So I’m back, apologies for the silence, but my Mac needed a wee trip to hospital which was made writing a little difficult, but I’m full speed ahead for blogging now.
Recently I was texting with a friend who has just returned to the UK and I commented that her health has really improved lately, given that she’s been out travelling the world and posting lots of fun pictures to prove it on Facebook and I’ve been more than a little jealous. This friend has had chronic fatigue and I just assumed happily that she must be doing a lot better. Her reply got to me, she actually corrected me and said she’s only about 60% back to her normal self and that she’d be told that she was too depressing when she posted negative stuff on social media so she’s trying to only be positive. Which is fine, I guess, but when that ‘negative’ stuff is your everyday reality, I can’t help but think this is a problem.
Another dear friend back home had a stroke recently, I heard about it through mutual friends, but I was actually pleased to see she posted a picture of herself in bed five days after the stroke, visibly limp on her left side and looking quite different to her profile picture (which was taken years ago, before a virus attacked half her frontal lobe and just about killed her). Brenda has had a rough time during the last eight years, without many (almost no) friends to help her through and love her and I know she is very lonely.
On Facebook, though, it’s been pretty clear that she’s kept up a facade of normalcy, but that picture of her in the hospital bed spoke volumes. As did the little messages she typed in the reply begging people to come visit her in the facility she now lives in. I really hope it means one or two people actually go to visit her, but I’m not sure they will.
Of course, no one likes a whiner who is constantly all about the drama on social media. Most of us use our phones as a (hopefully) brief respite from our stressful worlds, or is that just me sneaking looks at pretty pictures on Instagram on the loo at work? But, we also all go on about how fake Facebook is, how Instagram crops out the ugly to portray the pretty and how it’s not reality. And yet, we don’t really want people to be real on there? Something seems not right with that to me
Jenn of Sunlight and Air also posted about this on her Instagram feed recently as I was pondering this blog post further. She did a real post about how horrible she’s feeling, how hard the therapy is and how much pain she’s in. You know what I felt after reading that? Sorrow for Jenn, of course, because, well life isn’t that fair sometimes; gratitude that my own health problems aren’t needing surgery and aren’t so severe; and enlightened just that little bit more about her medical condition. I’ve been so grateful for Jenn’s honesty about her journey ever since I discovered her and bought one of her excellent Thrive T shirts a few months ago.
Another person from the scrapping world that I’m very much part of who’s had to be so honest through incredible grief on social media recently is Heidi Swapp who lost her son to suicide a couple of months ago. I’ve watch as she’s bravely shared the circumstances of his death and is now a voice for suicide awareness which I know is going to make such a difference. I’m pretty sure at times she’s wanted to just hide away and grieve privately, but she’s chosen to use this tragedy as a force for good.
I personally can only see that this is positive.
This blog is my attempt to be real too and it’s been a struggle to be honest – what if a future employee reads it? Someone from back in NZ? What will people think about me? But I’m trying, in the hope that someone out there might be encouraged to keep going, keep pushing, rest or just love themselves a little bit more than they do currently.
To be clear, I’m not a fan of a lot of drama on Facebook and I generally block updates from people who do like it as I finds it starts to rob me of joy and well, life is too short for that. But I really don’t see anything wrong with being honest, real, transparent. Social media is such an edited, small window of our lives that somehow in the last 8 years we’ve put all the importance on. It’s just not complete reality and we should never treat it that way.
It’s been interesting since I emigrated to sometimes see the reactions I get from people back in NZ about my life here. I think most people are genuinely happy for me as I look happy and like I love my life. Which is mostly true. But I do feel like it’s hard to be too real with people about the struggles of moving countries and living in a city like London. It’s busy, it’s expensive and it can be quite hard. I have slept on friend’s floors, barely had enough money for food and scraped by in horrible jobs with not nice people. None of that sound great on Facebook, so instead we post the fun things, the exciting things, the pretty views and the trips away. I actually even find that I don’t post every trip to Europe that I do on social media as I feel like people in NZ (the most isolated country in the world) don’t get how incredibly cheap it is to travel there on the pound and will feel like I live this extravagant life spending too much money. The reality of life in London is hard though and I’m an immigrant caught up in a system that isn’t very welcoming to us right now. It’s not all trips to Paris and Instagram-worthy brunches, well sometimes it’s not.
So what’s the antidote to the fakeness of social media then?
Maybe we should all promise to share more of our silly or frustrating stories of when things go wrong or are hard. I also think we should vow to pick up the phone and actually talk to people more or Skype if they’re overseas. Even better, if you can, meet up in person and have a proper catch up. It’s hard to hide your pain and disappointment when someone is looking at you over a coffee cup and it’s easier to be happy for someone’s success and blessing too for that matter, when you see their eyes shining and their smile. And let’s welcome people being real with us, hey you might learn something that’ll help you with the next person who needs your compassion.