Virtually Readers, today I’m going to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s kind of about Instagram, but it’s also about being Someone on the Internet and real life. I don’t know how well I managed to articulate my Thoughts, but hey, I tried, right?
I don’t have my life together. Like, at all. But that’s not something I talk about on this blog.
I don’t talk about how I feel a low-key anxiety spinning around my stomach whenever I think about my exam grades or finishing school. I don’t talk about the bad days, where I feel like I’m never going to be good enough (at chemistry or music or whatever). Same goes for my friendship problems, or the fact that I don’t know where I want to go for university, or even if I really want to major in what I think I want to major in.
On a lower level, I don’t talk about (or photograph) my messy room (although let’s be honest, most of the mess is Shanti’s) , or how much time I spent procrastinating on the Internet or otherwise today and how much I hated myself for it, and how I hated the sound of my alarm clock this morning because I’m so tired, and how I love my cat but have to push her off when she sits on me while I work, and how my toenails, which I painted bright pink a few weeks ago, are now half grown out and chipping.
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A few months ago, we had to write an English essay about a type of media. I read my classmate’s draft, which was about how Instagram, specifically lifestyle accounts, make their followers feel like they’re not good enough because their lives aren’t perfect like the person’s they see on the screen. They hold themselves up to standards nobody can reach, not even the people who run these accounts, because they obviously don’t photograph or talk about the messy, imperfect parts of their lives. (This is a generalization). It was a pretty good essay, but I didn’t have Instagram at the time, so it didn’t really capture my attention all that much.
When I did get Instagram, I soon figured out I’d like to have a theme. For the last few months, I’ve settled on a sheet music background. I’ve scrolled around and found other beautiful, themed feeds with attached captions that made me feel like I was the only one who didn’t have her life together. (side note: I really don’t think my theme is amazing or great or anything. So many other bookstagrammers do a really good job. I just try. It’s not like the number one thing I put effort into or anything. )
Obviously, this isn’t true. But it got me thinking about how online identities make it very easy to choose what you show about your life. It’s easier to paint it in a rosy light when most of the people who follow you don’t see the rest of your life. And as followers, it’s easy to forget all the things the person doesn’t write about—the hard things and the messy things that are just as real as the beautiful feed or tweet.
I’m not trying to say this is bad, necessarily. I personally wouldn’t really feel comfortable discussing all the hard and messy aspects of my life online. Taking beautiful pictures of books or the Easter eggs I made is easier, not quite so personal (although that’s not to say that books or thoughts about books can’t be personal).
I guess all I’m trying to say is that we all know our own messes better than we can ever know other people’s, especially when everybody else is creating an image—a persona—on the interwebs (I just love that word). And as a community of book nerds, I think we should all remember that a perfect feed or lovely blog post doesn’t mean we’re complete failures. Let’s appreciate what other people do share about their lives, and appreciate the messes of our own.
So if you like my Instagram feed (or someone else’s tweets or a tumblr page), that’s great. But just because that is all match-y and coordinated, don’t assume I am, and wonder how you can ever keep up. Because I’m a total mess. (A nice mess which is able to function, but a mess nevertheless). And when I read our blog posts or look at your feed, I’ll try to do the same for you.
Do you ever have this problem? How do you decide what you’ll post online and what you won’t? What’s your favourite thing about social media vs. real life?