Every day we are bombarded with millions of social media posts. We document our lives in all of their glory and perhaps a little too much of the minutiae. We express our opinions, we open what’s deepest in us, we rant about the injustices in the world.
But does Facebook and Instagram actually help to feed our masks, of what we want others to see of us?
Do we construct our self-image by referencing how others might perceive us, rather than what’s real – and ultimately beautiful – in ourselves?
Paradox of social media
Social media is a wonderful enabler. It obviously helps us stay connected with those around us – our family, friends and those who we haven’t met yet.
But paradoxically, our hyper-connectivity and the pressure to be always ‘on’ 24/7 means that our relationships can something amount to 140 characters or a sum total of the selfies we take.
Digital empires are vast. Facebook has 1.038 billion daily active users (Feb 2016) and there are 70 million daily Instagram users – who share an average of 70 million photos per day.
These are staggering amounts.
Vanity – how much do we observe ourselves being observed?
But my question is about social media posting – and how do we live life too focused on being the ‘observed’?
Before we post, how much do we ask ourselves, what will people think of my post? How will they see me? Will I be liked? How can I get as many Likes as possible?
Are we hooked on vanity?
We’re observer and observed at the same time.
Or do we post what really needs to be said?
I work in PR, and my daily interactions with colleagues focuses on messaging (words, images and video content) and their channels of dissemination – how they reach their target market or audience (or not).
In my business we’re very strict. We do everything we can to represent our clients with text and images that are authentic and express the very heart of their work.
We know how important accurate representation is.
Gap between artful Instagram and how we really feel
However in the broader field, what I see so often is a gap between what is shown – artfully made and posted on Facebook and Instagram – and what is real in life.
As the world grows more digitised, we’re seeing a whole tribe of ‘experts’ who tell others how to live, eat, love and work. However what’s obvious is that there is often a huge gap between what is shown and taught and what is.
For us to come together as women to fully support each other, it’s so important to take off our Facebook mask, to remove the Instagram filters and to start to get real in how we communicate in the world.
Keep what’s private, private
And by this, I don’t mean blurting the inner-most revelations that show stay in the diary. There’s still a role for old-fashioned pen and paper. And privacy.
Keeping up managing businesses and/or careers with relationships, children (or a grandchild in my instance), exercise and self-care, learning, relaxation, having fun and quality ‘me time’ is a huge ask for any woman, let alone those of us who are single mums or trying to conceive or find a partner or who don’t have financial resources or are battling illness (and a whole lot more).
A big tension between the inner and the outer
I’ve yet to meet a woman who doesn’t juggle something that creates a big tension between the inner and the outer. Myself included.
The super-fit, gorgeous 20 somethings who drink green smoothies and appear to have the world at their feet but are frightened if they will ever make a living from their passion.
The sassy 35 year old at the height of her career who wonders if she’ll ever meet the father of her child?
The successful career woman in her 40’s who, as a single mum wonders if life will ever be different from the endless struggle to make ends meet, and if she’s missed the eligibility boat for re-partnering.
The mummas in their 50s who are terrified of changes in their bodies and of the unstable, increasingly violent world their children and grandchildren inherit.
There are many women in the media to take a strong position around the myth of having it all.
Recently I saw the excellent Dr Libby Weaver speak at an IWD lunch. In detail, she outlined the cost of what she calls ‘Rushing Women’s Syndrome’ and the high price women pay.
Toothpaste smiles and having it all
Our society strongly encourages us present a picture perfect, white-toothed smile where we successfully ‘have it all’.
So we comply with glossed images plastered all over Facebook and Instagram.
These images don’t reveal the extent of our exhaustion or our anxiety over money, life direction, concern for our children, ageing, loneliness without a partner and a lot more.
Having honest conversations
So I think it’s time to pull out our journals, talk to trusted friends and family and start to have an honest conversation with ourselves about how we really feel, with what’s really going on.
A conversation that is sacred and private, one that’s not plastered everywhere electronically and feeds ravenous digital empires.
A shared conversation to check in with what’s really going on. And to find ways of being honest and genuinely supporting each other.
It’s so extraordinary that when one woman speaks up and tells the truth, she opens the door and allows others to do the same.
I did this recently with a group of women – and it was remarkable how huge the level of support we all received – bigger than my wildest imagination.. Much meatier than a post or two..
Think before we post
So maybe it’s also time to consider that before we post the airbrushed version of ourself, that we take a moment to consider, is this actually real? Or is this part of the same story of how I want people to know of me?
How can I show my true beauty to the world, today?
The Butterfly Temple honours the places of transformation in a woman’s life so we can all live to the fullest of who we are – in all of our magnificence, colour and beauty.
For this to happen, as women, we must walk through the different stages of our lives, go into our cocoon in order to grow.
Life moves in cycles.
If you watch nature, you’ll see the natural rhythm of death, rebirth, change, movement, chaos and back to life again.
Think of leaves as they start as tiny buds, bursting open, unfurling, then falling from the tree, decaying on the ground and finally composting the soil to create nutrients for the tree to grow more leaves.
You’ll see this so markedly in the changing seasons and in every arena of nature.
Butterflies Aren’t Born Butterflies
The butterfly is a universal symbol of transformation. And that’s because a butterfly can only ever start as a caterpillar. Perhaps it’s stating the obvious, but butterflies are never born as butterflies.
Think about that for a moment – to fully transform and emerge as an exquisite creature of beauty – caterpillars surrender themselves to a sort of death so they can emerge with wings.
They must enter into their cocoon in full trust and faith.
This caterpillar doesn’t know what’s going to happen. It doesn’t know it will emerge as a butterfly, if it allows the process of transformation to happen.
Just as the caterpillar must die to its hairy grub self, so to we must leave our safe shores so that we transform.
Live and Let Die
What is familiar must be relinquished. What is known and finished must die.
It’s almost like being in a tunnel … and some people call it the ‘long dark night of the soul.’
Beautiful yet fragile, to actually emerge as a butterfly takes two things – great courage and knowingness of what is actually complete and what must die.
It takes inner reflection and trust in knowing that in the process of death what will come is something that is far greater than what was.
Unlike caterpillars, magnificent, colourful butterflies have wings that give them a capacity to fly. And, importantly, the ability to pollinate flowers and catalyse creation and life.
Just like us. We let go of our hairy, slow, inching crawling fat wingless selves to emerge in beauty as a pollinator of life.
With an ability to create and gestate life – and be an inextricable part of the food chain of the interconnectedness of life. Incredible.
That’s the Butterfly, Now for the ‘Temple’
Temples hold that which is sacred. At The Butterfly Temple we support women everywhere to hold themselves as sacred in a new way – care, value and nurture themselves in loving and respectful ways.
In a way that is beyond any attributes of superficial identity.
We’ve seen enormous social change in the last 50 years, where we’ve been encouraged to see ourselves in new and more connected ways.
Connecting with ourselves, with others and creating community. It’s incredible the speed of change and what’s been created from this shift in mindset.
It has been an enormous gain. However, there is a lot of lip service in the media about honouring and respecting ourselves, but actually promoting the opposite.
So, the Butterfly Temple, we’re asking, ‘what is that process of transformation for you?’ ‘What’s the process of transformation for our planet?’
‘How can we support each other to emerge and fly as the beautiful butterflies we are, in our own way?’
How Can we Hold Ourselves as Sacred?
We restore our trust in ourselves, our faith in others and see ourselves with eyes of innocence and kindness, as we did when we were small children.
So, if the Butterfly Temple can make a small contribution to reclaiming connectedness, where we can trust ourselves, where we can hold ourselves with care and as innocent, irrespective of what’s happened to us in ourselves and in our lives, we will have done our job.
That’s our goal, that’s our vision, and ultimately that’s a vision of love. Of forgiveness and compassion.