The Things You Don't See

A writer on a site I casually read recently posted a thoughtful piece about the bits of life not seen on her social media. I happened to read it the same day I came to the realization that most of my recent Instagram posts had been of the green stuff around me, and that my Twitter shares had been few and far between (and of admittedly low quality). Don't get me started on Facebook; I share pretty much nothing there and might as well just delete the damn account.

If you look at my Instagram grid right now, you'll see a few things. One, I definitely do not post daily. Weekly is more accurate. Good thing I'm no longer concerned at all with my personal brand, huh? Two, my posts don't say much about the big things that are going on in my life right now. And three, there's probably more nature shots than you'd expect from someone who lives in Manhattan, a place not exactly known for its sprawling nature preserves.
I've been posting pictures of trees and grass and flowers and the river because they never don't strike me as pretty, and in an effort to notice spring and feel gratitude for the good and remain focused on the positive, "pretty" is all I really feel compelled to share on Instagram these days. That doesn't mean my life is always pretty; that means I leave the unpretty off of social. But the unpretty is so there. It's there all the time, in all of our lives, in every day. Nothing is perfectly pretty all the time. But rather than not posting the unpretty out of some delusion that I can convince you my life is always pretty, I just choose to withhold it because no one needs help seeing the unpretty.

I read a lot about people in my age bracket supposedly feeling terrible about themselves specifically when they examine their lives in comparison to others. I don't know how I got so fortunate (and I mean that sincerely), but I'm happy to say I don't suffer this modern complex. I can't quite put my finger on what's happening, or not happening. If I feel bad about what my life looks like, it's not because I'm holding it up next to someone else's who appears to have it all together. I don't assume everyone else has their shit together and I'm the sole flailing left-behind; I feel like things are as together as they are (or aren't) because of decisions I've made, which were the best I could do at the time I made them. And no, I am not completely free from beating myself up about mistakes, either. I guess I just have a really firm grasp on the knowledge that EVERYONE is sharing their highlight reel, and I'm thankfully free from the delusion that I'm the only person who sometimes eats ice cream for dinner or fights with her significant other or hasn't reached her full professional potential or doesn't have as much money in the bank as she'd like.

So when I withhold pieces of my life from social media, it's not a trick. It's not to keep up with the Joneses who always have perfectly done nails and expertly styled flat lays or even decent outfits that I don't have. My conscious unposting is more about being very selective in the noise I make.

I realize not everyone feels the same way about social media. I understand there are people out there who do specifically compare themselves to peers by way of the traces we leave of ourselves online. I understand that there are some people out there who think an only-pretty Instagram is a scrubbed version of life that pretends it's all good, all green, all the time. I understand that some people think social media should be for sharing the good AND the bad and the ugly—the whole life, the real picture, the whole shebang. I'm not one to tell anyone how they should use social media, and I'm also not one to use it how I'm told unless it makes sense to me. Because as I've said before, the energy you make matters. What you put into the universe makes a difference in the universe. And in the same way I wouldn't spend a reunion dinner with old friends babbling on about how I can sometimes hear the subway outside my apartment and GOD it's so annoying when I'm binge-watching Grey's Anatomy, I don't feel the need to put a pretty filter and a caption on a picture of anything other than what makes me feel excited and like the little heart-eye emoji come to life.

But it is all there. All the crappy moments other people think no one else is experiencing, or all the moments no one is proud of. It happens to all of us, and just because it isn't on social media doesn't mean it's not a human experience, or worth talking about in confidence, or keeping everyone from feeling their best sometimes. My most unpretty moments stay off social media because they're bad noise, rather than good noise, but in between the Central Park tree-tops and Riverside Park waterscapes, there are the things you don't see on social media or this blog. Things like:
  • Fights between me and David. Yes, we have them. At times, a lot of them. We yell at and ignore each other in turns, I get a bad attitude and he responds with one too.
  • Conversely, the best moments between me and David. One thing that's yet to change in our relationship is how long we can spend just laying down with each other without talking. This is one of my favorite things in life, and I hope I never exploit it by taking a photo, let alone posting it on the internet.
  • The fact that I can't go to sleep at a normal hour without chemical help most nights. (I'm considering melatonin a chemical aid here.) My body clock has never, and I do mean never been on the same page as the rest of the world. No matter how early I get up, how many miles I've run, how tired I've made myself, falling asleep before midnight doesn't happen. Usually it's more like 1 or 2 a.m., which is a marked improvement from the 4 a.m. or never o'clock habit I've had at points throughout my life. But the world gets up and works early in the morning, and I must too, so in order to keep up, I need help getting to sleep at a decent tme.
  • Some days, I don't leave my apartment until 5 p.m. I just don't always need to. My morning routine works best when I sit down at my desk within 10-15 minutes of waking up (to use a blue light that I'm not positive works as intended and) to journal. From there, I go right into emails and work. I actually really prefer this, as my mental energy level is highest from wake-up till about noon. If I don't have errands to run or if the weather isn't awesome, it's not uncommon for me to just work and do stuff around the house until I realize the sun is starting to fade, and if I want it to touch my skin at any point today, I need to get outside. So I go outside, and sometimes just walk around the block or stand on my front steps feeling like a dork.
  • Some days, I don't even open my mouth to speak for hours at a time. David leaves for work early, and especially so lately. A half-asleep goodbye is the only thing that escapes my lips until I either have to run an errand and speak to a clerk somewhere or until he gets home, which lately is anywhere between 7 and 10 p.m. When I realize how long it's been since I've spoken to a living soul, it's hard not to feel exceptionally lonely.
  • My makeup-free face, even though I wear no makeup a vast majority of the time. Like, every day except for two to four days a month. I have no problem being out in public without makeup, but photos... no. It's already very hard for me to like my face in photos; I've always just believed I'm not that photogenic because of some weird facial quirks I have that make photos incredibly unforgiving. That's fine. But when I don't have makeup on, I go from looking in the mirror thinking "alright, good skin day!" to looking in a camera lens and thinking "oh god, what happened?"
  • How much I miss my family and friends in NJ sometimes, and how hard it was to realize that some people wrote me off as if I'd moved to Japan, rather than 30 minutes away. Relationships of convenience happen, and that's fine. But I've done my best to keep every promise to stay in touch, and it's really heartbreaking to see for how many people it's as simple as out of sight, out of mind. 
  • I went four months without seeing the stars.
  • That it has been incredibly hard to put myself in running shoes lately. I took the pressure off and felt happier for it, but now I feel like I want to get back to it and I'm still not. I have mental blocks, and I have time blocks, and I have laziness blocks. I am really lazy sometimes, guys. I used to post running watch photos and race pics and comments about how glorious that run just felt. But I haven't in a very long while, because I just haven't been running, and that is something I am aching over for many different reasons.
  • That I'm worried as hell about two huge things I learned about two weeks ago. To further illustrate my point, I'm going to continue to not say what they are, because I am convinced that talking is inviting trouble to those things. When it's safe, I'll spill the beans.
These things are ever-present in my life, and there's no trace of them on Instagram or Twitter. I'm not hiding them. I'm not suggesting they're not a part of my life. I'm not even suggesting I'm ashamed of them. They're just not that pretty, and in a world where there's enough unprettiness to go around, I want to spread the prettiness around as much as I can, and keep my loved ones and friends free from experiencing my own unprettiness on top of theirs. 

I'd love thoughts on this--are you like me in this inexplicable freedom from social media comparison, or does it get to you?

Linking up with Kristen.

Comments

  1. I don't post as often as some people and never to shout to the world LOOK AT ME!.
    I also never compare myself to others either because that perfectly staged shot took like, 28439435734987436 attempts. I have zero time for that. I have a ton of pics on my phone that I think "oh, I'll post this" but then forget because life and well, I have better things to do.

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  2. I'm trying to do better about not comparing myself to others and I know that social media has made it too easy for people to do just that. Happiness really is found within - not in comparing what one has/doesn't have to what others have/don't have.

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  3. I really really love this idea. I might steal it! I definitely used to be one of those people that compared their life to the lives of others. And then after a conversation with a couple of friends back home one day a year or so ago, I just stopped. I have been so much happier & so much more content ever since. Like you said, I may not always be completely happy with where I'm at or the choices I've made, but they were mine to make & I'm where I am because of what I've done, not what others have or haven't done.

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  4. This is a great post and something I've had simmering in my brain for awhile. What I share, what I don't share, do I overshare or undershare. Your writing is so vivid and reaching, thank you for still sharing here. I'm going to 'borrow' this idea if you don't mind [with credit, of course] :)!

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  5. I do a pretty good job of not comparing myself because I'm cognisant of the fact that social media is a highlight reel. Sometimes, and with some people, I question their motives behind why they share THAT but for the most part, I'm not bothered. There's a ton I don't share on social media because it's not that important or I forget or, more than not, I want to keep it to myself.

    I love the fact that you share Manhattan's nature because it's a perspective most people don't share.

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  6. I try very hard not to compare myself to social media although I do find that a lot of what I see from other mothers is something I can relate to, so I like that. I find that I only post the good things too - I think that's just what I want to remember. I love all your NYC pictures!!! You are giving me a major desire to travel there again!

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  7. I love this, Alyssa. Sometimes as personal bloggers who are relatively open books we feel this weird obligation to reveal everything, even the kind of ugly stuff, so people know we're real, relatable humans. I know I do. And I appreciate writers like you who aren't all rainbows, butterflies and "perfect," cause that's not real.

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  8. I am free from comparison. Most people want to know how and I can't explain it. I own everything in my life - the good and the bad - and I know that I control the majority of it. It has zero to do with other people and what they have or are doing.

    I share what I want on IG...which is mostly stuff I like with no rhyme or reason to it.

    99% of the photos you see of me are me without any type of face makeup because I just don't wear it except for maybe two days a month. I haven't owned foundation in years but I do have CC cream. I wear eye makeup and some lip product 2-4 days a week though...and naturally the one I shared yesterday, in which I wore mascara because I had a meeting...then rubbed it all over and took a picture of me and my dog and posted it anyway. LOLOL. I never really knew how big of a thing appearing in no makeup is for a lot of the world. Just a difference I never thought about until like a year or two ago that really interests me. For me, that thing is chipped nails ever, in a photo or in person.

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  9. I like hearing the "I don't usually share" stuff. I think psychologically it tricks my brain into thinking I'm getting all kinds of juicy secrets. But also it's nice to hear what other people's struggles are. I was thinking about copying you and then I realized I already talk pretty openly about mine so there's really nothing else that I could be all "I don't talk about ___ on my blog." Nope, it's all on there. Hopefully I'm not sending out too much negativity!

    I'm with you on not really worrying about or understanding the comparison problem. I think most people aren't trying to pretend to be perfect - they're just sharing what makes sense to share and keeping private things private. No one is interested in the fact that I'm sleep deprived and it's making me cranky to the point where Ryan and I are arguing about incredibly trivial things. Plus it's awkward to hear about people's couple stuff.

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  10. Sometimes what we don't share is just as important. I also go social media silent when things are either really good or really not good. The middle of the road times is when I most feel like posting.

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  11. I personally think it is refreshing not to broadcast anything and everything to the world. I think many social media users are strictly operating under the "let me paint the prettiest picture I can" model. If someone were to look at my FB page, for I'm not on IG and rarely use Twitter, they might say the same of me because I'm only posting the good or the interesting. I do so bc I don't believe in airing my dirty laundry in public and I hold firm to the belief that we live in a society that shares too damn much. Excellent post.

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  12. So first, the thing that resonated with me most is sometimes going all day without speaking aloud. Normally I have a phone call or end up saying something to one of my pets but there are days where my voice is a squeak at 4pm since it hasn't been used at all.

    Deciding what to share is so weird. And where to share it. Many times, I end up thinking that no one cares, so why bother sharing anyway? I mean does anyone need another photo of my cat? Probably not. It's even hard to convince myself to write a blog post unless it's of value to me. I don't think withholding is bad. I think the expectation that we are all the stars and directors of our own reality show has gotten really out of hand. No one needs to see everything (and don't even get me started with not needing to see people's children perform...). I like to share and pay attention to the little things that make us human or say "me too." I think you do an excellent job with that.

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  13. I try really hard not to compare myself to others, especially their lives on social media. I feel most people only share the good, happy things on their Instagram feed because that's what is pretty and what people want to see and I try to remind myself of that. We all have things in life we go through, that's just part of it. I love seeing all your nature in NYC things!! It's proof that in a crazy world, you can find the calm and serene.

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  14. so i read this last week while waiting on someone and they showed up before i could comment. i love this post (just stamp that on all of your posts, really).
    i'm like you, i rarely compare, and if i do feel bad about something in my own life, it's because of me, not me compared to someone else. i don't think that everyone else leads a perfect life, or are pretending to. they just aren't sharing the less pretty stuff. which is fine. same as me.
    i am also very selective about what i share online. your bit about people writing you off as if you'd moved to japan? seriously though. it's amazing how quickly people write you off. definitely shows you the good eggs though. i mean, i know i did move across the world, but still. people are awful.
    honestly, can i be a bit of a jerk for a second? when people overshare, when they do complain about little things or big things, talk crap about their spouse, friends or family - i mean, there's a time and place and all that jazz - it doesn't help me relate to them. it makes me uncomfortable. yes, i might follow your blog or read about things you do, books you read, food you cook.. i don't need to know what you and your spouse are fighting about or whatever. i don't know. maybe i'm being extra jerky. i don't share things like that, not because i want to pretend they don't happen, but just because i don't find them that interesting, and if KC and I fight, it's over 2 seconds after it began (we fought a lot in the first 2 years so we are old pros now), and i don't want anyone's opinion in a personal situation, if that makes sense. same with sad things, i didn't share about my mum because i didn't want to invite people into that part of my life. but i was happy to say 'i'm not right in the head right now'. lol.
    anywho. sorry for rambling. hope all is going well and the things you were worried about are better/okay/not worrisome anymore?
    also sorry for my late comment on my own link up. hashtag life right now.

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  15. Your writing is as beautiful as ever, friend. Thank you for sharing this and for speaking some truth to me today. I had a big long novel of a comment written but ended up deleting it just now. Just know I needed this.

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  16. Thank you so much for this! I feel all of this, trying to keep up, blah blah blah. At the end of the day I'm just me and I need to be okay with that. I'm going to share this on my Friday Favorites. Found your post via Pinky from P!inkpers!stence.

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  17. This post gave me so many feels, friend. While I share the pretty things that bring me happiness, I also choose to not spread the bad or negative energy that comes from other days. Doesn't mean the bad days aren't there, I just don't feel like every single moment it happens doesn't need to be documented.

    And the part about getting lonely after realizing you haven't spoken to anyone all day...yes, I feel that one strongly too. xo

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  18. I love reading this. This is the most truthful and honest post i've read! It's always about flaunting your stuff and trying to be the best. We tend to compare ourselves and then get depressed over it without even knowing. It's good to not get too attached to social media and stuff. After all, it is just a virtual world.
    https://theoraclejournal.net

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