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August 3, 2022

Learn to use social media as a photo album

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.

When I was a little girl, we didn’t have mobile phones, computers and internet. We had a landline phone at home and we could use computers and browse the world wide web in IT class at school. There was no Facebook or Instagram where we could share the highlights of our lives with everyone. But we had outdoor programs, neighborhood friends, penpals and photo albums.

I believed  we used to use photo albums back then as we use our social media now. With the difference that now the whole world could see what you’re up to back then you showed your albums to the person you wanted to charm with. If friends or distant relatives came over we proudly pulled out the photo album to show pictures of our latest holiday, how happy we are on family BBQs and birthday get-togethers, how cute our babies are and how beautiful we were on our weddings…

Even if we had pictures from sad moments, we didn’t stick in the album. They were kept somewhere else in a forgotten box in the wardrobe. Somehow, we still didn’t think our life was perfect because we had a real connection with the people smiling back from the photographs. Modern technology, while brings us together in a global perspective, separates us on a smaller scale. We can follow anyone and everyone on Instagram and friend request them on Facebook even if they live on the furthest, remotest point of Earth, we know everything about our neighbors from their social media feeds yet we know nothing about them.

When you’re scrolling over someones SM feed, most likely what you’ll see is a highlight reel of what that person wants to show from their life. These can be (hopefully) a selection of their best moments, and selfies taken when they felt really cure but not once got someone busted for faking things online. I remember the brightest Tumblr sensation when I was a teen, Essena O’Neill – a slender, sun kissed blond girl from Australia. Everyone and their mother was following her, even I tried to be like her – she shared her glamorous life with us, spread the word for veganism, and she was just so lovely and cheerful you couldn’t help but root for her to become a Victoria’s Secret model and it seemed like she was getting it all. She even made it to LA if I’m not wrong – when the whole bubble collapsed and a video of her came out where she was basically having a mental breakdown from faking everything in her life. “Social media is not real life.” It was a huge scandal. Ever since then it became a movement to show belly rolls and stretch marks, talking about your eating disorder or mental health issues. Yet we still romanticize these feeds.

It’s great that we got to a point where we can talk about all this things – but we still pose for the perfect picture. No one posts on their SM that their son has drug problems, their husband is beating them up, they are depressed or someone died. We have to learn to still look at these feeds as a photo album. To read between the lines, look behind the picture and the perfect smiles, to see the actual person and not just a seemingly immaculate life with open heart and mind and acceptance for a fellow human.

No one has a perfect life and probably most of us don’t even stage it consciously to make it look like it is. It’s the imagination of the person who looks at the pictures, that colors the whole scenery behind it. It’s human nature to always look for happiness, so don’t blame yourself.

This article was born because lately I got tons of messages from people – people I know from childhood, people I just met once in my life and people who read my articles. These messages talk about the same: “You have a perfect life, I envy you.” “I wish to live like you one day.” “You’re so brave, you made it.” Even my mom keeps telling me that people stop her on the street to tell her how much they envy my life.

I never thought that my life might come off as “perfect” for others, or when they read my articles they see a perfect life.
I am happy with my life but it’s far from perfect. It never will be perfect, there’s no such thing as perfect life. There’s always room for improvement, things are forever changing and there are things that are inevitable in life – loss, pain and hardship. That is how we grow.

I often wondered in the past weeks, if I painted a false picture of my life but I think I did not. I also share the good moments of my life. Thought not the bests because if the moment is so beautiful I don’t even think of pulling out a camera to take a photo of it, I’m so embedded in the experience I just live in it. I share the hard and sad moments of my life, so is it people who do not want to see it?

When my old school classmate contacted me telling me how envies my whole life – my Camino experience, my tree planting, traveling the world, finding love on the way, having such a supportive family and everything just working out perfectly – I was wondering. He has a lovely wife, cute kids, a well paying job, vacations to amazing places like Egypt, Malta, Mallorca staying in luxury hotels. From my perspective, it seems like he’s the one having it all.
But we can never know, right? He probably did not see or missed when I was sleeping on the beach on the Camino, waking up in pouring rain or the pain of walking bare feet because of lost toenails. He probably doesn’t know about my worries about visas, the uncertainty of volunteering and not knowing where to go next, getting exploited by your hosts, the arguments with my partner that happen when we can’t balance alone time, work and our time spent together.The struggle to try to live without money but constantly finding yourself in situations that require money, and then trying to make money. Living in a tent that leaks and getting sick because all your things are wet for days.

I also don’t know details about his life – there might be a reason why he’s not satisfied with his family life and perfect vacation spots, spas in the hotel and the cinema screen sized TV, dining out in Michelin restaurants… You never know what’s behind the perfect picture. You never know about the fights of couples, problems with kids, unfair work situations, issues with extended family, abusive partners, mental health issues, addictions.

We have to learn to pay more attention to pauses and SM breaks because people are busy with problems and running on autopilot surviving mode, to notice when someone stops sharing or starts t share different things. To read between the lines and understand what might be behind the quotes they share. Life is ever changing, there are ups and downs, but that how you achieve balance. Don’t have illusions about how life really is. Everyone has their own problems and your problems are the hardest for you. Stop comparing your life to others, you can never really know how it is. We are all just looking for the silver lining.

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