I met some new faces cocktailing for a cause last weekend. An eclectic mix of people who vibe off of the unexpected – that artsy through line that makes New Orleanians my favorite people on earth with whom to gab. But as women do, we shared much more – the dry shampoo we used in lieu of a wash, the gym classes we skip, the adorable kids who drain us, and basically every other blemish that somehow seemed less haunting over a bottle of rosé.
Like any mature, self-assured woman would, that night when I crawled into bed, I creeped on the social media of those I met. Within seconds, my newfound confidants, who were comforting hot messes just two hours earlier, were now seemingly perfect. Shiny, luscious locks of hair and Orange Theory victories. Those kids who suck the very life out of them? Apparently they don smocks and sailor suits every day without stains or tantrums.
I could’ve hated them, except then I’d be the asshole.
My social media is just as two-faced: flawless skin, three small humans so stinking clever and living in the most imaginative, clutter-free home – nary a mess in the background. My marriage always snuggly, and somehow I manage happy hours and champagne popping parties. According to a millennial sidekick, Instagram is for pretty pictures and damn if I don’t hit the filters there, too. Maybe it was the rosé smack-talking that night with the other women because my profile looks legit!
Sit down, Annie. That profile is a systematically planned embellishment I build on half-truths.
The actual truth is I am more capable of being honest with you face to face than I am on that tiny screen. In my very first blog here, I pondered that our posts are driven by a fantasy, desires we wish we had either the guts or the means to live out in the real world. And, I stand by that. I post what I post because I crave that status update to be my life always. But isn’t it odd that standing before you, I deny all of it?
Our posts set a precedent. Once set, the only thing to lower it is the friend we love to hate: vulnerability. It’s harder to filter the face when it meets another. With whom are you more comfortable? The one on your screen whose life we envy or the one in front of us admitting shortcomings? I’m choosing the latter every time because I can actually talk to her. Sweats and dark circles don’t threaten me.
But, social media has replaced the first impression. Whether you’re creeped on by someone on campus, a Tinder match, or a future boss, your posts are the new calling cards. It’s tempting to believe that if we don’t nail it on the tiny screen, we won’t nail a snap, a date, or approval. But in the end, isn’t that the least bit exhausting?— posing skinny, tidying backgrounds, and five takes for a toothless tooth fairy pic that isn’t gross? And if it’s not exhausting, isn’t it just plain annoying? Regardless of the truth behind the fantasies lived out on social media, are we leading double lives after all? Ask any couple and they’ll tell you the same: it was after the charades stopped when they started getting somewhere. The same can be said for all relationships.
But charades go beyond posts to the frequency we “like” and when we comment and share. Fear of overwhelming feeds, looking like a stalker, or revealing too much prohibits us from doing what comes natural – celebrating, sharing, reacting – and for what? To avoid annoying someone playing the same game?
Not participating on social media is becoming increasingly impossible with how the world now markets. So, just like a child needs to learn how to play appropriately, so must we by learning how to communicate authentically on the screen. Somehow I must balance the desires of my first impression with not losing my truth—that little lovable part of me that attracts those who would never unfollow me on or off the screen.
I know enough to know that a life measured by likes and retweets isn’t a real life. I want my worth measured by shared belly laughs and bear hugs, good cries, and well, late night dancing. It’s natural that I aspire to beautiful things and live them out in the Internet netherworld. But fantasies don’t always translate well. Life is messy…fabulously messy. I’m a hot mess, but I’m a fabulous hot mess.
This weekend I dumped sixty pictures in an album. In some I look like I haven’t slept in days, my house is in its regularly scheduled disastrous condition, and my kids look like aliens. But they were fun memories I wanted to share. The next day, my Instagram post was more polished and close-up ready. They’re both true.
Maybe by the next rosé night, my two faces will have balanced.
Originally published in New Orleans Magazine online.