The other day, I was at our neighborhood pool with my husband and kids.
My kids were playing in the water, but since it is still May the water was a bit too cold for this southern gal, so my hubby (who is practically immune to cold) played in the water with the kids, while I lounged on the side.
Close to my lounge chair, were four, middle school aged girls, all huddled up talking intensely about something involving boys and friends and the proper actions of best friends. Two were in full tears and spinning about the other’s indiscretion, one wise little lady was trying sensibly talk to them about the merits of friendship and how boys aren’t worth it, and the fourth was half engaged in convo and half engaged in the flipping around the handrail on the stairs.
I love people, they are so weird and wonderful, and so I was intrigued by these girls, and couldn’t help but have one ear pointed their direction.
They talked for a little longer, but eventually, Wisdom was able to convince them to be friends and forget the boy (smart girl!) And soon they are decided to go off and frolic in the pool. So they jumped in the pool and I thought that would be that and they would start, the usual, little girl pool activities of doing flips in the water and pretending to be mermaids (this is what I did at that age, during my long hours at the pool), but instead they right hopped right back out and grabbed they phones. Expect Wisdom, she stayed in the pool and floated around (smart girl).
I watched with growing horror as they flipped their hair and posed and took selfies, in awkward twisty positions, with pouty lips and pretending to look excited and whimsical. Then they propped their phones up to video themselves dancing around and ‘excitedly’ jumping in the pool. Then they all stopped and stood around staring at their phones, too, I assume, post all their [pretend] fun to their various social media channels.
Meantime Wisdom was still hanging out in the corner of the pool waiting.
Then after they had all the evidence they needed of having fun and being cool posted, the three hopped back into and swam over to Wisdom. Then they transformed from cool social media mavens back into the real forms of the young girls, swimming around, doing flips in the water, splashing each other, and giggling in a way only kids can giggle.
The whole scene filled me with a dull, spiky, sense of sadness.
It struck me that, before they could start playing at they pool, they first had documented that they were playing at the pool, showing the world, “look how much fun I am having and look how fun my life is”
They showed created a curated snapshot of their afternoon, that all their friends would see. This version showed a hyped up account of their pool time that didn’t show they previous scene of the friends squabbling, but only the over the top super ‘fun’ version.
I sat there stunned/not stunned.
Children are our best teachers because they are still pure and whole and also because they are a mirror our world back to us.
It made me wonder, not for the first time – Is our life becoming defined by the pretty pictures, and cultivated versions of ourselves and our lives that we post on Instagram, or Snapchat?
Wow, it’s no wonder we have an epidemic of inadequacy and not-enoughness.
I know I feel inadequate at times. (but way less than I use to)
It’s so easy to look through social media and compare the fun and fabulous pictures of your friends’ lives, and compare that to your messy, disorganized life. These beautiful, fun pictures, have become the norm, instead of the exception.
And I get it.
I want to show my lovely trip to Mexico and I clean up the many socks, shoes and random toys on the floor when I am taking my Yoga pictures in my living room.
But I also know that trips to tropical places and having neat tidy living room with 3 kids, is the exception in my life. My life is filled with ordinary stuff like to kids soccer games, messy kitchens, drawers that are overstuffed and don’t shut and lots of toys, socks, shoes, crayons, and stacks of papers I am not sure what to do with.
And everyone else’s life looks like this too.
Life is messy and socks get left on the floor.
This is real life. And magic only happens in real life
Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and the interconnectedness it offers. It’s just that in a world of constant information, I think we can lose perspective and the social media/online world becomes the lenses with which we view the world. And it becomes the primary way we interact with people.
But that lens is distorted and this is a shallow substitution for real connection. And we run the risk of becoming distorted and shallow.
So my advice to myself, and to you (take it if it’s helpful) and start seeing this online world for what it is: a short-sighted shallow version of real life. It’s a prettified, cleaned up account of living, that has been cleaned up and filtered but lacks the substance of what makes life full and amazing, and that is, authenticity, granular realness and messy living.
Life doesn’t happen in a beautiful Pinterest kitchen, it happens in a messy one with spaghetti sauce splatters on the wall.
So, if I when I talk to my own kids about this, I will tell them to jump in the water, splash around and be a mermaid first, and then if they happen to take some pretty pictures along the way, awesome, but be a mermaid first.