Do you have those people who you follow on Instagram who just appear to have perfectly cool lives? Sometimes I'm scrolling through my news feed, and I just have to reach over to show my sister, "Look how cute this girl is. Look where she went here! Isn't her life awesome???
I say I don't think too much about what people think of my online identity... I mean, yes I hope my blog doesn't make me sound crazy, and yes, I do put effort into my Instagrams, but more for my own creative expression, right? I have no idea how to work a real DSLR camera, so I stick to iPhones. It would take hours fooling with any real graphic design project, but filters and fun fonts from a free easy-to-use app? I can handle that. I don't let social media get in the way of real life, no way. That's what I tell myself.
So you can imagine my surprise when I told some of my far-away-friends about a huge life change I made back in December.
“What??? I've been following your posts and I thought you were LOVING every second of it!”
Hmm. Okay. Yeah I can see why people would be confused. I walked out on my dream job to move back home. They didn't know why and I wasn't sure I could explain it accurately.
We've heard that Instagram is really just a “highlight reel,” so it makes sense for it to be filled with the most exciting parts of our weeks, ignoring the mundane. They say it's a way to share with your friends what you are up to... But for me, sometimes seeing other peoples fancy posts make me feel isolated instead of connected. I'm not as cool or trendy as them, I think. But then there I go, buying into the superficial system by spending 15 minutes adding filters and rewording captions and perfecting hashtags. I twist a plate of food into a chance to yell “MY LIFE IS SO COOL!!!!”
No really, that's what I did yesterday.. Let me explain.
My Outlook event reminder popped up at 9:55.
“A/V Training with Stephanie in 5 minutes.”
“Crap....” I thought. I was scheduled to go down and get training on the tech board for an event. A co-worker graciously offered to take time out of her workday to show me the ropes and make sure everything was working.
I walked down the stairs from my office counting all the things on my to-do list. I hadn't even had time to finish getting through my email yet. I walked quickly, hoping to get this over with.
I arrived, got trained, and started cheering up as I slowed down to actually look around at what was going on. Our ESOL ministry was throwing an Iranian New Year party to honor and celebrate all the Persian individuals who take English classes in our church. They went all out, and it was awesome.
Fast forward an hour and a half and I was standing there with a plate of food. I snapped a pic, took a seat, and enjoyed conversation as I chewed on menu items with names I can't pronounce. I had no idea what I was eating and I didn't know 98% of people in the room, but I didn't care. Eventually though, as I cleared my plate, my mind started going back to that stupid but necessary to-do list. I got antsy, checked the time, started cleaning up. By the time I got back to my office, my mind was racing with work and I completely forgot about the sweet cultural break in my morning.
The rest of the day rushed by and I felt the standard end-of-the-week-weariness hovering. I didn't need to look in the mirror to see what it looked like – I could watch it in the faces of my co-workers. We work hard in our department, something I admire so much about my fun 4-person team. But when 6 o'clock came and I hadn't finished that elusive to-do list, I was ready to call it a day. I think they were too. “Well, there's always tomorrow,” I thought as I packed up my bag. I couldn't wait to get home, change into pajamas, and soothe myself with the simplicity of cooking something familiar. But then, the first thing I did when I left the office was post this little photo with the caption,
“Snapshot of my work day – celebrating the Iranian New Year with the ESOL department. Working in Outreach has some serious perks! Love my job!”
But immediately after posting, I felt a tension. Something was off balance. Those weren't my words – well, they were, but that's not how I really felt at all. I was portraying an image that just wasn't me. I was tired and I wanted pajamas and to forget about work for a solid weekend. So why did I write this flippant little comment about how great my life is?
Yes, my job has a lot of perks. Really, there is no denying it and I am SO thankful.
But there is a bigger picture that can't fit into a cute little square box on my Instagram account.
I'm not so self-absorbed or immature that I think I need EVERYONE in the whole world to know when I am having a hard day in the office – there is wisdom in exercising social media self-control. However, I also don't want to use my social media accounts to post flippantly and unrealistically. Who was I posting this for? When I thought about it, I realized it wasn't for me.... Within 5 minutes I deleted it, and spent the next 12 hours mulling over what this means.
I didn't need to tell the world how awesome my job was before I told myself. I posted it for anyone on the internet to see, but I needed to swallow it before I broadcasted it.
We are so well-trained in social media. Add some bokeh to that sunset and a quote about how life is yours for the taking.. Boom. Guaranteed 35 likes on Instagram. I say I don't do it for the followers and for the “likes” but then who am I doing it for?
Do we really believe the truth we are proclaiming? Because most of the time, I don't.
So if writing this was my confession, deleting was a reconciliation, I'm finally at a place where I can extend an open invitation to work on it.
An invitation I'm extending to myself first... But would love to hear your thoughts as we journey toward vulnerability together.
Cheers, love, grace, and all those positive things that don't fit in an Instragram filter.