I don’t know about you, but I have a love/hate relationship with technology. On the one hand, life has become much more efficient than it was back in the 80s and 90s of my growing up years. I mean c’mon, the fact that I can get a hold of my kids with a quick text on my phone is all sorts of wonderful. My mom used to have to holler out the backdoor at dinnertime hoping my sisters and I were within earshot of our own neighborhood. And who doesn’t love the convenience of Google right at our fingertips? We used to have to haul the Encyclopedia Brittanicas down from the living room shelves, dust them off, and hope there was at least a paragraph in there about our subject of choice or else we were stuck driving the station wagon down to our local public library to try our luck.
All that said, technology also brings with it some challenges. Communication has taken on an entirely new meaning. Gone are the days of calling up a friend just to “catch up”, or sending a letter to Grandma to let her know what we’ve been up to. We now have the ability to share ourselves with the world via social media. I may not have seen the kid who used to sit in front of me in my freshman english class since my freshman english class, but thanks to Facebook and Instagram I can tell you what he had for lunch yesterday and that he just returned from a fabulous vacation in Bora Bora.
Social media gives us the freedom to share ourselves with the world and what we choose to post is usually the best stuff; the weight we’ve lost, our new pair of boots, our sunshine-filled day of skiing, our lunch with “the girls”, our adorable kids quietly reading a picture book in the corner of an immaculate house. And please don’t get me wrong. I’m all for sharing the beauty of life with others. As a photographer, I tend to fill my own social media feeds with my best work. Life is really really good sometimes. And those times should be celebrated. But life is also filled with really really hard stuff. We all have challenges. Nobody is immune to the hard times. And when those challenges hit us like a locomotive and disrupt all of the beauty we had been enjoying, it’s challenging to look through feeds of perfection and not feel a little bit discouraged and depressed and wonder why our life isn’t as good as our online “friends”. It’s hard not to compare. It’s our natural instinct to hide our challenges from others and suffer through them alone. This is especially true for young people who tend to place a great deal of relevance on social media. They can feel isolated and overwhelmed when their life isn’t measuring up to what they see their friends posting.
Nobody is immune to personal challenges, not even bloggers. Having close friends who are successful bloggers, I’ve seen how their personal lives and their online personas can often be completely contradictory. What they post online is often a far cry from what’s really going on behind the scenes. Yet, they choose to post only the best parts of their lives even when those best parts are often fabricated. They believe that if they were to shatter their image of perfection by being honest, they’d somehow lose followers and likes and readers. People would no longer trust them or believe in what they’re doing.
I completely disagree. I believe honesty builds trust. I’ve seen it happening more and more lately with a few bloggers that I follow, like Jenna Kutcher. Her honesty about her struggles with body image and a recent miscarriage have only endeared her to those of us who follow her. I find myself relating to her because of her honesty, not despite it.
Honesty builds trust. I believe there needs to be more honesty on social media. And that’s why I’ve started a personal project this year I’m calling the Quite Honestly Project.
With feeds full of beautiful photographs of happy families, perfect outfits, and glamorous vacations, it’s hard to remember that life isn’t perfect for anyone. When life presents us with challenges and struggles, it’s easy to feel isolated, alone, and inadequate. Hiding these trials from the world is our natural instinct. But instead of hiding the imperfections of life, what would happen if we shared them instead? Would we find people struggling with similar challenges? Would we be able to pass along wisdom we’ve gained? Would we be more likely to celebrate each other’s wins when we know what challenges were overcome to get there? Would we be kinder with ourselves? And more understanding and supportive of others? Would we build more trust?
Life is full of ups and downs. Everyone experiences both. I’m hoping to bring more honesty to the table through the Quite Honestly Project. If you’re local to the SF Bay Area please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to participate by sharing your challenge through a story and photograph.