Post: “loading dishwasher” Post: “Waiting in school pick-up line” Post: “Buying groceries” Post: “Negotiating with hotel to get a better price” Post: “Fighting with husband because… I don’t know why… because he’s my husband?”
Post: “Organising medical files for insurance purpose” Post: “Wasting Sunday in the same sh**ty café because forgot to book anything fun to do” Post: “Not being invited for the girls’ weekend” Post: “Staring at the TV for days” Post: “Getting a tantrum throwing toddler to finish a cold insipid meal that I had zero inspiration to cook”.
Okay, I’ll stop because this is depressing me more than it’s boring you. This too is the reality I’m living but not posting. So, when my friends say with the twinge of envy that we all feel at other people’s spectacular posts, “Your life is amazing, you are living the dream, you are always, always doing such cool things.” No, I’m not. No one is. Not even the Riris and Kardashians of the world.
Social media allows us to create an illusion. I love that because we all need an escape. I put my best face on for the world and often it does me good to focus on the positive and see events through the rose tinted filters of a well edited picture even if it’s not all rosy. It’s the fabulous life I wish I were living.
Claiming that life is marvellous (with a matching quote) when I’m low may even help shift my state of mind. In fact, every time something exciting happens to me or my loved ones it’s a mini celebration, a cyber party where everyone I know around the world is invited to join in and like it.
The ones who were present in person get to relive it with an extended play button that says #aboutlastnight. The dopamine rush I feel and the number of attendees, are directly related — you know what I’m talking about — the feel-good sensation when we see 100-plus people have commented or sent us emojis.
Then the party no longer feels virtual because it impacts our mood in real life. But remember, I’m only allowing you to see what I want, there is a lot of life I live in between those insanely fun, glamourous posts.
The problems arise when we start buying other people’s string of fairytale moments as their uninterrupted reality. On top of it, there is the green-eyed anxiety we feel at being excluded. The best of us feel it. The FOMO can be crippling when we see people we know immortalising their laughter and adventure in places that we’ve only dreamt of.
We can’t just look away because voyeurism is addictive. Just know that behind every post there is a reality. Don’t believe those disgustingly cutesy pictures of long-married couples, yet again on a honeymoon holiday, or dancing like teenagers at a rave in Portugal, because the next minute they will likely divorce and you will be privy to frolicking pictures of the very same people with their high school exes that they re-connected with on FB after years.
Nothing is falser than “love you to the moon and back” happy anniversary posts with retouched pictures of their spouses whom they’re cheating on. But this is not just another piece about social media bashing, I also want to extol its virtues and tell you how I use it to my amusement and advantage (when it’s not controlling me and wasting my hours).
It’s true I live a charmed life but there are times I have forced myself out of my lethargy to do things because I want the world to see me do it. The pressures of posting have changed the most unlikely souls into adventurers and how can you knock that?
For a long time now I’ve suffered from guilt about being a bully in school (it’s my biggest fear as a mother). I will spare you the shameful details of how I bashed up puny, oily boys and destroyed the confidence of meek girls, but I will tell you that I have frequently fretted about the lasting damage I may have caused them.
So, when I see their successful, smiling faces, posing with their seemingly happy families from beautiful homes in America or England, I breathe a sigh of relief. This is the genius of social media; I can connect with (or spy on) those from a past life I would never have found in the non-millennial era.
If nothing else, I will go to my grave with a lighter heart. Now that I live far, far away from most of my closest people, social media is my greatest connecter. Who has time to send individual messages? Not me. But I want to know and I want you to know — so hurrah for WhatsApp groups, FB, Insta, Messenger, Line…
When I’m back in Delhi or Mumbai or London or Timbuktu, I don’t have to spend precious moments of our catch up going through where we’ve been or what we’ve been up to — we know, we follow. We can cut to the gory details of the un-postable, ask the real questions and make our time count. How can you dis this?
On a larger scale, the transparency and feeling of community social media brings is tremendous. #GoonGaikwad or #United would have been minor incidents on local flights without the power of social media. Politicians wouldn’t have been grounded and stocks wouldn’t have plummeted.
There is a deeply disturbing flip side — suicides and gang rapes being streamed live. I’m not sure how you address these but they have to be dealt with, because the fact is we can look into the lives of others from the palms of our hands.
And to paraphrase Spider-Man, with this great power, great responsibility must come.