My Online Myth Versus My Offline Truth

Flickr / Nathan Congleton
Flickr / Nathan Congleton

I haven’t had sex in months. I’ve reduced my social life by 95% in order to focus on my mental and physical health. A rollercoaster ride of excitement I am not. The last time I stayed up past 11p.m. was in 2013.

I get crippling “social hangovers”, wherein I will replay the minutiae of almost every human interaction I engage in, desperately seeking out ways I could’ve inadvertently offended the other party, or how they underhandedly insulted me and obviously hate me, so that I can spend more time than is healthy beating myself up about what a shitty person I am.

I hold my breath as I touch my face every morning, terrified that my adult acne has returned and I’ll pass the next week feeling humiliated by the pustules on my jawline.

I wear dirty clothes to the gym.

You wouldn’t know any of this from what I reveal on the social media, though, because I’m airbrushing my online life.

I post a double-filtered photograph of my favourite part of the day to Facebook. I edit my Tweets until they sound just right. I collect the most intelligent and inspiring things I read (never the Daily Mail Online articles) on Tumblr. I Instagram when I look prettiest, status update at my wittiest, and if you were to peruse my Internet life you’d think that everything were bright.

But it occurred to me, as I undertook a hearty online stalking session of an acquaintance whose sunshine life seems achingly bohemian and creative and loving and WHY CAN’T I HAVE THAT? that to anybody else perhaps my life could seem just as misleadingly perfect.

It isn’t a deliberate attempt at deception. I curate optimism, and I believe that what you focus on expands. So I don’t post about transport delays or the way my hip aches today or how I wish I were able to do the back bend the tanned bit next to me in yoga can do. I pick out the good on purpose, because my life – online and off – is for me before anybody else; when I look back I only want to remember the good stuff. Life’s too short etc.

I never considered that other people might be comparing their Real Life with my Show Reel, though, and so here I am, earnestly cultivating the most attractive version of my life so that the brightness of the good memories can dull the emptiness of the bad, an online myth of my own making when the offline truth might be more interesting.

But, why would I focus the less beautiful stuff longer than I must – and why would I expect other people to, either? We’re all trying to live our best life, to find a path that feels right for us, to survive and maybe even thrive and smile and celebrate and doesn’t it feel good to feel good? To share celebratory news and laugh about an awkward encounter together and to hit “like” when somebody looks hot in their profile picture?

Nobody wants to sit next to the dull party guest at dinner, in the same way that nobody wants to follow Moaning Myrtle’s Tweets. And so, what do we have left except to put one foot in front of the other, day after day, taking the glory where we can find it and celebrating the good, together, happy that we are united in the beautiful struggle of the everyday and totally aware that no matter what carefully constructed and edited Facebook status we just read, everyone has their shit to side-step?

Because, just to clarify: everyone has their shit to side-step. TC mark

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