All of the lawns in my old neighbourhood were immaculate. Perfectly coiffed and manicured works of art, most of them looked like they had just jumped off of the pages of a home gardening magazine. And then there was my lawn. My lawn was not perfect. The one and only year my lawn was actually green was the year it was landscaped. Every other year it was brown and burnt.
My neighbour spent hours and hours meticulously tending his lawn. From May to September, it became his raison d’être; all else fell by the wayside in his pursuit of the perfect lawn. He spent so much time looking after his lawn that he didn’t have any time to enjoy it. And it drove his wife crazy. I know because I would hear them arguing about it all the time. If I saw a picture of his lawn on Facebook, I might be envious.
“The grass is always greener on the other side… until you get to the other side.” -Unknown
I might even say something like, “Oh man, look at that awesome lawn. I wish mine looked like that. My lawn is just so brown and boring.” And even though my lawn really was very brown and boring and did not look like it could be in a gardening magazine, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that because I knew how much effort (and money) his lawn cost him every year. And you know what? Green grass was just not worth it to me. And once you have lived in Petawawa, you learn to live with a dry, brown lawn. The grass might seem like it’s greener, but it’s not. No matter what Facebook tells you.
Social Media Distorts Reality
Someone who follows me on Facebook once pointed out to me how perfect my life is, and how easy I make it all seem. As a 49-year-old widow, I would not call my life a perfect life. The truth is, if you were to judge my life by my personal Facebook page, you’d find it really boring, besides all the lovely coffee and gin memes my friends share with me. I did post an album of pictures from my last big trip to the United Kingdom to appease my mother. No one, not even me, wants to be nagged by my mother. Trust me on this. If you follow A Goat Rodeo, you know I would be the last person to tell you I have a perfect life (I don’t). But I would also be the last person to tell you I have a terrible life (I don’t).
Do I post every negative thing that happens to me? Of course not, because I try hard not to focus on the negative. Ruminating on negative things doesn’t make them less negative, it just makes me feel worse. And I don’t want to give negativity that much power. But by the same token, I don’t post every fantastic thing that happens to me either. I strive to find a balance between the positives and negatives – because life is often a balancing act between the good and the bad.
Don’t assume you know how great (or terrible) their life is based on their posts, and don’t judge your own self-worth or accomplishments on what you see in your Facebook newsfeed.
Sometimes the scale goes more up than down, and other times it’s more down than up. But keeping it real doesn’t mean sharing every personal detail of my life—there are limits. When did social media become the yardstick we use to measure other people’s happiness or unhappiness or our own self-worth? Whether we care to admit or not, we have all been guilty of it at one point or another. We look at our friends’ posts and assume we know exactly what’s going on in their life. Or we are envious of them and their “perfect” lives.
A Picture Isn’t Always Worth a Thousand Words
The truth is that a picture isn’t always worth a thousand words. Most of the time, we have absolutely no idea what’s really going on in someone’s life. Assuming you know what someone’s life is actually like based on a Facebook post is like assuming you know what a finished puzzle is going to look like by looking at just one piece. Many people only share their best moments on social media: brief snapshots in time that only tells a small part of their story.
That happy couple that is out “celebrating them” at dinner? They are out celebrating a small victory in his battle with PTSD. That mom and her smiling daughter? She spent hours this morning struggling to get her daughter out the door to school. And she’s exhausted, just like so many other moms and dads of kids with special needs. That dude who seems to always be at one sporting event or the other? His wife left him six months ago. And that beautiful blonde who just posted her tenth selfie this month? Well, she was just told a month ago she has breast cancer. And she’s posting those pictures so she won’t forget what she looked like with hair.
“Sometimes people post the best of themselves because they need that memory to hold on to. Sometimes it’s all they have. Sometimes they aren’t able to say how bad things are. And that’s okay.”
Posting the Best of Themselves
Sometimes people post the best of themselves because they need that memory to hold on to. Sometimes it’s all they have. Sometimes they aren’t able to say how bad things are. And that’s okay. They don’t have to. It’s not our business to know what they don’t want us to know. Social media can be a wonderful tool to keep us all connected, but the next time you’re on Facebook, remember you are just seeing a small piece of somebody’s world.
Don’t assume you know how great (or terrible) their life is based on their posts, and don’t judge your own self-worth or accomplishments on what you see in your Facebook newsfeed. I guarantee you that despite the smiles, many of them are dealing with issues you have absolutely no idea about. But the next time I post a picture on Facebook, do feel free to assume my life was a bit of a goat rodeo right before it was taken. Because, more often than not, it is.