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What Happens When You Filter Out Reality?

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I’m living a double life.

This was probably the last line I ever expected to write, especially publicly, but it’s true. There’s my real life, which is colored with all the things your life has, maybe just with a different set of markers. There’s joy and heartbreak, success and stress, love and pain, anxiety and strength, anger and empathy, gratitude and envy. If it’s an emotion, I’ve experienced it to some level. Just like you. This is what it means to be human. And just like anyone’s life, it will only ever fully be understood by me. I’m the only one living it.

But then, there’s this second self. It’s a digital version, displayed one picture and status update at a time. By the looks of any one of my many well-kept social media streams, things look pretty damn good. And to be fair (and very grateful) they are. But in between the pictures and tweets and updates, I have a real life. One that can be gritty, and imperfect, and emotional.

We’re all doing this. We’re all projecting out our highlight reel. One of my first ever blog posts (and one that got some of the best feedback I’ve experienced) was when I took my Instagram pictures and told the REAL story happening behind the picture. Funny how you can make any situation look insta-worthy….

Here’s the thing, many people are talking about this. You’ve definitely thought about it. I’ve already written about it. I don’t think the problem is that we’re DOING it. It’s that we’re BELIEVING it. We’re believing ours, and others, false projection of life.

I read an article in Elle called “cropping out the sadness” that rocked my world. She questioned what would happen when the double lives we’re creating come face to face with each other. So I began thinking about that. And the solution would naturally be to start posting more “real” pictures and updates. But that’s a shitty solution. I hate reading emo Facebook updates or rants, whether they’re honest or not. I get skeeved out by pictures of gross or unpleasant scenes. I’m annoyed by pessimistic or bad-energy tweets. Is this ringing a bell for you, too?

I like seeing the good of people’s lives. I enjoy seeing the beautiful travel pictures. It makes me happy to see my friends and family happy and smiling and doing cool shit. But if that’s the case, we’re back to where we started aren’t we??? The double life thing.

I’ve been toying with this conundrum because I know that people are not going to stop projecting the beautiful images of their lives. Nor will I. So the solution then becomes the acknowledgment of what we’re doing. And what others are doing. In leadership, well-timed and appropriate self deprecation can get one incredibly far. It’s emotionally intelligent to share your insecurities from time to time. The same can be true of our digital presence.

The honesty we find in this tale of two selves will likely not happen with lo-fi filtered images of sick family members, snapshots of student debt statements put through Mayfair, or the “hashtag no filter” mascara-stained pillowcases of heartbreak.

However, honesty can find it’s way back into our Instagram feeds by commenting on what’s really going on. I haven’t totally figured out how to solve this across the board, but I know that finding a bit of honesty somewhere in our highlight reels that are social media will close the gap between what’s going on in our two lives. However we choose to do that. I want to honor the unsaid rule of optimistic digital channels, while still being the honest and open person I am. That way, one day when we come face to face with our other life, we’ll at least be able to recognize it.

Photo: Ruxandra Mateiu / Unsplash

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