We live our lives online. This veneer, a masterpiece of creation, is an artificial something that only appears perfect. I remember as a child we would have our 35mm canisters developed at boots chemist, and receive a pack of blurred and out of focus pictures. Today we have no badly taken shots, as now we delete and retake, enhance and add filters for the perfect snap, a piece of frozen time.
Through social media we live our lives portraying images of near perfection. We even try to portray our family lives of perfection. I have pictures of my child enjoying life and smiling and laughing. Pictures of us together smiling, yet where are the images of me getting it wrong, telling her off, of her crying because I’ve sent her to bed? These are the sides I don’t choose to share. Yet we scroll through others lives on our social media sites, compare and contrast, seeking out the Venn diagram that consists of a mixture of ours and others portrayal of near perfection so we can feel better about ourselves.
The truth is often quite different, and sometimes hard to accept. Whilst we’re bombarded with emails of male enhancements, fake perfect teeth various shades of makeup and shampoos along with collagen implants not to mention various pixelated potions to sharpen, soften, highlight or add dramatic effect to what is essentially a created outside, polishing a terrified inside.
We seek approval of our manufactured portraits by the amount of likes we get. I’ve at times been caught out by this thinking about how good I feel because a picture I’ve posted gets x number of likes, along with comments like, “love the beard” “ your rocking that hat” and the “ oi Gandalf, you lost yer staff”. I’ve never really liked pictures of me. Always felt I look gormless and stand awkward and lopsided. I’m usually better served by whoever’s standing next to me. It tends to mean something.
My favourite picture is a side on pic of me with a guitar, long hair covering my face, a wannabe rock star. Or another of me and my best friend. I like it because as my friend put it. “ That’s how your Mum saw us!”
Yet as we spend more of our time portraying our lives on social media, I worry that we become more disconnected from who we really are, how we really look, and what we really do. As more of our lives exist online for the world to see, comment and like, aren’t we in danger of distancing ourselves from our true self?
When I meet with clients, I’ve heard comments about themselves, and how they relate to people around them. Talking of their perceptions of people’s lives. How other people’s lives always appear more interesting, exciting and rewarding. Comparing ourselves to the lives that are portrayed online.
Young people further live their life within an intricate series of apps and programs, constantly vying for acceptance, recognition, or just to be seen. As humans, is that what social media affords us? An opportunity to be seen, to be seen how we want people to see us. Not as the worried, confused flawed beings that sometimes we are, but as the witty, clever together individuals we think we need to be.
The counselling room allows for an authentic interaction to take place. An opportunity to explore our core self and find a way to be both accepting and loving to our more fragile selves. The side of us that we don’t want to show others, lest we appear weak and frail.
It’s almost impossible to hide from yourself in the counselling room, the probing questions, the silence, facilitates our vulnerabilities and brings them from the room where we’ve locked them up. With no filter and red eye removal, we are left with our self, laid before the counsellor. It is when we see ourselves in this digital free environment, we can then begin to embrace ourselves again.
I am never going to be a real selfie person. I take photographs of my wife and daughter. I appear in a number of them myself. They are often of who I am at the time and how I actually look. Undoctored and awkward looking, I don’t mind that I look like this, I’m so much more, I’m an amalgam of every day I’ve lived, Song I’ve enjoyed, book I’ve been inspired by and conversations that I’ve had. At times I try to stay healthy and from time to time I shave and trim my beard.
I’m never going to look perfect, I don’t know what it looks like, but I’m the closest now to who I am. Through reflection and sheer determination to try and just be the best me.
I hope we can try and move away from living and displaying our lives outside of the virtual world. So that we can be proud of our perfectly normal flawed selves, warts and all. I hope we can reconnect with who we are instead of trying to splice together an edited version of our life for others to see so that we can learn to live with it, and maybe then we become more accepting of all the parts of our life, and not just the highlights.
A Thirsk Counsellor