There was a significant gap between the time my friends and colleagues began to utilize social media and the time that I began. To this day, I would describe myself as quite delayed in regard to being social media savvy. However, even for me, a person that often forgets to check my sites, rarely posts comments or pictures, and who untags just about every picture I am tagged in, is deeply impacted by the misrepresentation that social media affords others.
This phenomenon came to light potently a month or so ago when I met, through an acquaintance, another woman. I have always been extremely sensitive to strangers and the initial energy I feel around them. This particular woman lead with an anxious, bordering on pushy, negative rubbing against depressed, grandiose sense of self. Her stories were about how great she was, intermixed with dabbling of talking badly about those around her, with a sprinkling of worries ranging from whether her boss was going to ask her to complete a project in the morning to whether the room was over capacity for numbers. She rubbed me the wrong way, enough that I maneuvered away from her quickly and spent the afternoon avoiding her.
Later that evening, after the gathering was over she requested to be a connection on more than one social media website. Perusing her postings over the last year, I found the most beautiful, grounded, meticulously perfect, envy inducing concoction of pictures and posts. My jaw dropping, a light bulb went off and a thought I had danced with previously really stuck. People can create a representation of themselves in whatever way they desire on social media accounts. Once the thought landed, I began an intense Facebook stalking of the people in my life that I know to be struggling.
Staring back at me were beautiful family pictures of women who knew they were being cheated on, pictures of vacations and brand new cars from families that struggle with money, and happy pictures capturing family moments between parents and kids when I know the broken relationship between those same people. Immediately I felt a knot in my stomach, anger, thinking about the countless lonely and oppressed people looking at these false representations with envy and sadness. Eventually after churning around this concept for days, I have come to a place of understanding deeply why others do not want to share their pain and challenges publically.
In the relationships that I have endured that were not healthy, no one knew until I ended them. In the jobs that were toxic, very few people had details until I was prepared to give my notice. In the times that I struggled to have comforting relationships with my family if I had access to a social media website I would certainly have not posted any of those challenges. Most of us do our very best to present well and social media sites give us that opportunity.
If we view social media websites as what they actually are, an opportunity for a person or group of people to brand themselves in a way they desire, it is much less uncomfortable to know at times there is little truth behind the façade.