I got in my car to go to work last week, and it wouldn’t start. The battery was bad, so I replaced it. The water filter needed replacing, too, but it got stuck when I tried to remove it. And when I got to the studio, the stereo wouldn’t turn on. My electric toothbrush petered out the next day. Today, I tried to print something and the ink cartridge had dried up. And for the past few months, the passenger side window of my car has a mind of its own; whenever I try to close the window, it rolls back down. First world issues, I’m aware, but it’s life nonetheless: something’s always breaking or broken, un-fixable or in need of repair.
But — we, as a species, don’t like to expose the truth of our lives to each other, because, it’s not pretty or sexy. There’s frustration and dysfunction, loneliness and pain, and in a broken world, who would want to add to it by sharing reality? So, we think that the solution is to create images of happiness and manufactured positivity, but that only adds to it. It’s like turning away from a skid, instead of into it, to correct it.
It seems counterintuitive, to share the broken stuff, however, it’s necessary — the damage in our lives is meant to be known, so we can support each other as we mend what can be fixed and learn to cope with what can’t.
Humans by nature are optimists, who want to believe in the good, the best – that perfection is attainable. And now, with the magic of social media platforms, blemish erasers and filters, we can escape reality and create the life we desperately want to believe exists.
I joke that I was born in the wrong era. This technology stuff isn’t for me; I’m allergic to anything that isn’t authentic. It’s the reason I turned my pages public: I’m not privy to the feed, the peacock parade I call it. I see through the coiffed images of a suburban Stepford-ia and the yearning to be acknowledged, validated and prove that everything is ok. Yet, how can we be seen if we hide behind an image that is made-up and a rehearsed blip of who we really are?
My daily life is routine, full with priorities and broken things. There are fractures in places that keep oozing and need constant attention, patience, negotiation and maintenance. There’s a reason I’ve never felt comfortable updating my status with images, check-ins and smiles that don’t crinkle the eyes, because, that tells a split second of the story that was most likely re-taken a few times. It’s not a true or accurate representation of my life. It doesn’t show what happens in the other 23 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds: a real life that hosts its share of issues, heartaches, hard work, repairs and an overwhelming dose of doubt and incessant questioning.
There are people who post images of their lavish, successful lifestyles, who I know offline, are drowning in debt and struggling with real-life issues. I also know people who are in miserable, soul crushing marriages, yet they publish toothy, twinkle-lighted date night pictures.
We are not a part of the problem, the cause of our world’s duress — we are the problem.
How are we serving ourselves and others by lying about and/or embellishing our realities? What’s the point? What’s the end game? What are we so afraid of? What is wrong with exposing the jagged edges of life? And, don’t we see that until we take off our masks and open up to each other, we won’t be able to heal the gashes in our world?
I refuse to be a part of the problem. I choose to be a part of the solution. I would have failed my purpose on the planet if all I left behind was an airbrushed timeline. G-d’s not going to be reviewing my mobile uploads when I die. He could care less how many followers I had, or what my website analytics ratings were. He’s going to be scrolling through all of the moments I didn’t post – like the times I lied, or omitted the truth, or didn’t do the beneficial, kind thing. He’s going to remind me of the times I acted out of insecurity and jealousy, and the times I was selfless – the times I did something that helped others and the times I did things that hurt. He’s going highlight how I dealt with the broken, ugly, annoying parts of my life.
How did I fix the things that could be fixed? And, how did I accept the things that couldn’t? Did I inhabit myself and the moments of my life fully? When I inhabit myself completely, I take honest action.
The other day, I did a popular hike in Phoenix. As I reached the top, I was assaulted by hardcore rap streaming out of a guy’s portable speaker. I politely asked him to turn it down. Instead, he turned it up, so I found a spot on the other side of the peak, where most of the hikers were sitting. I listened to the hum of the city and the blare of explicit lyrics disturbing the serenity of the summit as I stared at the bird pecking at the orange peel in the crevice of the rock near my feet. This is life, I thought — a symphony of opposites, of contradictions, of imperfections.
I looked around at the others who sat nearby, wondering if they were thinking the same thing, but they were all preoccupied doing the same thing — everyone was on their phones taking selfies or looking down, vigorously typing away on their screens.
They were up there, but they weren’t there.
Our species has fallen asleep. There’s no need to fear a zombie apocalypse, because it’s here — a lifeless obsession with status, perfection, a devastating lack of presence, an aversion to reality, and an addiction to proving that we exist in the moment we are in without actually inhabiting it, and then editing it to look how we want it to look, not how it actually is.
Where’s the truth: the spills, the breaks and the irreparable parts? Where are the lifted chins and the gazes of connection? When will we realize that life happens in between all of the stuff we post and pine after online? When will we stop comparing our real lives to someone else’s virtual illusion?
I learned long ago that the right thing is usually the unpopular thing. I am outspoken about my feelings of our social media addiction. It’s the reason I only engage when I have to and even then, I wonder if it’s necessary. Some might call that an isolating way to live; I call it freedom. I was reminded of that on top of the mountain the other day as I looked around, accepting the moment I was in, which was annoying and frustrating and dysfunctional and beautiful, too. I was a part of the original image, the real life one; I was there, really there. I saw them all. I wonder if they noticed? ~Rebecca