The Social Media Lens

I recently posted a status on Facebook about the dangers of looking up old friends on social media only to find out they are doing awesome, cool things while you are struggling to master even the basic tenets of functional adulthood.  That prompted a bit of a conversation about the social media lens as well as a couple comments about how I was over here doing awesome exercise things.


The social media lens is a phrase I use to describe how our presentation of our lives via social media affects the way others view our experiences and, in turn, their own.  Basically, we present the positive elements of ourselves and our lives on Facebook, Instagram, etc.  I want to clarify that I don’t think it’s some big conspiracy or horrible thing.  In fact, it’s pretty natural.  When we are excited about something, we want to share it.  When we are ashamed about something, we don’t want the whole world to know about it.  It’s always been that way.  Even before social media, Aunt Suzy’s Christmas letter never mentioned that they caught Cousin Sally smoking pot or that she and Uncle William had been fighting, and that recently she’d cried herself to sleep more nights than not.  It’s just that now, we’re confronted with those Christmas letter narratives daily and not just when the holidays roll around.  And I’m not sure even the worst critics of the social media lens would want it any other way.  After all, everyone knows that if you share too much negativity or too many struggles, you suddenly become the person without an online filter, the vaguebooker, the train wreck people are dying to watch.

The problem is, of course, that we all see these picture-perfect aspects in the lives of our old friends without also seeing their failures, their struggles, and their pain.  In contrast, we see our own failures every time we look in the mirror or check our banking statements online.  And we feel our own pain and rawness deeply when something goes wrong.  We see the good and the bad in our own lives which can make us feel like losers when we are constantly surrounded by only the good in others’ lives.  I know that when I scroll through my Facebook feed, I often emotionally forget that I’m looking at an edited version of other people’s lives.  Sure, I intellectually know it’s edited, but it doesn’t feel edited when I’m looking at your most recently uploaded photos where you are smiling with your friends in some beautiful area.  Our cool things are tempered by our failures and struggles in a way that our friends’ are not.

By the very nature of being a blogger (even a completely unknown one), I contribute to this phenomenon.  I want to blog about things that people want to read about.  And it’s more fun to read a race report or look at pictures of gorgeous Salt Lake City scenery than it is to hear about how my current favorite pastime is watching someone else play video games.  Additionally, I use my blog as a spot to practice (generally) positive self-talk because I desperately need to improve that skill.  This means that the messier parts of my life and my own personal demons are often omitted.

So I’m going to try to put a more balanced view of my life out there with this post, one that’s a little less obscured by the social media lens and a little more in line with how I see my own life.  Essentially, I’m going to post two different kinds of photos in this post—those that I would normally post to social media and those that I normally wouldn’t even take because they are, on some level, shameful to me.  I also want give an advance warning that some of these less positive instances may actually be kind of serious.  Some of them are silly little things that I do, but I want to avoid the trend of faking authenticity online by posting “safe” problems, and therefore giving the impression that those safe, minor problems are the only ones I have.  (For instance—Just ate Jolly Ranchers and potato chips for dinner! #quirky #raceweight).


Rob and I had a wonderful date night, complete with Sleepy Hollow and cute little pumpkin bread bowls.  (Before taking it, I shoved all the crap on the counter to the side so that it wouldn’t be in the picture.)


I never clean my cup at work out until I want to fill it with something else.  So little bits of not-completely-dissolved chocolate milk powder get all crusty in there.  It would take me 15 seconds to rinse it out immediately and takes 2-3 minutes to get it clean after all the residue has dried.  It’s gross.  I’m gross.


I had a great ride this week and finally smashed my PR up Emigration Canyon.  I was absolutely thrilled and could not stop smiling the whole way back down.

Taken from

This screenshot needs a bit of background.  My ex-husband really did a number on my emotional well-being.  Whenever I got upset (even for a good reason), he would act like my response was completely over-the-top and I was being crazy.  Because I do legitimately deal with mental illness (anxiety and depression), I believed him.  I started to feel like any “negative” emotion was a sign I was unstable.  He began to plant a seed in my mind that I suffered from borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder, and straight-up told others that I had been diagnosed.  Every few months, I will get upset at someone or feel extra frustrated at life, and the idea he planted that I must have one of these disorders creeps back in.  Last week, I found myself worried again.  Whenever this happens, I look up the symptoms, and I always realize I don’t fit the description at all.  (Risky behavior? Impetuous decision making? Intense and stormy relationships?  Those are my stress dreams!)


I got to meet my sweet new niece this weekend.  She is absolutely lovely!  I held her while she was sleeping, and she kept making the cutest little noises.  I miss her already!


The only people who call me are trying to get my money.  Or my blood. (Also, I apparently never listen to my voicemails.)


I was able to enjoy a long run with my dad!  Plus, he’s still stiff from falling out of a tree, so I was able to keep up.


This is technically Rob’s kitchen, but since I eat dinner at his place most evenings, I treat it like my own.  That means cleaning it is as much my responsibility as his.  And yes, this happens.  It doesn’t always look this bad, but really… a lot of the time, it does.  (And I removed at least one thing from the counter before taking the picture because even in my “life isn’t perfect” honesty post, I can’t be completely honest.  I consoled myself with my belief that no one is completely honest all the time.)


I was beyond excited when the new Brandon Sanderson book finally arrived.  He creates some of the best magic systems I’ve ever seen in fantasy.  (This might not be the first book I’ve read since grad school, but it’s definitely one of them.)


When I’m in meetings, I obsessively plan out my financial future.  It’s pretty dismal, and I’ve realized that I won’t be able to afford children until I’m at least in my mid-thirties which appears to me as an indication that I’ll never be able to have kids.  I haven’t even begun to come to terms with this, and it crosses my mind at least daily. (This particular “plan” was actually written a few months ago, but the sentiments remain.)

These photos cover neither all the good nor all the less-than-good in my life, of course, but I think they offer up a solid representation about how everything is going, not just the fun date nights and the exciting things that I’m working on.  I didn’t write this post so that people would feel sorry for me (or judge me, as the case may be!).  Nor did I write it because I think people should overshare on the Internet for the purpose of making others feel better (though I don’t think admitting your life isn’t absolutely perfect is oversharing).  Rather, it’s a reminder—in large part to myself—that the images of another person’s life that manage to make it onto the Internet are not the whole picture.  When I start forgetting this fact, I struggle with jealousy and I’m far less empathetic than I would like to be.  When I remind myself that everyone is dealing with something, I’m more thankful for the Emigration PRs and the meeting of new nieces, and I’m also more empathetic towards the people around me because I remember that their lives are not all new jobs and perfect relationships.

I am doing a pretty awesome thing.  Training for an Ironman is a huge undertaking, and when I complete it, I will have accomplished something pretty impressive.  I am also struggling, and that’s okay.  And whoever happens to be reading thing—you are doing a pretty awesome thing.  You’re going to school or training for a cool race or working hard at your job or, somehow despite everything, making a life for yourself.  And if you’re also struggling?  That’s okay.  We all are.


2 thoughts on “The Social Media Lens

  1. I like reading the fun and lavish posts people have about travel, and the fun things they do but I like reading about their normal everyday lives, too. Your budget made me get heart palpitations. I am SO BAD at budgeting and saving. I am going to make it my only resolution for 2016. Clean up my finances and stop spending frivolously! Also, the pumpkin bread boal. Ummmm, what is it and where can I get 0ne!?!


    1. When I was married, we *didn’t* have a budget (much to my chagrin), and it gave me heart palpitations. Budgets are my security blanket to the point where it probably crosses the line from “responsible” to “obsessive.”

      About the bread bowls, we got them at Great Harvest. I know it’s a franchise, so if there is one in your area, they might carry them. I bet it wouldn’t be hard to find a recipe online if not. Basically, it’s just a small, dense loaf of white bread dyed orange. And then we just cut out the center and filled them with beer cheese soup from a different restaurant. It was fun!

      Liked by 1 person

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