There’s a phenomenon that’s emerged over the last couple of years that I’m currently fascinated with. Between my blog, my facebook page, my twitter account and the countless number of blog websites that I frequent, you could certainly say that I have a pretty active online life. People seem to be more and more willing to share the intimate details of their lives with their online mates. We’re happy to disclose what we ate for breakfast, the awesome dress we snapped up on sale and the lovely date that we had last weekend with a gorgeous guy that we refer to by pseudonym. However, I’ve noticed that with all this sharing going on, people seem to be putting a sickeningly positive spin on the aspects of their lives that they’re disclosing online.
Now, I’m well and truly on the positivity bandwagon. I believe in looking on the bright side and not dwelling on the negative things that are going on. However, when you are going through a rough patch, it can be tricky to flip through your friend’s Facebook and Twitter updates and not feel a sense of inadequacy. Everyone seems to be gushing about their new baby, their engagement, their fantastic job or the perfect stew they cooked. The whole world seems to be experiencing a gigantic run of good luck, while you’re starting to feel like your universe is playing a rough game of ‘how far can I push you until you snap?” Not only can this make you feel even worse about your situation, but you might also find yourself censoring the information that you publish online.
When faced with an online world where everyone else seems to be heaped with good fortune, it can be tempting to edit your own personal circumstances in order to save face. It’s difficult to admit when things aren’t going quite right, so it’s easier to gloss over the yuckier aspects of your life and just write about the things that are going well. If you find yourself clicking through social networking sites and blogs written by people who seem to live charmed lives, it can be tempting to exaggerate the fabulousness of your own circumstances in order to live up to these impossible standards. Plus, we all know that nobody likes a whinger, so you don’t want to be that person who always posts about how terrible their life is, lest everyone think that you’ve morphed into a human version of Eeyore and click their cursers away from your online universe. When everyone seems to be succeeding in every facet of their lives, it can be humiliating to admit that you’ve failed at something, no matter how minor. A quick, chirpy blog post or a witty status update can easily gloss over your imperfections and pitfalls, and put you up on the same pedestal that the rest of the world seems to be sitting upon.
The cold, hard truth is this. Nobody has a perfect life. We all go through fantastic times and dreadful times. We all have successes and failures. No matter how rosy a picture of their life somebody paints online, the reality is probably that there are some things that they aren’t thrilled about, or that aren’t as fabulous as they’re letting on. The more we censor ourselves and only write about the good bits of our lives, or exaggerate how well we’re doing, the more we perpetuate the myth that life is brilliant, all day, every day, for every person. Sometimes, life isn’t fabulous, amazing and stupendous. Sometimes it’s just good, or even great. And sometimes it totally sucks. We shouldn’t be afraid to admit that. We shouldn’t blind ourselves to that fact.
I try to be as honest as possible with the things I post online. I like to remain positive, but I don’t run and hide when I’ve had a disappointment. I don’t want to turn into a whinger, but I also don’t want to delude myself or my readers into thinking that my life is eternally fantastic when it isn’t. I propose that it’s time for those of us who regularly crowd the online world should start to be a bit more honest. Rather than posting about how utterly brilliant your day was, write about something mundane that you did. Don’t be afraid to write about your disappointments or your failures. Leave your pimples and your wrinkles un-photoshopped in your photos. Don’t whine incessantly about how unfair the world is, but realise that it’s perfectly fine to admit when things haven’t gone according to plan. The real world isn’t a perfect place, and as the online world grows larger, shouldn’t it reflect this fact?
Have you experienced Internet Happiness Syndrome? Do you censor the things you publish online to make yourself seem more awesome than you are? Do you know somebody who does? How does this make you feel?