I take things with a pinch of salt these days when I’m surfing through my Instagram or other social media feeds because, like most of you, I know that what I am viewing is not always the reality of things. The masses can agree that most of the content we see appears to be perfect, but does anybody wonder about the rest? I mean, of course, what we are seeing versus what is actually happening doesn’t add up, and that’s because life is far from perfect. Life can’t be ninety-five percent sunshine, sends, or other various sparkly moments. Maybe the missing percentage make up the really boring moments that aren’t “Instagram worthy”–like when I’m driving back and forth across the country, nobody really cares what the highway in Kansas looks like at 4 p.m. (It’s really, really flat and boring, in case you were wondering.)
But doesn’t anybody want to know what Alex Puccio or Sasha Digiulian’s days off look like? Maybe that’s not why they have hundreds of thousands of followers. But aren’t you curious?
Kurt and I scrolled through my own personal ‘gram a few nights ago and he guffawed at several pictures from 2013. One of them was a picture of a four-year-old girl I used to nanny in Bay Ridge: her knees were bruised and she was sitting on a park bench, nibbling on an unpeeled carrot. I had cropped her face but you could see a sliver of a smile in the photograph. He said that he liked my old Instagram pictures better and I thought that was kind of funny because other than to myself and loved ones, they’re pretty uninteresting. He said that he liked them because they were “real”.
At the time, I said that my life was categorized by three things: climbing, kids, and dogs. And over time, several years, in fact, climbing photographs took over the majority of my feed because it’s what I was doing the majority of the time. Correction: climbing is what I’d like to be doing the majority of the time. The majority. But what about the rest of it?
Butt shots, birthday cakes, dirty hands, kids you don’t recognize, doughnut towers I painstakingly stacked or made my dog wear, crooked selfies, the unicorn onesie I deliberated buying for ten minutes, tacos–a strange mishmash of ridiculous and low pixel posts of things and events that matter a lot to me. And yeah, sometimes climbing.
I wrote a short essay some time ago about how no matter the social media platform you choose, there will always be gaps. There will always be missing context from your storyline. I know a girl who once wrote an article about her dirtbagging experiences for a company and her story was so heavily edited that it made dirtbagging seem downright glamorous. They changed so much of her essay that you would never know about the peanut butter sandwich dinners, weeks spent living in and out of her vehicle, or working restaurant shifts to make ends meet. And I think that those are important moments—they’re the ones that really make a statement about who we are.
I understand why certain handles and companies adhere to a specific guideline. A feed that looks uniform isn’t necessarily unauthentic–it’s more like all of the best moments get displayed and the uneventful ones go unmentioned. And maybe a snap of Alex Honnold eating spaghetti or putting a dog in a pom-pom hat isn’t going to sell a single anything or inspire anyone, but what it does say is that life isn’t one big series of epic moments. It says that there are some pretty ordinary moments that happen too, and they’re worth acknowledging and appreciating just the same.
And while I can appreciate those who keep to a static theme (because they offer people a little shred of inspiration, which at the end of the day is never a bad thing), I’m just as grateful for dogs in pom-pom hats, butt shots, and a picture of your taco dinner.