I’ve seen people post crying photos on Instagram before (including this famous one from Drew Barrymore). While I have agreed with the sentiments of such posts – offering a reminder that the curated highlight reel of people’s lives you see on social media is never the full story and that EVERYONE struggles and has tough moments – I still found these photos to be a little much to be posting on Instagram. I also wondered who, in their right mind, would even think to take a photo of themselves while crying. And then I did it. And here I am posting it. And here is why.
It’s no secret that I have had a hot and cold relationship with social media lately and that I often worry about the toll it is taking on us as a society – creating a constant and dangerous game of comparison, causing wide-spread FOMO, setting unrealistic and harmful standards of what life (and ourselves) are supposed to look like, the unhealthy messages it is sending to young people, and how it’s created a culture where anyone with a following can be considered an authority. However, something else hit me in the moment I decided to take this photo.
I’m going to admit that I have been struggling with feeling pretty lonely lately. I don’t say this seeking sympathy, but to give context and color to this post. I am also not going to go into the reasons WHY I have been feeling lonely, as it’s not the point. Needless to say, we all struggle with loneliness at times and is something that, in my opinion, social media is only exacerbating.
Recently, I was struck by something my sister-in-law, who is one of the most caring people I know, said to me. She admitted that sometimes she forgets to call me as she SEES me on social media every day and feels like she’s already gotten to talk to me. I reminded her that “seeing me” on social media is not only not reciprocal, but that social media is a big part of my job and only shows fairly positively-spun snippets of a full picture – even for someone who keeps it pretty real in the world of Instagram – and I need her to still check in on me, even if all seems cheery on the ‘Gram. And while I’m known for my vulnerable and personal content, the stories I tell are meant to be universally relatable and aimed to help people feel less alone while offering a potentially new perspective. They are not for the goal of public therapy. The real deep-seeded personal stuff is what I keep for conversations with my close friends, family, and therapist – a personal support system all of us need, but I worry is getting mistakenly replaced by “checking in” on people on social media.
In a world where we are ALL living on social media to some capacity (outside of some exceptions that have opted-out), personal relationships are suffering, as we feel a false sense of connection and “keeping up” with even our closest people. Since it’s not the norm to share the moments in life like the one I am sharing in the photo above (and hope it never will be), what we are seeing in each other’s lives is rarely the full or even accurate story. I know this isn’t a particularly new thesis, but I hope it serves as a reminder that we cannot let social media replace personal and real connections, and we must all make an effort to reach out to our friends and family on the regular and show up for them – even if they look like they just had the absolute best time on their most recent vacation.
Now go call someone and tell them you love them.