A couple of days ago, I added the line “My life isn’t really this pretty” to my Instagram profile, and something similar to my Twitter bio. It might go without saying, but this is something I think about a lot – how we filter our lives online, only showing what we choose and only sharing certain snippets of information.
You’re bound to remember Australian teenager Essena O’Neill, who hit the headlines last year, when she quit Instagram, deleted her account (which was followed by over half a million people, no biggie) and filmed a video where she spoke about how fake it all was.
And it is. All of my social channels are carefully curated but none more so than my Instagram profile. For me, Instagram is all about escapism and feelgood. It’s the social media equivalent of ignoring your impending work deadline by having a friend over for wine, Pringles and back to back episodes of The Good Wife. Some of my favourite people to follow, on Instagram, post images of their homes, their outfits, gorgeous flatlays (that’s arranging things on a flat surface and shooting from above, to you and me), the beautiful breakfasts they’re eating (mmmm avocado and eggs) and the exciting places they travel to. When I scroll through my feed, it makes me happy.
I don’t want to see photos of ‘real’ life on Instagram and I don’t particularly want to share photos of my ‘real’ life (no one needs to see the yoghurt stains on my black sofa, and my rug with the squished-in peas and fish finger crumbs.) We LIVE in real life, it’s all around us, we know what it looks like. I rather like how another Australian Instagrammer, Chloe and Beans, put it when she said that she doesn’t photograph any mess in her house but it’s just in the same way that she wouldn’t invite friends over without tidying up first. She has a point. We’ve long presented the better version of ourselves to the outside world, this isn’t something that has emerged with the launch of Instagram.
But honestly? Even though I try to make my Instagram as pretty as possible (and I do go to some ridiculous lengths to do this), sometimes, I feel like a massive dick. I look at my profile, and it bears no actual resemblance to my life. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it kind of does, in that yes, I did eat that granola and fruit for breakfast and yes, that vase of flowers is on my kitchen table, but it concerns me a bit that some people might actually think that my life is as pretty as my Instagram pics. Someone said to me recently: “Oh I was chatting to my friend and she told me she loves your Instagram and loves how you’ve got the best life, doing such exciting things!” It left me feeling a bit embarrassed and a bit of a fraud.
Because as well as the yogurt stains and the clutter that are just out of shot, and the dirty plates piled up by the dishwasher because I’m too lazy to empty the dishwasher and re-fill it (ugh, does anyone else hate this task?), the last year has been filled with emotional ups and downs, that you won’t see from my Instagram photos. They only tell part of the story.
Listening to Woman’s Hour, this morning, I heard Sarah who blogs at The Unmumsy Mum talking about the risks attached to only showing the nice side of life on social media. She’s a big fan – as I’m sure you already know – of showing her life as a mum, warts and all (I don’t think she actually has any warts, though, thankfully). As many do, Sarah believes that only presenting one polished side of life can lead to other people feeling inadequate.
And what about the fact that our kids are growing up in a world where they’ll be surrounded by these images – will they have unrealistic expectations of how their own lives should look?
I’m hoping that we’re at a point now where we can read between the social media lines a bit. No one’s life is perfect, is it? We know that, right? And when we see endless photos from someone which paint a picture of perfection, most of us realise that just out of shot there’s a pile of dirty laundry or that the person taking the photo is having a really crap day.
What do you think? Do you take Instagram photos with a pinch of salt, or assume that it’s a good representation of a person’s entire life?