I call it a love/hate relationship. Some days, I absolutely love it. And some days, I just want to rant and rail against it.
What makes me so impassioned one way or the other? The virtual world of the internet.
I don’t tweet on Twitter; I don’t tumble on Tumblr; I don’t post photos on Instagram.
I’ve limited my online interactions to writing this blog, two Facebook accounts – one Mama’s Empty Nest blog fan page and one personal – and an occasional pin on Pinterest.
I love my blog but endure a tumultuous love/hate relationship with Facebook because it’s just too much unreality for me. You read that correctly – unreality.
There’s either too much drama with too much spilling of one’s guts, or too much aggrandizing with that ‘look at me, I live an adventurous life and I’m proud to brag about it’ attitude.
I’m one of those odd balls who prefers to function in the real, flesh and blood, good times and bad world. Nothing makes me happier than spending time with real people, not just their online personas.
With that said though, I do relish my blogging community. The bloggers I’ve connected with through this venue have proved to be real, honest to goodness folks. And that’s why I love my blog, but kind of hate my Facebook. I keep my FB pages because I can publicize my blog posts there, and it helps me maintain contact with faraway friends and family.
But the online world still troubles me and an article I read yesterday at work truly resonated with me. Author Shauna Niequist wrote in Relevant Magazine that social media portrays life as nearly perfect and therein lies a problem. When we view other people’s exciting, well-edited lives, we become dissatisfied with our own lives, even envious. I think she has a very valid point.
She states, “My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don’t. That’s why it’s safer short term. And that’s why it’s much, much more dangerous long term.”
She believes the danger is that we aren’t creating true community with those partial truths and well-edited photos. And she’s right.
She also states that when we view unrealistic, “perfect life” versions of others, envy rears its ugly head. And we become dissatisfied with our own lives because of that nasty emotion.
Reading this article prompted me to remember a comment a friend threw at me years ago. She told me with exasperation in her voice, “Your life is so perfect.”
That comment sent me reeling. It cut to the quick and I felt hurt by it and to be truthful, shocked. But it forced me to evaluate my life and question whether I was projecting an unreal, perfectly plastic version of my family and our lives together or was she simply misjudging me?
I wondered where her comment stemmed from. Didn’t she see my pain? Didn’t she notice my lack of contentment? For crying out loud, didn’t she see my messy house??
At the time, I faced struggles – lots of them. My family certainly wasn’t perfect; we had the same quarrels, issues, and messiness of life that every other family has.
I resented her for that comment. Perfect life? A perfect life would have no pain. A perfect life would be living near extended family with lots of support. A perfect life would be one without heartache, without sickness, without loss. A perfect life would be one without disappointments, without fear and anxiety.
And I believed then and still do that while I’ve been blessed with a good life, a fulfilling life, I was in no way living a perfect life.
All of those thoughts tumbled back into my mind while reading this article. And it caused me to wonder what readers perceive when they read my blog. Do I portray a ‘perfect life’ here? I hope not. When I write, it’s from my heart and it’s real, but does that translate into my writing?
I’m not a Pollyanna. I have struggles, but I don’t wallow in them. I tend to look at the bright side because the alternative is just too depressing. And I rely on my faith in Jesus to carry me through. Because He is perfect, I am not.
It’s true I have a close-knit family. We are immensely blessed that we’ve stayed that way. And while my adult children are wonderful, they’re not perfect (sorry, kids!).
I have a long-lasting solid marriage to a decent, hard-working respectable man, but our marriage hasn’t been perfect (no one’s is).
I have a strong, enduring faith in my Savior, but my spiritual life has not been perfect either.
So here’s my conclusion – I put down in words the thoughts and images that occur to me not to portray perfection but in an effort to build community with my fellow bloggers and loyal readers. This blog isn’t perfect, but it’s my real attempt to connect with my fellow human beings in this virtual world.
Niequist aptly described community in her article this way: “Because community—the rich kind, the transforming kind, the valuable and difficult kind—doesn’t happen in partial truths and well-edited photo collections on Instagram. Community happens when we hear each other’s actual voices, when we enter one another’s actual homes, with actual messes, around actual tables telling stories that ramble on beyond 140 pithy characters.”
Since it’s not possible to actually sit together with my readers and blogging pals in their actual home or mine and to hear each other’s actual voices, my hope is that you can hear my voice through my blog. It’s not a perfect way to communicate, but when it’s real and honest and true, it’s the best we can do.
I especially liked Niequist’s last paragraph: “And on the days when you peer into the screen of your laptop and all you see are other people’s peak experiences that highlight your lack in that moment, remember that life isn’t about the story you tell about yourself on the Internet. It’s about a million more beautiful and complex things than that, like love and faith and really listening. It’s about using what you’ve been given to craft a life of gratitude and passion and grace.”
Conveying a beautiful but imperfect life in an imperfect world. May it be so.