By Kelly Hines
I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, and I have a feeling many of you do, too. I love seeing pictures of your kids, I love hearing funny stories, I love being able to share family news and milestones with far-flung friends and family. I hate that it makes me feel inadequate. We don’t go on enough vacations, my kids don’t do well enough in school, we don’t have enough stuff. I’m embarrassed and ashamed when I start feeling this way, measuring my insides by other people’s outsides.
We are under the impression that we can have it all. We can have a nice, clean house and well behaved, good looking children who make straight A’s, and Disney trips and loving spouses. We think that because, clearly, everyone else on Facebook does. But I will let you in on a little secret:
It’s all a lie.
I do have a nice, clean house. When company comes over. My kids are well behaved, when properly motivated by fear or money. They are exceptionally good looking, I have to admit. We all pick and choose what part of our life we reveal to others, whether it’s on Facebook or at a PTA meeting. The issue is not what we reveal, but how we react to others.
For the past several years, I’ve noticed an end of school year trend. Parents, understandably proud, are posting their children’s report cards and end of grade testing results on Facebook. My mental response has always been the same: My kid didn’t do as well. Usually followed by a list of all the things that my kid is better at. My Facebook response is always different: Congratulations! Your kid is awesome!
I decided this year that if I had those negative thoughts, that I would not post anything. That I would rather not engage if the engagement was disingenuous. When I removed my own feelings – my jealousy, my bitterness, my inadequacies – I felt less resentment against other people. I starting assuming that people posted things out of their own joy, not in an attempt to get a response out of me. And you know what? Not one person asked me why I didn’t comment on their child’s report card. My input was not missed.
My input is not important.
When I came to that realization, Facebook changed. It stopped being a place where people were bragging and started being a place where people were sharing. If they are only sharing the best parts of their lives, shouldn’t I be happy for their happiness? After all, isn’t that what I do on Facebook, too?
I was recently standing in a very long, very slow line. My kids had run off to look at something, so I had time to observe a mom and her two boys who were standing in front of me. The boys were youngish – maybe 10 or 11 – but old enough to know not to act like hooligans. Which was, of course, exactly how they were acting. They were smarting off at each other, punching and pinching, at one point even falling to the ground wrestling. All the while, the mom was trying desperately to get them to stand still for a photo. “Hold still so I can get this on Facebook!”, she said repeatedly. She’d raise her phone and, right before she’d snap the picture, they’d be at it again. She was losing her temper, clenching her teeth and making empty threats. Finally, they slung their arms around each other and smiled for the two seconds it took her to take the photo. Immediately, they were fighting again.
If I were friends with this woman on Facebook, I know the picture I’d see: Two cute boys, loving brothers with arms thrown around each other, smiling gleefully for the camera, grateful and happy. The caption might read – #blessed.
And if I were friends with this woman, I would smile and click “like”.