Our generation is plagued with the perception of faux reality, both giving and receiving. An overwhelming, compulsively, detailed-driven, carefully-calculated manipulated account of the person we long to be seen as. It is a crippling, debilitating disease that seeps slowly into the veins of our minds, turning beauty, spontaneity, leisure and freedom into a checklist of items to filter, log, archive. We don’t care about the moment; we care about the perception of the moment. Here is a sunset. That you only saw through the lens of your iPhone, but didn’t dare look at solitarily because what if THE picture that would get 16 likes occurred in that moment? We have been so ingrained not to miss that opportunity for a far greater one that slips by unknown.
My generation is plagued with unhappiness and fulfillment at the core, while masking perfection to a thousand of our closest friends. I haven’t met one person in my generation who actually believes Facebook is a good thing, actually adding meaning and enhancement to our daily lives. We mostly converse about its negative Jedi-like hold over us before robotically and instinctively retreating back to our smartphone to check the latest posts. Scientifically compared to powerful drug addictions, we must get our social media fix, even if we actually hate the act. It consumes us, and while we want so desperately to break the spell, our hand instinctively clicks the button sucking us back in.
At the height of my social media “fame,” I had near-strangers – though of course, “friends” – comment constantly, “I’m so jealous of you! I want your life!” These were sentences I saw regularly as I posted about my life in LA, mostly pictures of beautiful scenery or film-related trivia. What people didn’t know about me was the true story that lied underneath the skillfully-executed joke I was cleverly displaying.
If my Facebook page had been an accurate portrayal of my life, it would have gone something like this:
- I can’t afford dinner.
- I have to buy everything from the Dollar Tree across the street because I am too poor for anything else.
- Five months of absolutely hating every day in a foreign city where everyone else thought I was finding exotic, beautiful, and fun.
- Hating my unpaid internship as a personal assistant for a production company I slaved away at 11+ hours a day.
- I totaled my car only to find out I have no car insurance and can’t afford a new one. At all.
- A week after totaling my car, I was hit by a car on the way to the bus stop. Resulting in losing one job, 6 months of incredible pain, physical therapy and a cross-country move back to the city from which I had so desperately wanted to escape.
- Incredible pain – physically, yes, but emotionally whipped and exhausted.
- Screams to God in anger, disappointment and confusion because of the wild goose chase I felt He had led me on to this city, and back from whence I’d come.
- Sleepless nights, where all I can do is worry about the next day. Or months, because I could afford nothing.
- Sleeping on a futon for 8 months. 4 in a shared studio, and then in a guy’s living room.
- Hours upon hours of crying in total and complete consuming depression.
The list goes on and on, as I’m sure yours does. But basically, who I was on Facebook was a blatant lie. A manipulation and people ate up every morsel. My life looked glamorous, but was really miserable 96% of the time. I worked for a production company, so I was cool, and I milked that; people thought I was going to be the next big thing, so people sucked it up even more, hoping to join in on the climb. Not everything was a lie, but everything was perfectly calculated by me so I appeared a certain way and inciting jealously to receive the thirsty commentary of my Midwestern comrades was far from the humble charade I pretended these acts to be.
I’d like to say I learned from this, but I didn’t. If anything, my addiction and need for approval has only gotten worse. The other night I grew incredibly anxious as I thought about the perception of my new profile picture. Seriously. Even, I’m rolling my eyes. If you knew me in person, this would shock you, but it ate away at me like a coyote feasting on a dead carcass. I found no peace, and this is often the deliberation that goes into posting for me. Is it good enough? Did I use the right filter? Should I have edited more? What about the caption? Too long? Too Short? Hashtag, or no? Will people think I’m pretty? Do I look fat? The flood of thoughts are incredible, as I’m sure you have witnessed. If not, look to your right. They have.
People still think I live this happy-go-lucky life, full of love, a wonderful family and incredible friends – all of which are true. Life is a gift, and has absolutely been wonderful throughout the ups and downs. But the delicately polished “ups” are all most people see. Plastic smiles frozen in time. Only my best face, skinniest model, biggest accomplishments, etc. are the things that get posted for you to see. It is a fraction of who I am, yes, but that is all. There is very little concrete truth for you to find in my profile, as I’m sure I would find in yours.
Behind my laughter – which I do full-heartedly – is a pill bottle for bi-polar I must take each day or else I feel a surge of chaotic behavior usurp me like a heavy cloak clinging to my back.
Behind each accomplishment – the last of which was my second half-marathon – is a woman who struggles each morning to simply get out of bed because of severe chronic and situational depression.
Behind each perfectly filtered Instagram square is a woman who wrestles constantly with outward appearance because she never feels good enough after being 40 pounds. heavier three years ago.
She is a woman who has sat in her car and screamed at the invisible entity in the sky whom she trusts completely, but has nevertheless felt isolated from many times.
She is the woman who can’t bring herself to go inside after the trip back to her apartment because all her energy has been lost in the flood of tears that stain her Irish-freckled face.
She has been heartbroken, lost, confused, terrified…
… and happy, joyful, excited and hopeful.
We are not one dimensional. We are a mixture of all humanity, which is pretty freakin’ sweet when you think about it.
And, of course, I do not write any of this to say do not post, or everything is fake, you are fake. For I love with a giant heart, I feel happiness as great as my depression, I laugh so hard I sometimes snort. I relish the beauty of life, the ups and downs, and welcome both with open arms for I have seen the power in strengths and weaknesses of the human body and character. Rather I write this to share myself and to reveal the truth behind each screen’ the truth that tauntingly lingers so close beneath the surface of social media.
I also write to implore my generation to release the grip this debilitating sensation has on us. Walk outside, without sharing it. Be with friends, without sharing it. Cry, love, laugh, scream. Simply be. It is really all we have, and if we continue to surrender to this hold I fear for our future, and our children’s.
We are not solely our secret selves, we are not our Facebook models. We know this, but we must start living it actively.
Unplug. And love, starting with yourself.