Zen of Instagram

The Zen of Instagram

Last week, while scrolling through Facebook’s news feed on my iPhone while my toddler was momentarily occupied with something, I followed a link to an article on Relevant Magazine titled “Stop Instagramming Your Perfect Life.” The article is about the idea that everyone’s life is prettier on the internet, which both makes us individually feel bad and makes the building of true community – based on real lives, real voices and shared experiences – difficult or impossible to build. The author calls the internet a “partial truth.” This line, in particular, has stuck with me: “…we rarely check Facebook when we’re having our own peak experiences. We check it when we’re bored and when we’re lonely, and it intensifies that boredom and loneliness.”

It is true.

I’m well aware of how easy it is to fall into comparison mode on the internet. It is hard, as a blogger, to look at other blogs with large engaged communities and not feel like a lame beginner (while overlooking the hard work and time that blogger put in to get there).  It is hard as a writer to see polished essays go viral (without remembering how many rounds of edits and rewrites that essay probably took to polish).  It is hard as a creative person to see others churning out cute outfits for their kids, throwing lavish parties or making pretty gifts (without remembering there is likely a mess outside the frame of the photo and that this person likely has help in a variety of ways to make time for their creativity).  It is hard as a mother to see photos of clean-scrubbed, well-behaved, adorable kids in beautiful settings (while forgetting we are all unlikely to photograph, let alone share, photos of tantrums).

A few days later, in the middle of uploading some pictures to Instagram of my own daughter, whose photo I had cropped and filtered to make her appear more adorable and clean-scrubbed than she actually was, I realized that I have a different and far more personal reason for recording this filtered view of my life.  It is a reminder to myself of these jewel moments, the ones strung along the necklace of motherhood alongside the potty accidents and the moments of exhausted mothers and screaming toddlers. At the end of a day when every moment has felt crazy hard and I’m exhausted to my bones, the way I bring myself back to gratitude for the privilege of raising this child is by editing photos I took of her that day that remind me of the good moments.

Some days I really need a reminder that there were some.

When I look back on these years when she’s grown I want to remember the moments of wonder, not just the moments of struggle and exhaustion. I want to skew my own view a little bit, more to the perfect and beautiful.

But the author of the Relevant Magazine article is right, this gives others a partial, and only partially correct view of my life, of our life.  Am I putting others off by my habit of recording the jewels? This is a place where I want to build community, not shut the door on it. Can I be brave enough here to write honestly about my struggles and lessons and not just offer up pretty lists of shallow advice?  I hope so.

But I’m still going to post pretty pictures of my kid on Instagram.


What do you think? Do you find the constant stream of seemingly perfect life that comes over the internet difficult?  Does it make you want to disconnect? How would you make the world of social media more a place of real connection or community, if you could change it? What do you wish that would look like?

Do you read blogs that are gritty and honest or those that are full of advice and solutions?  What blogs do you recommend to other moms?

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19 Responses to Zen of Instagram

  1. menaka bharathi April 16, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    dona, I agree with you. Life is not a bouquet of flowers always and just remembering the happy moments would not suffice to teach how to live life, especially in this fast and tricky world.

  2. Zweischneid April 12, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    To be fair, I don’t ever post pictures of my children on the internet. Facebook. Instagramm. Whatever.

    I post pics of myself (and other consenting adults), but to “the internet” I am childless (which I guess, is a form of life-editing).

    The first picture of one of my children on the internet will be one they post themselves.
    Zweischneid recently posted…All Good Ideas Start with a PrototypeMy Profile

    • Doña April 12, 2013 at 10:56 am #

      Wow, that’s a form of editing I hadn’t even thought about! And one I totally respect.

  3. Dianna O'Brien April 11, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Love this post. I think it is much easier to remember the tough stuff, so I love when friends post the good stuff, so I know if good things are happening for them, it’s possible for them to happen in my life, too. But there is the danger you mention, too, of people thinking all is perfect. But life is just life, there are ups and downs and each gives the other side meaning.
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    • Doña April 11, 2013 at 10:50 am #

      Dianna, I love that, that if good things are happening for them it is possible in your life, too. A refreshing perspective!

  4. Renata April 11, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    So true….Everybody has the perfect life on Facebook. That is why many people like “mom blogs” where the writer says the truth and does not always only paint beautiful pictures of parenthood..

  5. Johanna at ZigaZag WA Travel & Lifestyle April 11, 2013 at 12:57 am #

    Yes, I agree, but I think in time we just have to put things into perspective. I enjoy looking at pretty pictures although it is nice when the occasional not so perfect shot of life creeps in, but on the whole I think perhaps I ike to use the internet for inspiration rather than commiseration. (Ps found you via Problogger challenge).
    Johanna at ZigaZag WA Travel & Lifestyle recently posted…Where’s the best place in the world to live? Dare I say this?My Profile

  6. Nicole April 10, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    This is quite a thought provoking topic. Personally, I very rarely use Instagram, and I hardly update my personal Facebook profile either (though I do like to see what my friends are up to and often send them private messages). I really do prefer face to face communication or phone conversations.

    But I feel like even face to face interactions give us only a partial view of a person’s true thoughts. Sure, they might discuss things that they wouldn’t post on Facebook, but I still feel that unless you are very close friends, people always tend to limit what they share with you, try to be their perfect selves when in public, and do not always tell you the whole story of what’s going on in their life. Usually, I feel that I only have that true depth of communication with a few close friends.

    Unfortunately, social media discourages reaching out to all of your friends. Years ago, we would actually have to pick up the phone and call someone if we wanted to hear about his or her life, rather than just checking the Facebook wall. So I do try and make it a point to try and call all of my friends or actually meet for lunch. And then I find one of the benefits of social media! Even if we haven’t talked in weeks or even months, I can ask them about something they’ve posted on their Facebook (it makes catching up so much easier).

    Maybe in the future services like Skype will be built into social media and Facebook will remind us to keep in touch with our friends face to face using video chat.

    On the blog front, I do enjoy reading blogs that are gritty and honest, as long as the author still has a positive outlook on life. 🙂
    Nicole recently posted…Margaret Thatcher’s 5 Steps To Achieving GreatnessMy Profile

    • Doña April 11, 2013 at 9:37 am #

      Nicole, that’s such a good point that we really only ever get a partial perspective, even in person. I find that with Facebook I’m able to keep up with a wider circle of friends, with lessoning degrees of contact. But it is nice to at least be able to say hi to someone I knew in college, or congratulate her on an achievement, when I wouldn’t have time or energy to keep up with her by phone or written letters. I love the idea of crossing over Skype with Facebook. We use Skype a lot in my house to help keep my dad in touch with my daughter, who is 2. She loves to give him and my step-mom tours of her favorite things by walking around the house with my phone. It would be so hard for them to be as close to her at a distance with out that technology.

  7. Rohit Sharma April 10, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    Hi Doña,

    I subscribe to your thought on archiving of frozen moments as these are quite nostalgic for an individual, on the same time there is a threat of frustration or temptation which might hit some one at some point of time due to the false image which some are trying to create in the online world.

    But more important is how I am going to perceive it so I am also IN for posting pretty memories of my life… 🙂
    Rohit Sharma recently posted…What is your Revolution?My Profile

    • Doña April 11, 2013 at 9:38 am #

      Rohit, I agree, there is a danger of purposefully presenting a false life. I try to think I’m not doing that! 🙂

  8. [email protected] April 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    I’m actually more turned off by the steady stream of “real” “mommy” blogs that are “gritty” and “honest” and use mainly sarcastic humor to tell it like it is <–That's a lot of quotes there. I gravitate toward the jewels that paint a beautiful picture of parenthood that is still very honest and real. I relate to the jewels more no matter how hard of a day or week I've had. I don't resent them or feel jealous, but rather inspired and reminded of the good in life. Don't get me wrong, though. I surround my online self with a wide variety of perspectives because I like everything in moderation, even the gritty stuff.
    [email protected] recently posted…iVillage Cooking Adventures: Lasagna Roll UpsMy Profile

    • Doña April 11, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      Christine, I agree. I have a hard time with the caustic mommy blogs, too. Mothering is hard, but I find it mostly wonderful and very worthwhile. I’m not much interested in listening to people who seem to be whining about their lot. But I also get frustrated by the ones who seem to have perfect homes and unlimited time and perfect, easy relationships with husband and kids alike. Because really, that can’t be all true. My favorite mommy blogs are the ones that are thoughtful, honest, but clearly the writer loves her family even on the hard days.

  9. Tammy Eakes April 10, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    I want to see the “happy” on facebook. I have actually unfriended people who always seem to be moaning and groaning about something on FB. I don’t like to be surrounded by negativity and when I log onto FB I don’t want to be put in a bad mood bc someone is posting negativity. There have been times when I have wanted to be negative on FB (and a few times I allowed myself to do it) but I usually stick to the happy moments. I don’t want everyone “all up in my business” and I feel like people who put negative comments on FB are seeking attention. I prefer to work my problems out myself.
    As for blogs though – to me that’s a totally different story. I want the deep down dark ugly truth when I read a blog. When I go to a blog I am usually seeking some sort of answer to a question or problem. The blog will not help me one iota if it is not truthful.
    I guess the difference for me is that I use FB to keep in touch with others. I want to share in their happy moments and let them share in mine. I’m not using it as a resource. Make sense?
    Found you on problogger Discussion Post contest. I’m participating too. Thanks!

    • Doña April 11, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      So interesting, Tammy, that you look for such different things in different mediums! I admit I’ve unfriended some grouchy, whiney people, too. I don’t need that in my face every day.

  10. Kim April 10, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    Beautifully written Dona! It’s true…we all do seem to post more of the good stuff than the bad. For instance even though it looks like many of my friends on Facebook do nothing but travel their life away (for that is the only time they seem to post an update) – which at times makes me insanely jealous ;), maybe it is not such a bad thing. For like you mentioned, isn’t it better to focus on all the good in one’s life then the bad!? I think the point to remember (and to keep one’s jealousies in check) is that everyone goes through stuff, and nobody’s life is perfect no matter how hard they try to make it look like it is!
    Kim recently posted…Does Pinterest make you feel inadequate?My Profile

    • Doña April 11, 2013 at 9:44 am #

      Thanks, Kim! I have a friend who lives in Indonesia and sometimes her gorgeous photos make me jealous and sometimes they inspire me to figure out how to travel there soon. I guess there’s always more than one way to look at it, right? I just have to be careful of my frame of mind, like it said in the article I linked. When I’m bored and lonely, I’m far more likely to be jealous!

  11. Jo (Dexterous Diva) April 10, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    I love this post ( I am here via Pro Blogger). I wrote a similar one recently about social media image curation (http://dexterousdiva.co.uk/2013/03/25/the-things-arent-what-they-seem-meme/) and it really fascinates me that we live our loves this way online, through a filtered, lomo, curated lense.
    Thanks for the post 😉

    • Doña April 10, 2013 at 9:26 am #

      Hi Jo! It is really fascinating, isn’t it? I’d love to read your post but your link didn’t work for me and I can’t find the article on your page.

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