Does browsing through Instagram leave you feeling like your life took a terrible, terrible turn at some point?
Mine doesn't. I mean look at me. My life is FANTASTIC.
You thought you were doing alright but as it turns out, your husband is a loser, your kids the spawn of South Park and your house looks like a centrefold for the latest issue of You're such a loser and you have such bad taste. The shame you must carry around.
You, your life, and your family are all an embarrassing failure. You know this for a fact because ...
Case in point.
At Christmas you did not, even ONCE, get the whole family in matching footie pajamas to gather on your bed to play board games and eat popcorn while laughing maniacally. Didn't. Happen. Once.
In the fall you didn't walk through an apple orchard with perfectly tousled hair while holding your bearded husband's hand. And even if you did who the hell was going to be behind you and happen to take a picture of the event as it unfolded at sunrise??
Also, I'm not going to tell anyone, but I happen to know for a fact that you don't own anything with pom poms on it.
And your vegetable garden actually has weeds. Loser.
None of this would have bothered you one bit in your LBI (life before Instagram) but now it eats at you. You wanna know why it eats at you?
IT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE BEING TRICKED!
Here's why what we see on Instagram can send us into a tailspin.
When you flip through a magazine you know that you're looking at ads that have been produced. When you watch a tampon commercial with some woman dancing through a field of lavender while holding a puppy high over her head you know it's fake. It's an advertisement. You know there was a photographer, a lighting specialist, hair, makeup - it was a whole production. This woman doesn't routinely dance in puppy-filled lavender fields. She's working. She's an actress or a model or if the ad is particularly low budget, maybe the wife of the producer's loan shark. Her job is to create whatever tampon fantasy the advertiser wants her to. We don't believe this is her real life.
But with Instagram we do.
Because it kind of is real life. Bloggers, influencers, even average people are "just being themselves" on Instagram. So it's easy to get roped into the belief that this is them. In turn it's easy to become depressed over your life and anxious that you're not living up to the potential you could. YOU could be vacationing in a fantastically appointed castle atop a palm tree covered mountain on a remote island no one's ever heard of. With an INFINITY POOL!!! But you're not. You're at home washing sippy cups or planning your next big trip to the dentist.
Are they real people these bikini wearing, hand holding, pumpkin spice latte drinking apparitions of Instagram? Yes. Are they being themselves? Not entirely. They're portraying themselves, - their brand - which is very different.
We perceive the matching pajama wearing Instagram life as real life even when we know it isn't - because it's real people. They're just better people than we are. Right?
Wrong. Obviously. Even when we smartly and astutely understand that these Instagram photos by bloggers and influencers are staged and fake and not even close to being a representation of how they actually live or look we sometimes can't help ourselves from wondering where it all went wrong for us.
I get the same feeling scrolling through Instagram and I'M ONE OF THE PERPETRATORS. I try to be realistic about what I show on Instagram. It's really my house. It's really my garden. It's really me. But a tiny bit better sometimes. A tiny bit better is usually achieved by editing the photos as opposed to my life.
Do I clean myself up for Instagram pictures? Sometimes, not always. But when I do, I clean myself up or tidy the house the same way I would if someone was coming over for dinner. So I'll take the half eaten bowl of dried oatmeal off the coffee table and brush my hair. I'm kind of lackadaisical about having my bras hanging off of doorknobs so you might see some of those in my photos and definitely in my Instagram stories.
The picture of me with the apples up at the top of the post? That's not me. Why the hell would I be picking apples in a vintage floral dress. Even if I was, why would I plop myself down on the grass with an artfully arranged basket of apples and grin like a simpleton up at a camera (that just magically appeared over my head?)
But did I share that photo on Instagram? YOU BET I DID. LOOK HOW CUTE I LOOK! Like Cameron Diaz only cuter.
It got 511 likes.
But I also shared these pictures of that time I watched a YouTube hair curling tutorial and thought I'd end up looking like Charlize Theron ...
... but ended up looking like Barbara Bush on crack at a hoe down.
Guess what? This photo? It got twice as many likes. Over a thousand.
I still want to see and put up inspirational photos on Instagram. If I only wanted to see real life I'd just walk through the grocery store on a Tuesday. And I don't blame bloggers or influencers for using Instagram the way they (we) do. It's part of the business and those perfect photos are very attractive to a lot of people and a lot of sponsors. It's what Instagram IS. It's a platform for sharing beautiful photos. You'll find "realer" stuff in the Instagram Stories - the videos.
Instagram photos inspire me, motivate me and sometimes yes ... irritate and anger me. You too? K.
That's when you have to stop and remember the tampon lady. She's not real. And neither is a lot of what's on Instagram. As long as you remember that you can enjoy Instagram instead of getting angry at it. Or your life. Or your throw pillows that don't match.
So while you're scrolling thorough your favourite social media feeds this week wondering why your living room doesn't have pom poms or your husband doesn't want to heft you over his head in the middle of a pumpkin patch like all the other Instagram husbands do, remember ... behind every Cameron Diaz there's a Hoe Down Barbara Bush.
With her bra hanging off of a doorknob somewhere out of sight.
→Follow me on Instagram where I plan to make doorknob bra spotting a thing.←