We only show a certain side of ourselves on places like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We may at times think we're doing otherwise, but these sites give us a tremendous amount of choice and a variety of filters regarding how we present ourselves. We are able to curate the events of our days so that people only see certain parts of our families, our jobs, our political or spiritual beliefs, or our bodies.
People can see the candid photo of our toddler with her favorite toy and not see the exasperated shout we gave while trying to get her to go to bed.
People can see the news about our positive work-related conference or meeting without seeing the tension between team members behind the scenes.
People can see one's commentary on the issues of the day without seeing how much proposed solutions play out in the person's own life (or not).
People see our physical selves from certain angles or through certain lighting techniques, without seeing us...without those things.
Do we do this for affirmation, or to dictate the terms of our connection to each other? Would we be able to be as guarded or selective in real time, or would we want to be?
And who would really want to experience our unpolished selves, anyway? How close would we want people to get to those parts of ourselves that we can't edit? How close would we want to get to most people in our newsfeeds and timelines without such safety measures in place?
A few weeks ago, I couldn't deal with it anymore. Everyone in my feeds seemed to be so put together, so knowledgeable, so experienced, so enriched. Meanwhile, I was anxious: about making appointments on time, fulfilling requirements for the church and elsewhere, about maybe losing a few pounds, about just how good I am about anything at all.
And the polished lives I was privy to were only adding to that burden.
So I unplugged. I logged off for a few days and sat with my own burdens and issues without having to compare myself to others. It was cleansing, liberating, quieting, centering.
Every so often, of course, the façade breaks down. Somebody is daring enough to admit that they're not okay. They say something about the hardship their marriage is experiencing, or the difficulty of their work environment, or their confusion about what's happening in the world, or their struggles with physical or emotional wellness. Those unpolished moments come, usually in small doses, but just enough perhaps for others to realize and admit that things aren't really all that great for them, either.
A glimpse of real connection happens. A human moment is captured in pixelated form. The performance comes to an intermission as souls share their imperfections.
For me it was saying I needed to stay away for a while. That's one way. But there are so many others.
Is it healthy to always show our shadow sides? Probably not. We share joy and beauty, but also hardship and pain. Life online can be just as complex as the real thing, if we allow it.
Would that we could let our guard down enough to do so, to let our unpolished selves find solace with each other.
(Image via flickr)