In my very first post on You Me Serendipity, I talked about how sometimes, social media can be a bit like the Rabbit's hole and I can tumble down it like Alice. Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest can show you wonderful things, but they can also alter your sense of reality, leading to comparisons that are unhealthy or unrealistic.
You guys, even a year after writing those words, I want you to know that I still fall prey to the endless scrolling. I still spend time wishing for those beautiful, curated lives that aren't mine.
To live a life that is entirely grounded within subjective perfection is difficult. There are some days when I'm not sure I know what my version of perfect is; relying on someone else's definition is just easier. But that doesn't help me and it doesn't allow me celebrate who I really am - it just keeps me focused on what I think I lack.
This idea came full circle when Kurt and I were celebrating New Year's in London and Paris. Now, before I continue, I realize that sentence makes me sound extremely privileged and might instill in others a sense of jealousy. And you know what? We had a wonderful vacation! To say otherwise would be false. But we worked really hard, planning and saving for two years to take this vacation because we couldn't afford to do it any other way.
We were in Paris for New Year's, and shortly after we arrived, I realized that someone I followed on Instagram was also there! She was posting these beautiful pictures of the apartment that she, her husband, and her two best friends were staying in for the week, and of her walking over romantic looking bridges overlooking the Eiffel Tower with bunches of fresh flowers in her hands. Meanwhile, Kurt and I were staying in a tiny, but very functional room (in a very cool, historic hotel), and couldn't seem to find those same romantic looking bridges overlooking the Eiffel Tower. In fact the day we saw the Eiffel Tower it was gray, cloudy and rainy, and you couldn't really see all of the top of it.
To say that I was jealous that Kurt and I couldn't afford the type of trip that this woman seemed to be having is a huge understatement. And to be honest with you all, I wanted that Instagram-worthy vacation so much that I actually snapped at Kurt when he was just being himself while I was taking a video of where we were and I thought he was ruining the experience I was trying really hard to curate. Talk about letting someone else's version of perfect take over!
On New Years Day, Kurt and I tried to visit the Musee D'Orsay, but very long lines and bitter cold weather made waiting outside to purchase tickets rather unappealing. Instead, we headed to a little cafe nearby to warm up and have some lunch. After we were seated, I glanced to my left and realized that the people at the table next to us were the very ones I had been following all week on Instagram! I had this flutter of excitement - this was my moment to meet someone who seemed to have such a fulfilling and wonderful life! But to be honest with you all, what I witnessed completely shattered the illusion that the internet creates.
This woman was perhaps one of the rudest, most obnoxiously "American" people I had ever seen. I had a hard time during our meal not staring at her - she treated the waitstaff with such disdain. She, along with the rest of the group, had an expected meal of french onion soup and french fries, completely ignoring the other delicious (and more French) menu options. She talked over her friends, making sure they remembered that they were only there because she wanted them to be. She treated her husband as the hired photographer who was only there to make her look good throughout the trip. She spoke absolutely no French, even though in her posts throughout the week she had made it appear that she knew so much about the Parisian culture and way of life.
I knew that Kurt was also paying close attention. Because Kurt has lived abroad, he is very aware of cultural customs. When we travel internationally, he makes sure to learn a few key phrases in whatever the primary language is. He learns about the public transportation systems, and does his research so we can do our best to assimilate into the culture for the time we are there. He is very aware of the opinions other countries have about the United States and the American people, and makes conscious choices to have us be the least offensive as possible. So I knew quickly that Kurt thought these people were just the absolute worst.
As we left the cafe, I shared with him in a hurried whisper that I knew who they were and that I followed their ringleader on Instagram. He spouted off a flurry of questions - did she follow me back? Did she like anything that I posted? Did she seem so terrible in her posts as she was in real life? When we got back to our hotel, I shared with him her profile and her one million followers, her blog and the pictures she had posted from Paris. He didn't have anything nice to say at all.
As we talked over the next couple of days about that experience, our conversation regularly returned to You Me Serendipity and subjective perfection. And I realized that throughout the last year, some of the choices I made were less about subjective perfection and more about curating an image. So I feel like I should apologize to you all for not always holding myself to a standard of subjective perfection throughout the last year. It's also why, in my 2017 goals, I'm choosing to focus on making You Me Serendipity more about what truly matters to me, and less about common online media trends. In 2017 I want to be more honest, open, and forthcoming in this online space and spend less time on the things that don't help me live a life rooted in subjective perfection.
Since returning home from that trip, I have unfollowed this woman on Instagram, along with about 40 other people who seem to be promoting the same type of curated lifestyle. Choosing to live a life more strongly rooted in subjective perfection means that I shouldn't spend time looking at profiles that make me think less of what I have. Instead, I need to fill my social media feeds with images that are going to be life-giving and inspiring. And to be honest, I really should choose to spend less time on social media in general so I stop comparing my faithfully portrayed everyday life to someone else's highly edited highlight reel.
It is too easy to fall into the trap of wishing for something that someone else has. It is too easy to fall into the mentality that having the latest trendy clothing item, technology solution, or extravagant vacation will make our lives perfect. It is too easy to think that drastically changing our physical appearance to be more like someone else's will make us happier and more beautiful than we already are. Watching the lives of others instead of focusing on our own does not lead to a happy life.
So friends, my hope for this year - for myself and for you - is that subjective perfection becomes our guidepost and the standard to which we aspire. I don't think it's going to be easy, but I'll be here encouraging you every step of the way!
I'd love to know how social media impacts your life. How does it detract from or enhance your overall happiness and feelings of fulfillment? How can I encourage you in living a life more rooted in subjective perfection? Share your thoughts in the comments!