homeschooling" or "you should deal with the issues I have to deal with."
I know that they aren't necessarily writing to me. I understand that these little messages are justifications for feeling a bit better about their circumstance. It isn't about me. it's about them.
For seven and a half years, I have been chasing a diagnosis for a mysterious illness. I have visited a hundred (minus about 92, but feels like one hundred) doctors twenty times each. I have had so many tests, prescriptions, natural remedies, prayers, books studied, articles read, oils schlepped, blessings, suggestions, diets... that I am exhausted by it all.
In fact, I don't talk about it much. Most people don't even know that 3 or 4 times a year, I don't feel safe driving, let alone talking. I slur my words, I forget large portions of thoughts, I replace words unknowingly, I can't think of common, everyday words, my arms go numb, my hands drop all of the things, I get dizzy and SO TIRED. It lasts a few weeks or a month and then it's gone. Then I am back to being me again.
I've had diagnoses, and they have been taken away. I have had long discussions with people who I trust and I have nodded when well-meaning individuals dismiss my condition and say, "Oh, that happens to me, too."
But I don't share this info lightly. In fact, I share it very rarely. It isn't something I talk about in the SQUARES of my social media accounts. I don't make a joke about kids being full of energy and then say "because I am dealing with an illness right now that makes it difficult for me to keep up with my kids. Cue sad music and now you feel bad, too!" That's not my M.O. It's not many people's M.O.
Social media can do a few things:
- It keeps you connected with family and friends.
- It inspires you through shared interests.
- It informs you of your favorite brands' changes and trends.
If an account falls into numbers 2 or 3, then you should not expect to hear about their life struggles or problems. But do not assume they do not have them. Because I will bet you one dollar bill that they most certainly do have something that they are dealing with and not sharing on their account. It isn't "hidden" to make you feel WORSE, but instead to not weigh you down with MORE struggles.
I always tell my social media clients to stick to THREE things that you offer your audience. Not because you aren't wildly more interesting than three things, but because most people cannot handle more than that. They do not want to deal with ALL of you, because they are dealing with ALL of their own life, ALL of their families' lives, ALL of their work and neighborhood lives, etc.
You're a chef? Give me food.
You're a photographer? Give me photos.
There is a place for the 80-20 rule—to make your three things 80% of what you share and sprinkle 20% "OTHER" things to keep it interesting and rounded. But keep it light.
If I sprinkled 20% of my humor pages with my mysterious illness, it would turn into an entirely new page altogether. And honestly, until this post, I have been very quiet about it as I try to navigate this type of normalcy in our lives.
You've got something that makes your life difficult. Maybe multiple things. So do I. So do the people with "perfect" SQUARES and a lot of followers.
So this post isn't about NOT comparing others' perfect squares to your real life. (Or judging a sentence with a double negative.) It's also more of a gentle reminder that EVERYONE is dealing with SOMETHING. That it isn't a race to compare. That we all wish some parts of our lives were prettier or cleaner or had more muscle.
But also, OH WELL.
Do you. Live your good life. Social media reminds me of a classic theme song from the 80s:
You take the good,
You take the bad,
You take them all,
And there you have
The Facts of Life...
(When the world never seems to be living up to your dreams, then suddenly you're finding out
the facts of life are all about you... wait, does this song even make sense??)
Take the SQUARES for what they're worth. If it makes your life better, great. If some SQUARES are making you feel worse, you have this great power to unfollow.
Then go look at your cute messy kid and the sink full of spoons and make him wash them all!
Boom. Your life is already better.