Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The View From the Outside

Most of the time we trip through life, not realizing (or in my case, caring) what our lives look like from the outside.

Yesterday as I sat in front of my computer slogging through my comp reading list, Skype popped up that my godfather was on. So I called him, as it had been quite a while since I spoke to him. We had a lovely conversation. But in addition to being my godfather, he is also a practicing therapist. So the check in questions I get from him are interesting.
We're also friends on Facebook, so he knows what's going on in my life, but his question was HOW was I doing. He commented that he knew everything about my dog, but not much about me. Considering that my Facebook and Google Plus pages look like this (below), that's not surprising.

I once had someone recognize Nehi from Facebook when we were out walking, and then realize I must be the one walking her. So they stopped to say hi, but they stopped because of Nehi. She's famous!
So this comment didn't surprise me.

Part of this is practicality- I'm single. There is no one to take pictures of me (I think selfies are pretty stupid) and Nehi isn't good at working the camera. So I tend to chronicle my life and days through Nehi.

But his questions got me thinking about what my life looks like from the outside.
He wanted to know if I was happy. If I was single. If I liked what I was doing. If I minded being alone.
I am happy, I feel like I've found my niche. I am single, and doing the math, have been single for twelve years (that sounds awful typed out), and I love what I'm doing. While I miss Dad, I've never minded being alone. Particularly after the past nine years of helping with Mom, being on my own is okay.

I think in a lot of ways social media becomes the murky glass through which we view each other. We think we see others clearly, that we have all this access, but perhaps don't realize that the view is distorted. I have one friend who is a few years into her PhD program and is miserable, but refuses to quit. I have another who publicly complains that she'll never get a job and isn't worth hiring. Another sounds like Eeyore on social media. Are these the complete summary of who they are and what's going on with them? Of course not. But it's a distorted view. And in some cases of self-perpetuating myth, is perhaps the reason WHY they won't get a job (would you hire someone who is always down on themselves?) or aren't happy, or whatever. The flip side, which was mentioned by another friend on Facebook was that social media was known to produce depression, as people tended to present only their BEST side, making it seem like they never had a bad day.

I certainly don't hide things on social media. I think being genuine is important. But I do prioritize- Twitter is used for work, as is my scholarly blog. Facebook is for friends (actual friends, like people I know), and this blog is for myself. I share my work, what I'm doing, what Nehi's doing. Now there are some things I usually don't post, because they walk the line of crossing out of my personal space and into others'- I rarely talk about my family because airing dirty laundry seems gauche, and wouldn't change anything any way. I post rants, and bad days, and struggles. But I don't think those ever outweigh the funny times, the Nehi antics, the amusing anecdotes. I think my life is a balance. I'm happy more days than I'm not.

But I think it's important to remember that social media is not a true mirror. It does not reflect the reality. For some it's a competition, vying for "best life", for some it's a constant rant of everything wrong, for some it's a neverending parade of cat videos. Whatever it is, perhaps we'd all be a little better served by thinking about what it looked like from the outside, not because you care what people think, but because you want your outside to reflect your inside, and we could all use a little self-reflection on our insides.

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