Often when I scroll through pictures on my social media feed (including my own) I hear the song “Shiny Happy People” by R.E.M. playing in my head. Because, well, they are a bunch of pictures of shiny happy people holding hands (see above). The song is said to be written about a Chinese propaganda poster promoting communism and that R.E.M. was being ironic, mocking those who appear overly happy to hide their misery. But the public liked to think of it as happy, upbeat song and it became a hit. It is also said that Michael Stipe (lead singer of R.E.M.) hates the song because it is so unlike the rest of their songs, which are more likely to make you ugly cry in your car on a rainy day.
So yes, part of the reason why I chose this name is because I love the sarcasm behind it and I am poking fun at myself out for not being 100% authentic. While I consider myself an open and honest person, most of my posts have been lighthearted and fairly polished. I don’t take selfies of myself crying in a bathroom stall or having a panic attack in my car. I don’t readily admit that there are days that I can barely get out of bed. I don’t take pictures of my mess of a living room or the four loads of unfolded laundry on my dining room table. I try to wipe as much food, snot and dirt off of my kids as possible before taking pictures. And I definitely crop off an arm, leg or chin when I think I look chubby.
But part of the reason I chose that name is because sometimes my life truly is shiny and happy. Those moments are genuine and I am very lucky and grateful that my life is filled with them. Just because I am feeling lost and dealing with depression doesn’t mean I don’t smile every day. It doesn’t mean that my life is missing happy moments.
I want to make it clear that I am not judging anyone who only posts happy posts and I am definitely not encouraging anyone to stop doing so. Yes, vanity and fear do contribute to my choice to post polished images, but also, who wants to look at their social media feed and be bombarded by depressing images? We all crave authenticity and transparency, but we are human and we like pretty things and we want to be happy. It’s been proven that babies respond more positively to attractive, symmetrical faces and smile back when smiled at. Emotions are contagious. It’s human nature.
So how do we balance beauty and authenticity when we portray ourselves through social media? I don’t really know. I am just dipping my toe in the water with this blog. And I promise not to fill up your feed with crying selfies or dirty kids.
I think the important thing is that we need to keep reminding ourselves that we are all putting our best foot forward on social media (and in real life). So if you find yourself thinking: How does she look so amazing after having three kids? Their house is incredible! Why can’t I go on a vacation like that? Her life looks like a Pinterest board, be happy for them, but also know that no one’s life is perfect. We don’t know what happens behind closed doors. Everyone is dealing with, has dealt with or will deal with their own shit. And strangely, that’s comforting. There is no right or wrong way to be a grown up, we are all just fumbling through each day, doing what we can. And those who think they have it all figured out most likely haven’t fallen hard enough yet. Life has a weird way of balancing things out. I remind myself of this every time one of those envious thoughts creeps into my head.
So share your shiny happy moments without hesitation, knowing that you’re making others smile, just keep in mind that everybody hurts…sometimes.