Facebook, Easter, and Perfect Family Photos
Last year, just after Easter, I almost quit Facebook.
I remember opening up the app on my phone and being flooded with family photos. Families in pastels, kids holding Easter baskets, kids all dressed up, kids all perfectly smiling, families perfectly in sync, spouses adoringly connected.
Piss on that.
Last year at this time, my marriage was culminating into the disaster that occurred this past fall. I had no idea at the time that it would devolve as badly as it eventually did, but last spring I was an extremely unhappy and angry person, having set the first of “lines in the sand” with my husband and his issues and wondering how it was going to play out.
And social media nearly did me in. I scrolled through picture after picture, with no choice to “click here and see” because EVERYONE was still on my feed. Beautiful kids, beautiful families. And my heart just hurt.
Logically, I knew that these were snapshots. And like good old fashioned film-canister-35mm-wait-a-week photographs, we only pick the good ones to put in the albums or frame.
Logically, I knew that. I’d already experienced (about a year before that) the discovery through school-volunteer-chatting that a mutual couple had split up but it wasn’t apparent on Facebook yet. I had stood there in the copy room with the “OHMYGODYOU’REKIDDING” expression and the subsequent dissection of everything either one of had heard or knew (not much) that would have led to the split. I had recalled things the wife had said, innocent at the time, which made me wonder “was that a sign I missed?” The thing is, I wasn’t close to this family, so much as their kids went to school with my kids and we crossed paths often enough to say “yeah, I’m friends with them.” See, on Facebook, they were the cutest family, attending college football games, running 5Ks together as a family, and so forth. I know I never saw it coming.
It was my first real awakening to how we all show the good side of ourselves and our lives on social media.
So logically, last spring, scrolling through the Easter photos, I knew this. But it still hit me so hard, so very hard, that even if I produced an adorable photo of my kids in some sort of nice clothing (assuming I had the energy…which, by the way, I did not last spring), I would still know the truth about our cutesy-on-Facebook family.
Knowing this, logically knowing that all these families have their own sets of issues, why did it hit me so hard?
I’ve given this some thought and here’s my blunt conclusion. Social media is the equivalent of me carrying around that photo album of snapshots, report cards, art work, and awards and walking through Walmart going “Look at this! Look at my family! Look at what we did!” To perfect strangers and/or people that, pre-Facebook, we’d call “acquaintances” or “friends of a friend.”
We don’t do that in real life, right? Because, hello, insane, right? But we do it on Facebook because we can. And I’m all for it, honestly. When Facebook first came out and it was just a few of us out there connecting, it was so much fun to see updated family photos of a friend you haven’t seen in 5 years. The connection was awesome. And in my heart, I still want to see those connections because some people are important to me.
But the 100 other people I’m “friends” with on Facebook? (I’m really picky about Facebook and who I “friend.” Seriously, I keep it around 100 because it gets ridiculous. Plus, I’m a private person mostly.) Most are “acquaintances” and seeing their “perfect” lives is destroying me. Why them and not, say, a good friend’s photos?
Because I know my good friends’ lives. I know their ups and downs. I know the bad times. I know that their husbands sometimes suck worse than mine. I know that their kids backtalk and act dumb and don’t do their chores. I know the dark side of their lives.
But acquaintances? The people I run into at Walmart and chat with for a few minutes and end with “see ya around school”? Those are the people I enjoy for the momentary chat, the momentary laugh and the immediate bonding when, say, we end up in the copy room together at our kids’ school. I don’t know the ins and outs of their lives and if that person were to whip out their album of Family Success in the school copy room, I think I would feel the same way that Facebook made me feel last Easter.
So, I stopped following almost everyone on Facebook. I hid them from popping up on my timeline. And when I’m in the mood, I browse through my “friends” and look at their stuff. Somehow, by taking control of when I see their snapshots of happy family life, it doesn’t affect me the same. It doesn’t hurt anymore, or at least nothing like it used to. I am in control of that part of my life now, while not having to delete Facebook (my only real social connection these days plus where else can I find wonderful memes to make my day?).
So this year, I snapped a photo of my three kids being absolutely silly and NOT ADORABLE and posted it with the words “keepin’ it real.” And I haven’t looked at anyone else’s just yet. I’ll get there eventually.