I have such a love-hate relationship with social media. On the one hand – as an extreme introvert – I sometimes don’t communicate with the outside world for days at a time, and the internet serves as a place where I can connect with others in the only [non-awkward] way I know how. On the other hand, the internet turns me into a jealous, raging b*tch even I can’t recognize. It’s usually one extreme or the other: there is no real “happy medium” for me when it comes to social media.
For me, my ‘online village’ is my village. It’s a place I escape to often as an introvert with very few real life “Mom Friends.” But it’s a strange world: one in which I can simultaneously feel accepted and irrationally jealous. I have to constantly remind myself that our Facebook and Instagram feeds aren’t a reflection of our real lives. No one is perfect. But when my old friend Jealousy rears its ugly head, every photo posted makes my stomach churn with envy, and here’s what goes through my mind when these seemingly perfect images appear on my screen*:
Mom 1 (we’ll call her Anne)’s house is pristine, immaculately decorated and looks like it belongs in a magazine. As I click through her albums, I feel that all too familiar twinge of envy in my stomach. I think: “I want that couch, that art, that dining table, those curtains. How the hell does she keep her house so clean with two kids under 5? Does her day have 14 more hours in it than mine? Is she on something? If so, where can I find some?”
But, here’s the likely reality: Anne’s borderline OCD tendencies keep her up all hours of the night cleaning, arranging, and online shopping. She’s probably thousands of dollars in debt. She and her husband argue about money. Her kids don’t get to play with her as often as they’d like. They have a small area upstairs where they play which feels sterile and cold.
I scroll past, until I stumble on Gina’s profile. “She’s a friggin’ fitness model”, I think. as I eat way too many Double Stuffed Oreos. “A regular goddamn body-builder.” Her perfectly toned-arms and thighs make her look 10 years younger than she actually is. She’s had THREE kids, but you’d never know it. Her Instagram feed is full of photos of her lifting weights, and her kids only eat whole and organic foods. Last year, she placed first in a national fitness competition. “This woman is a freakin’ goddess.”
But, Gina probably spends LONG hours at the gym. Her kids don’t see her as often as they used to. She turned to fitness modelling to curb an unhealthy obsession with her weight, but it’s actually made it worse. Her oldest is also developing the same obsession with her own weight.
Melissa, a mom of two, is constantly posting cute photos, memes, and quotes about her love for her husband. I want to gag just reading them – “how are they SO sickeningly happy?” I start doubting my relationship and wondering why we don’t post 100 things a day about how much we love one another. “Is this it? Am I headed for divorce? We’re not even married yet, for God’s sake!”
The reality? This is Melissa’s second marriage. Her first didn’t go so well. They didn’t appreciate one another nearly enough, and couldn’t make it work. Her kids see their Dad every other weekend.
Why do we (myself included) only choose to share the snippets of life that will garner us the most recognition – the most ‘likes’, the most comments? Why can’t we all just be real with one another for a change? This business of raising children is hard enough on its own. I’d feel so much better if we all could just compare photos of our non-organic, ketchup-laden dinners, the Cheerios that get ground up into the carpet, the late nights spent up worrying over or comforting a sick baby. Those moments are common to us all – and we’re in this thing called Motherhood together.
Instead, we resort to Instagram filters, cropping messes out of photos, and capturing only the highlights of our journeys as Mothers. I want to celebrate the high points AND commiserate about the lows. I want to tell you about the time I thought about punching my spouse in his gullet after he forgot the milk for the third time. I want to feel secure enough to cry to you about the time I just had to run away – even if the only place open at that hour of night was the 24/7 Walmart. I wish we could all commit to building one another up instead of tearing one another down with an endless stream of perfectly and unrealistically composed photos.
Maybe if you’re lucky enough, you’ve never felt that twinge of envy in the pit of your stomach. Or maybe you’re just well-adjusted and secure enough to not give a f*ck. But, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. I hope we can all work toward changing our meticulously crafted social media “personas” someday.
* all names and scenarios are entirely fictional 🙂