If you’ll let me tell you what I imagine about myself you’ll find me a lot more interesting. (from Anne Of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)
I know, I know, everyone talks about this and here I go reinventing the wheel. I can’t help it. I’m going to talk about social media and the lives we put out for the world to see.
Our real lives (plain, old, unromantic real lives) often don’t seem interesting enough to share in a culture that is all about sharing. We are supposed to share the minutiae of our days but only if it makes everyone else “like” what we post. So here we sit, fingers hovering over keyboards hoping to find something to say that will be interesting enough. We post pictures taken from the right angles to show the cleanest corner of the house and only one chin on mama and it’s like saying, “Please like me. Please think I’m interesting. Please call me Cordelia?” We think we want this validation of our day-to-day but I believe in our hearts we are looking for a Marilla out there who says, “Anne is a fine name and nothing to be ashamed of.” Someone who will risk a relationship in real life even though we show our double chins and messy rooms. Someone who isn’t at all interested in what we imagine about ourselves.
Some months ago I was spending a lovely afternoon with several friends and we pulled up one friend’s maternity pictures on a computer. A couple of the girls who are into photography started touching up the pictures–lengthening her eyelashes, brightening her eyes, smoothing the skin on her forehead. She was thrilled. We were all impressed by the skill and the technology. But something about it made me mistrust every professional picture my family has had taken. Were my son’s eyes really that blue or were they brightened later on a computer? I found myself searching our photos for small wrinkles, fly-away hairs, and unflattering creases in my dress. Searching for something that would say, “This photo is real. This was a real moment in our lives. We are real people.” See, I want to break free of this need to look perfect. I want to be real. For my kids, for my friends, for myself. Real.
In The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, the Skin Horse says, “Generally by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I think we have a harder time being real in this culture of sharing. I mean, there’s probably always been an expectation of putting your best out there (the company towels and all) but now that everyone’s a casual voyeur we have to put our best forward all the time. That’s exhausting. And it creates a snowball effect where we compare our worst to everyone else’s best and they do the same with us and nobody tells the whole truth. I was listening to the leadership team at my MOPS group introduce themselves a couple of months ago and so many of them said that drop in visitors give them major anxiety because they either don’t have the house together enough or themselves together enough for someone to drop by unexpectedly. Drop by visitors are my favorite friends. They are the ones to whom I can say, “I am trusting you with my real life. If you go in my room right now you will see a pile of laundry waiting to be folded. If you go in the craft room, you should fear for your life. But what kind of tea do you want?” If you come into my real life house when I haven’t had time to prepare the company towels for your arrival, I need you to be okay with what you find here. Sometimes my kids are still in pajamas at lunch time. Sometimes there is laundry on the bed. Sometimes we don’t do the dishes right away. Sometimes it looks awesome (well, the craft room never does) but sometimes it doesn’t. Please come over anyway. My friend Sarah has been known to call and say, “DON’T clean your house before I come.” Even if she’s giving me enough notice that I could. My friend Erin jokes that I always serve one of two lunches. This is because those are my fall-back, always have the ingredients on hand for drop by lunch guest lunches! She is one of the few people who actually takes me up on my come by any time policy so she gets to experience those two lunches over and over. Meg is a friend who is allowed into my craft room. That is probably one of the best indicators of closeness and trust.
So to my “friends,” I will continue to tell you the fun and funny parts of our lives because part of me really enjoys the “likes.” But if you want to be real life friends, please just text when you’re on your way over so I can unlock the door and avoid you having to ring the bell and wake the baby (that way we can talk with fewer interruptions). And if you do ring the bell and wake the baby, I won’t be mad at you. I’ll be very glad to have a friend there on a day when the baby’s nap was too short. If you come over for lunch and I am just now running the dishwasher from last night’s supper so I’m out of clean plates, just wait a sec while I hand wash a couple. Or we could eat from kiddie plates OR we could eat from the good china! Which would you prefer, real life friend?