I read an article recently about a girl from New Jersey who committed suicide her freshman year at college. The article indicated that this young woman had allowed social media to distort her perception of reality, and what life as a college freshman was supposed to look like according to photos her friends had posted. Through her own Instagram she created what seemed to be a happy life - full of photos of herself and her new friends enjoying college - but behind those filtered images was a deeply troubled person. College, especially for those just beginning their first year, is a time of adventure and independence; it is also a time of vulnerability and insecurity. It's normal to struggle adjusting to the new social and academic atmosphere, but you wouldn't know it if you relied solely on social media. Instagram and other social media outlets are full of those perfectly "filtered" photos that capture our seemingly fabulous life events.
I feel so hypocritical writing this post, as I advertised this very piece on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I also frequently post pictures to my Instagram account (dare I say it... accounts). Frankly, I'm embarrassed and maybe a little ashamed, but I also know that there are many people that enjoy my posts (not nearly as much as I do). I use my Instagram for multiple reasons: simply because I enjoy it, I find that it is a useful way to connect to family, friends and other bloggers with little effort, and I know that my photos will be saved to my account (my chances of losing them from Instagram are slimmer than losing them from my computer or my phone). I hope I portray some type of authenticity to my readers, because as open as I am on this blog, I know that there is so much more to my life than what I can show in one photo, or write in one post. They are mere whispers to the boisterous life I enjoy. I don't think anyone can ever really capture the fullness of life in a simple social media post.
There is a reality behind that pretty Mayfair filter that may not be aesthetically pleasing or "retouched," but that doesn't mean it's shameful. In reality life is hard, torturous, happy, exhilarating, sad, and confusing... but that's what makes us human. The good and the bad. The actual richness in our lives is not what can be captured and displayed for all to see. It is hidden in the subtle glances of understanding shared between loved ones, the kisses left on a child's forehead as they fall asleep, the light squeeze of a hand for a friend in need of some reassurance. The smallest things are sometimes the most beautiful things in our life, yet they are also the things that can't be captured in a photo or properly articulated in written form.
I cherish the photos I have of my son. Even over the past 9-months (almost 10!) I have taken some really great pictures that show his personality, and his growth. Yet, these photos (as well as the words I have written about my son and my life on this blog) can't display those small intricate details of my sons personality - the way he wakes up in the morning smiling and cooing in my ear, the way his lips quiver and his eyes swell with tears when he is upset or afraid - these things among countless others cannot be understood solely through a photo or a post; they can only be experienced first hand. The fullness of life is truly indescribable. There is no way for anyone to understand my life without living it with me, and for that reason I live my life for myself, for my son, and for my faith, and no one else (alright, enough philosophical talk).
In short, my point is not to condone social media, but rather to celebrate the rawness of human life. People shouldn't feel like they have to prove something to others through their Instagram feed, like that is what that matters. Every life matters. Don't do something just because it is a good opportunity for you to post a photo on your Facebook page, do it because it adds to your life and the lives of those around you. I am not suggesting you all go and delete your social media account (I know I won't). I'm just saying that we should all keep in mind that that not every beautiful moment of my life can possibly be shared. Social media is enjoyable, and a great method for connecting people who would otherwise be worlds apart (or continents at least). It is also a great way to plan events, advertise work, generate ideas, etc. It is the platform of our generation. Yet, it does not display the reality of our lives. Life is much more than we can describe in a caption and edit with a filter.
For the sake of 'keeping it real,' I thought I'd share a photo taken by Jamesie's youngest aunt, Jane. She's 4 and she took this photo yesterday morning shortly after Jamesie woke up. Unedited and unfiltered.