by Merry Gordon
Confession time: I spend a lot of time trying to be the perfect Mormon mommy. No, scratch that—I spend a lot of time trying to look like the perfect Mormon mommy. Especially online. And the thing is, lots of us do. We’re writers, storytellers by nature. We selfie and app, we filter and curate…we embellish.
Hey, it’s not dishonesty.
It’s enhancement. Just “improving the shining moments,” as it were. All good writers edit, right?
Maybe it starts with untagging yourself in a picture so people won’t see—gasp!—dirty laundry on the floor behind you. And then it’s a reconstructed “candid” shot when the first one didn’t come out quite right. Suddenly we’re cranking up the exposure on already brilliant sunsets because magazines or Mommy Wars or whatever you want to blame it on has made us think some airbrushed Technicolor day-glo fiction is better than real life.
The poet John Keats once wrote, “Truth is beauty, beauty truth.”
Why did we stop believing that?
The whole foods lifestyle is taking over every fridge in America, but it’s like our virtual selves never got the memo. The less processed our food, the more processed our self-narrative.
Only in this age is it possible to sip an organic smoothie with one hand and use the other hand to run the angled shots you took of yourself drinking it through six effects to make your eyes pop, three filters to make the smoothie look a little less puce and your skin a little more tan, and a collage frame to edit out your messy kitchen countertop: #natural!
It’s not that I don’t believe in putting my best self forward, and I’m not saying social media’s a bad thing*. There’s nothing wrong with using it
in place of the journal I’m supposed to be keeping to
chronicle life. But if I’m being honest, I’m hardly as pulled together as my
profile persona would have you think. You see the cleaned-up 1%...and I worry
I’m forgetting to enjoy the gorgeous ordinariness in the not-for-social media
moments that make up the other 99% of my world.
Case in point: that staged toddler birthday cake pic with lo-fi vintage party hats border is great. When I post that one, it seems representative. I look like Super Mommy, Supreme Goddess of All Things Pinterest, and you’ll never know that it was all of a nanosecond in my frenzied day. It’s a wittily-hashtagged pseudo-memory.
What you don’t see is the belly laughter twenty minutes post-photo op when I wrestled my little boy to the ground and picked the cakesnot** out of his hair (and then dug the crumbs out of my bra for the next hour).
That’s the good stuff. It’s not pretty, but it’s real.
No, I’m not breaking up with Instagram. But just for kicks, maybe I’ll try to live in the raw a little more. The off-camera. The unedited rough-rough-draft version of me. Because that’s beautiful too.
*Except Snapchat. Look, I teach high school. I get how kids think. No app that tells thirteen-year-olds they can take guilt-free incriminating pictures because their photos will self-destruct is a good idea. But I’ll save that for another post.
**As any parent will tell you, this is a thing. Try not to think about it too much.