Is Facebook giving out the wrong impression? Are we hiding our real lives in our online lives?
An overseas friend recently complimented me on my seemingly perfect life. "I see the photos on Facebook", she said, "your days are just filled with parks and sunshine!" Reading her e-mail (because, for shame, I never seem to find the time to pick up the phone and actually talk to my friends these days) my mouth hung open in shock. "Parks and sunshine?" I thought, surveying the bomb site my living room had been reduced to earlier that day by my toddler. That's nothing like my day. My day is tantrums and power struggles, chaos and noise. We go out to the park because some days one more second in the house together is not an option.
Still stunned by the image so far from reality, I clicked over to Facebook and started scrolling through my Facebook photos. Five minutes later and all I could think was "I want her life, that woman in my Facebook photos, with the perfect family, beautiful home, healthy home-cooked food, I want that." But that is my life - the carefully styled, image heavy life I present to the world. That's the "me" that happens between the chaos and the noise and the giving in to snack requests just to get 5 minutes of peace. You know, the real life stuff that happens to us all but funnily enough never ends up on Facebook.
Exhibit A: Crafting With Toddlers
The image: We spend our mama and toddler time together making our own playdough. Look at us! So crafty!
The reality: The toddler has declared all of his toys unsuitable and unworthy. He has articulated this by dragging them all out of the toy cupboard and hurling them around the living room. I need to get dinner on the table before he turns into a gremlin and I am all out of distractions. Time to make up the speediest batch of playdough ever out of store cupboard ingredients. He played with it for precisely the amount of time it took for me to take that photo and then tore it into tiny pieces, which I spent the rest of the evening picking up from the floor.
Exhibit B: Our Montessori-Inspired Toy Cupboard
The image: We have a 6 toy cupboard carefully rotated each week to provide new and entertaining stimulation for the toddler.
The reality: We have a 6-toy cupboard because if I have to pick up more than 6 toys at the end of the day I will slowly but surely lose the will to live. As it is, I consider on a regular basis whether I could just disappear his Duplo bricks entirely. Really, would he even notice? Even if I did though, you can bet I would still step on one of those pointy cornered booby traps every single night.
Exhibit C: A Walk in the Park
The image: Park Life. My perfect family and I swishing through the parks of Amsterdam on a crisp autumn day.
The reality: Actually, this one is pretty close. If you leave aside the fact that I was desperately ill at the time, the toddler was teething and I didn't remember to give him teething powders until half way through the shoot. So most of his photos have him chewing the inside of his mouth and sporting a pout so pronounced that it made Mrs. Victoria Pouty Spice Beckham look like an amateur. This is not what we normally do on a Saturday, oh no, this is my perfect-staged-for-the camera life. Don't be fooled. Because at the end of a (very) long day, if we are going to keep it real, whatever my Facebook life looks like the reality is often quite, quite different.
So do remember, when you are looking at Facebook and wondering why everyone else's life seems less chaotic and haphazard than yours, this is just their Facebook life, the reality can be something very different indeed.
Emmy McCarthy is the Director of Stichting Amsterdam Mamas. She is a Mama, Entrepreneur and Connector on a never-ending quest for balance in her life.