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?