honesty and social media

One Friday morning a couple of weeks ago – the first day of half term to be precise – my sons decided to do some baking. My eight-year-old has always enjoyed making cakes and buns but it’s become a real passion of his recently. On this occasion his younger brothers (aged six and just-about-three) were keen to help and I was told to “Sit down, Mummy or just take some photos of us or something.” So I mostly just watched them.

pretty buns... but what's the other side of the story?

pretty buns… but what’s the other side of the story?

It was so sweet – the three of them were totally dedicated to the task and worked together brilliantly. The older two read recipes together and divided up tasks. They helped their little brother pour ingredients and stir the mixture. They all had far too much (messy) fun with the electric mixer and even came up with a solution when they realised they’d added butter straight from the fridge (instead of ‘softened butter’)… which involved the six year old sitting in front of a heater for ten minutes cradling the bowl of cake mixture in his hands! An hour and a half later they had made chocolate biscuits and buns and were (justly) very pleased with themselves. I photographed the whole thing and shared the photos on my personal Facebook page. I felt so happy and proud of them.

Ten minutes later though, I felt a sudden need to be more honest with my Facebook friends… because although those pictures of sibling harmony were absolutely genuine, they only told one part of the story. In fact, the reason I had been so particularly happy to see my boys working together and enjoying each other’s company so much is because the previous day my older two had had the most horrible, upsetting argument. It was probably the worst argument they’d ever had and it had taken me and their dad ages to calm them down and help them through it. I’d gone to bed feeling like a terrible parent and woken up as member of the Walton family! No wonder I’d wanted to share those gorgeous, harmonious photos!

Perhaps it was the recent furore over the ‘Motherhood Challenge’ playing on my mind (with the idea that posting happy photos can have a negative impact on others*), but suddenly, only sharing ‘part of the story’ didn’t feel quite right. So I went back to Facebook and wrote about the argument the previous day too, along with my reasons for sharing that. I’m not normally that open on Facebook so I felt quite exposed (even though I only have a hundred-odd friends which is by FB standards a mere handful!). But I did it anyway because it suddenly felt like something I needed to do.

You see, as much as I enjoy Facebook, I’m aware of its dark side too. Personally, I can find it really draining. And although I do genuinely enjoy the majority of what my friends post, there are times when it all feels too much. A bit overwhelming. It can tap into a side of me I don’t really like so that where in ‘real life’ I would feel happy for a friend’s success, ‘social media me’ is envious and dissatisfied. On a bad day this ‘me’ sees the dream jobs, the pictures of angelic, perfectly behaved kids, the fabulous holidays etc. and compares my life unfavourably to that.

I know, I KNOW this is ridiculous because I have a lovely life with very little to feel remotely dissatisfied about. I’m also well aware FB provides only glimpses into people lives (those perfect kids probably smeared ice cream all over the sofa three seconds after that photo was taken) and besides which, I project just the same images of an ideal life into others FB feeds. I guess that was why I felt the need to set the record straight a bit on this occasion. I don’t have perfect, Disney-fairytale kids!

That honest post got twice as many likes and (lovely) comments as my post with the harmonious sibling pictures and I don’t think that was a fluke. It’s lovely to see each other’s happy times but without sharing some of the harder moments too, I think we’re missing something. The roundness of human experience, perhaps. And the real part of friendship – the part that makes us see each other as fellow human beings, all on this crazy journey together. Isn’t everything easier when we’re not alone?

How much do you share on social media?

***

*for the record, I had nothing against the motherhood challenge. I was tagged but didn’t post any photos, more due to apathy than anything else. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with posting happy photos. I certainly don’t think parents are smug just for sharing moments like these. I do think there’s a question about the impact of what we share on social media but it’s much MUCH bigger than that one challenge, it’s to do with how we adapt to knowing so many selective details about so many people on the periphery of our lives. It’s a whole other blog post!

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And then the fun began...

34 thoughts on “honesty and social media

  1. Rebecca Ann Smith

    This is fascinating Maddy, thanks for sharing your thought process. I often feel uncomfortable around the whole social media thing, what to share, what not to share, how others might perceive what I share, and so on, in endless crippling circles… It’s exhausting! I didn’t participate in the Facebook Motherhood challenge either, but to be honest I felt more uncomfortable about the backlash than about the initiative itself. Calling people out for being ‘smug’ because they’re posting cute pics of their kids seems very judgemental to me! We all need to stop judging each other!!!

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    1. Maddy Post author

      I totally agree about the Motherhood Challenge – those criticisms left a very bad taste in the mouth. And yes, FB can be exhausting if you start worrying how people will perceive your posts. We’re probably over-thinking it, but I find it hard not to. xx
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  2. teacuptoria

    Hi Maddy, I think if you’re going to go on facebook then you should try and represent your life truthfully but I know most people don’t. Maybe we only like to share good news or things that we are proud of? When people are honest it’s so refreshing. When I posted a recent Teacup Family Journal post about being really fed up, the response was incredible. People like to share in solidarity, it gives us all support so we shouldn’t be afraid to do it. xx
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    1. Maddy Post author

      It’s lovely that people are supportive when you share the hard times isn’t it? It’s hard to be totally honest on FB though because it’s just snapshots of your life and some things we just don’t want to share. I feel that particularly as my boys get older, I need to protect their privacy too. But yes, if more people shared a more balanced picture, I think it would feel more like real life and that would be healthier. Thanks for commenting, Tor. x
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  3. Di Castle

    Hi Maddy How true this is of social media and how thoughtful and honest of you to write a complementary post about the lesser side of the sibling relationship. No doubt the argument will be forgotten by them but perhaps not by you. We do have to be careful with what we post on social media and be aware of how some things can upset others unwittingly. I lost my mother when I was very young and I do not look forward to this weekend when the newsfeed will be full of glowing tributes to mothers who are still around but I don’t begrudge them their experience. What social media does is remind you of what you no longer have or can’t do. Well done anyway and I enjoy reading your blogs.

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    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Di, I’m sorry to hear you lost your mum and I can understand that it must make mother’s day hard. I think the way social media can kind of shove things in our faces en masse can make things very difficult (which I guess is what the back lash to the motherhood challenge was about) but, as you have done, I think we have to take responsibility for our own feelings and reactions and not begrudge people their happiness. It can feel harder online than in real life though as people feel less ‘real’ to us I think. Thanks for commenting. xx
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  4. Alice @ The Filling Glass

    You know what I thought when you originally posted this on FB. But I’m interested to hear what you say about the reaction to it. I would agree that people feel solidarity in the ‘not so perfectness’ of life. On my blog the two most popular posts by organic growth, and certainly with people who already know me have been the most emotional, vulnerable ones about ‘what it feels like…’ So ‘reality’ is what people relate to more than ‘glamour’. xx
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    1. Maddy Post author

      Yes, I think reality trumps glamour any day for most of us! But with being honest comes vulnerability and that can be hard – I think that’s why so many of us share the good stuff and keep our grumbles more light hearted or generic. But honesty is what bonds us as human beings. thanks Alice. xx
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  5. Sara | mumturnedmom

    Ah, this is such an interesting one… I completely agree that we should be more honest, and that people respond more to raw honesty, but I am guilty of erring on the positive! We all need to take social media posts with a pinch of salt, we only ever see what people want us to see – even the raw stuff.
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    1. Maddy Post author

      Yes, I agree. I think on social media you’re (almost) always seeing only a very partial view. Some people are more prepared to put themselves out there too. I take my hat off to those who regularly bare their souls as it terrifies me! Like you I err on the positive – it feels safer and also my feed then makes me happy when I look back on it! I do believe in accentuating the positive in life in general. Thanks for commenting, Sara. xx
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  6. Zoe

    I love this post and couldn’t agree with it more. Facebook is so bloody hard. At times, I really want to post up something that my kids have done that I’m really proud of, and, to share it with family members who aren’t living closeby. But then, like you, I think about what the picture might portray to someone who doesn’t know us that well, and doesn’t realise the arguments and the tantrums that go one behind the scenes. I’m tempted to now put a disclosure notice under each of my ‘proud mum’ posts, stating, *this was taken after days of tantrums. Or *we look like a vomit inducing happy family here but moments earlier we had a meltdown over not sharing chocolate. And then I swing back to thinking, who cares? Are people really that interested? So usually I end up posting nothing and that makes me a little sad inside because some happy moments haven’t been shared just incase I upset someone. Argh!
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    1. Maddy Post author

      Exactly. For years I (deliberately) didn’t have a huge number of friends on FB and it was lovely because I felt freer to post what I wanted because they all knew me to a reasonable degree. Similarly, because they were closer friends I could just be happy about all of their happy posts without ‘social media me’ rearing her head. The whole thing was just more genuine. These days it feels more complicated and exhausting! I for one would love to see your happy posts though! Thanks for commenting Zoe. xx
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  7. Tara Borin

    I think honesty on social media is so important. It is such a wonderful part of our world today, and also an awful part of it. It’s a way to connect with people far away but it is also a huge source of anxiety for many of it’s users (me included!)

    Love this thought provoking post!
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    1. Maddy Post author

      It is definitely a double-edged sword isn’t it? I sometimes feel the technology has developed faster than our ability to deal with it. I don’t think we’ve evolved to have this much input all the time! Thanks for commenting, Tara. xx
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  8. Nicola Young

    I think I probably use FB for moaning quite a bit and would say that my life looks anything from perfect on there. I’m conscious of not sticking too many ‘boasting’ posts up, but there are times when it’s the easiest and quickest way of letting my close friends know what we’ve been up to and I know that the ones who are genuinely interested in our lives will appreciate them. You do end up having ‘friends’ on FB who you wonder why you still keep in touch with, but it’s there as a social network for friends and family you do genuinely care about, so I try to think about it in those terms more than anything else.
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    1. Maddy Post author

      I think that’s a healthy way to consider it, Nicola – if it’s just your close friends then it’s fine to just post what you like. They understand you. I think the problem is most of us have bigger networks now, including people we’ve never met which means the possibility of misinterpretation is much bigger. But if you think like that, you tie yourself in knots… which many of us seem to! Well done you! xx
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  9. Rachael

    I saw that post Maddy! To be honest, as you may have noticed as a FB friend, I barely post anything on my personal page – and nothing of Mushroom… I mostly use it for managing my business page and others’ biz pages… But I still can get sucked in so know what you mean! While it’s nice to share pretty pictures an occasional dose of honesty is refreshing too!
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  10. K.D. Jennings

    Very interesting post, Maddy.
    Personnally, I am quite selective about what I post, I use social media more to promote/talk about my various projects than show what is going on in my personal life.
    I also think that we all know nobody’s life is perfect? xx
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    1. Maddy Post author

      I think it’s when it’s used to document personal life that things get more tricky… but that’s how lots of people use it. It’s probably ‘safer’ just as a promotional platform. As for knowing no one’s life is perfect – absolutely, I think we all know this, it’s just sometimes if a FB feed is bursting with idealised snapshots, we can momentarily forget in a way we wouldn’t in ‘real life’. I can anyway. Silly, I know. Thanks for commenting Katia. xx
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  11. Sam

    I do like the fact that social media is a place where you can show off things you love in your life but I actually see it more as a place to be honest with one another and spread a bit of support and solidarity. I think you’re right that there is a good reason why more people warm to an honest status update than a pretty picture of perfection. Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout Maddy X
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    1. Maddy Post author

      I love the idea of social media as somewhere to spread support and solidarity! In some places at some times it really can be – I can definitely see the positives and have experienced them many times. It would be wonderful if it could always be that way. Thanks for commenting and hosting #thetruthabout, Sam xx
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  12. Carol Cameleon

    To be perfectly honest, I feel exactly the same about instagram (perfectly framed pics with immaculate home backgrounds.) It can get a bit much. That said, I do think it’s only human nature to want to post the good stuff. It’s a sort escapism really isn’t it? Posting up those perfectly brushed brows on selfies… I could go on but I won’t!! #truthabout
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    1. Maddy Post author

      I only joined instagram late last year and find the whole selfie posting thing quite bizarre – not so much in the people I follow but if you follow a hashtag it can be wall-to-wall pouting selfies! And yes, I think it can be escapism – there are some stunning photos (not the flippin selfies!). And posting the good stuff is nice because you’re creating a whole treasure trove of lovely memories to look back on. There are ups and downs to it all! Thanks for commenting, Carol xx
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  13. Anna Ghislena

    Hi Maddy , I completely agree with your sentiments in this post. My kids are teenagers (13 & 16) and they are forever glued to their social media apps, wondering why friends haven’t “liked” their posts, or they are “liking” everyone elses. Whenever I post something on my blog, I am forever checking the “likes” status – isn’t it horrible? As for Facebook, I don’t use it too much, because so many friends use it to display the more sugary sides of their lives and yes, I sometimes wonder what I’m doing wrong!

    It’s also strange that teenagers (and sometimes us as well) use the word, “like” as a connective in our everyday speech. My dad decided to ban the word “like” from dinner table conversation. If it ever slipped out there would be a forfeit – the kids suffered many!!

    So………I decided to write a poem about it all called “LIKE” – hope you like it ;) https://annaghislena.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/like/

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    1. Maddy Post author

      Hi Anna, love the poem! I’m quite terrified of my kids being teenagers and glued to social media – as if being a teenager isn’t hard enough! Strikes me as a potential minefield. It can be tricky dealing with the whole ‘who’s liked my post?’ thing as an adult let alone as a teenager unsure of their position in the world… as they pretty much all are. Gulp. Thanks for commenting. x
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  14. Emma

    You’re absolutely right, we should be more honest about what life is really like. I mean I even look at my facebook timehop and wonder why my life was so much better this time last night – note: it wasn’t! But I don’t want to remember the hard and bad times, not all the time, and I guess that’s why it all comes out in my poetry instead.
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    1. Maddy Post author

      Tee hee to the time hop thing! And it is nice to remember the good times – we keep a memory jar to do just that and it does make me feel like everything has gone swimmingly when we read through it at the end of the year. And that’s a good way to feel and a lovely way for my kids to remember things. i guess we just need sprinkles of honesty throughout the glossy sparkles perhaps? Thanks for commenting, Emma. x
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  15. Yvette @ Big Trouble in Little Nappies

    Firstly, those cakes look amazing – so much neater than any decorating I can do – your boys got skills!
    But yes, I totally agree about FB being a bit overwhelming and draining at times, it is so easy to see everyone else having a more interesting or happier time than me even though I too know that it is only a snapshot of their life and I don’t know what has gone before that post to motivate them to share it. Of course, some people do have a more exciting life than me! But that’s okay – it’s just without Facebook we don’t hear about it. This is why I think your move to post openly about the day before was so refreshing and even brave. I always try to be open and honest in my writing, about life and parenting not being perfect yet I know that lots of people KNOW life isn’t perfect but they want to read more about glossy lifestyles and shiny homes, which is of course fine and it’s great that there is a mix of blogging out there to reflect this. I just wish there was more of this on Facebook too, both the happy, perfect moments and the more realistic ones. Although saying that, I’m not sure anyone would be interested in a photo of me mopping the floor or moaning about being busy… so perhaps that isn’t the solution after all!

    Great post.
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    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Yvette – the cakes tasted pretty good too! I was nodding throughout this comment. FB does make us more aware of the best bits of everyone’s lives but in isolation without context and really I don’t think this is a ‘natural’ way for humans to assimilate information about each other. And it’s hard to know how to be honest without being moany because although i think we all need the odd moan, honesty (about the hard stuff) is about so much more than that isn’t it? Thanks for your thoughttful comment Yvette xx
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  16. Sophie Lovett

    I find this whole issue really interesting, and I’ve mulled it over several times since I saw your FB posts… My FB page tends to be split down the middle between political rants and cross posts from Instagram, with the occasional non-pictorial update thrown in. And if I’m honest I am waaaay more likely to post positive things about Arthur and our family life in general than negative ones. I realise that might skew things in terms of things sometimes looking rosier than they actually are, but I would generally rather post nothing than post something negative about personal things. Partly because I know how insanely lucky we are to have so much security and happiness in our lives that to dwell on the negative seems a little churlish, partly because I don’t want Arthur to look back and see me whinging about him, and partly because I prefer to focus on the positives in my life as it’s way better for my own mental health! That might come across as a bit selfish, but the flip side of it is that I really try not to judge anyone for what they choose to share/how they choose to share it. Not always easy, but important I think… Thank you for the thought provoking post :) xx
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    1. Maddy Post author

      I don’t think it is selfish to want to post the positives and i totally know what you mean about knowing how lucky we are and not wanting to whinge about it. It’s tricky because it’s nice when people are honest – I think it helps us all to feel we’re in it together – but I don’t think we should ever feel obliged to share the difficult stuff (which usually feels more personal and private) and I don’t think glossy status’ are wrong. I think the key is probably not to judge others (as you say), or to make assumptions about their lives or to compare ourselves to them but with something like the motherhood challenge, those ideas seemed to go out of the window for some! Thanks for commenting, Sophie. xx
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  17. Susan Mann

    You are right, we aren’t always honest on social media. We should show the bad with the good, but I try to be positive. But we should write how we feel & not everyday is fluffy & rosey. I think you are right x

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    1. Maddy Post author

      It’s hard to get the balance ‘right’ isn’t it Susan? Probably because there is no actual ‘right’ – we’re all just going with our gut which can send us in all sorts of different directions. I tend to be positive too. I think it’s nice, it’s just sometimes too much positive does seem a bit fluffy as you say! Thanks for commenting!
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