Learn a thing or two from your picture-perfect friends. By Stella Thng
Photo: Tul Chalothonrangsee / 123rf.com
Once upon a time, it was much easier to keep up with the Tans. You got jealous every time your perfectly groomed neighbour climbed into her perfectly polished new car, with her perfectly behaved kids trotting after her. But once they zipped off, they were gone for the day. So was your envy.
Today, however, it can be hard to get away from living vicariously through the amazing lives of friends, who document everything via Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.
Nobody wants to admit it, but we’ve all done a little cyberstalking.
Who can avoid reading about our friends when their status updates pop up daily on the newsfeed? It’s also difficult to not click on their accounts or hashtags to marvel at their amazing expensive restaurant meals, ooh over #homecooked delicacies, and feel slightly resentful at how good they look in #nomakeup and #nofilter photos. How does a 40-year-old post a #wokeuplikethis pic and look so maddeningly good? Why do their kids look so much happier than yours?
We’ve all been there, and there’s no shame in admitting that, occasionally, we turn into green-eyed monsters as we read post after post. Short of declaring a total social media ban, there’s no way to avoid being bombarded by such infuriating perfection.
What You See Isn’t Always What You Get
We usually put our best face forward on social media only after snapping many selfies, and then picking and beautifying the right one before posting it. And then we wait for the ‘Likes’ to light up.
So, yes, this reality is actually pretty fake – and remember that the next time you read about the life of others. Like you, they carefully curate the best moments before Instagramming them.
Asian blogger Cheesie (www.cheeserland.com) has been on both sides of the coin. Aged 32, she currently lives here with her Japanese husband.
The author of How To Be A Successful Blogger, she looks after her kids – Junya, 30 months, and Sakura, six months – while flying between Singapore, Tokyo and Malaysia (where she was born) with her family.
Followers used to tell her how amazed they were at her ability to juggle everything so well until she blogged about How Instagram Helps Me Lie while trying the new Instagram Story function. The hilarious post was full of self-deprecating humour detailing a day in her life.
Ironically, it was inspired by her own observations of other friends leading Instagram-perfect lives. She added sarcastic captions – like “I cook great meals for my kids every day with great nutritional balance. They love it. You will never see me when I secretly feed them canned tuna.” – to photos about such things as the beautiful veggies that go into her meal of Japanese curry.
A breezy wefie with son Junya was captioned: “I woke up looking like this. Huh, what makeup? Why would I put on makeup when I’m home the whole day?”
She says: “After documenting my day using Instagram Story, I realised I’d share stuff I didn’t necessarily do daily and was projecting a very unreal image! I was even being a bit pretentious because Junya’s food usually looks like canteen food.”
So, she decided to blog about this, too. “I tried to be a bit sarcastic and gently make fun of some of the mothers who are also on social media.”
To her surprise, the post was well received, and she even had e-mails thanking her for being so honest.
“I didn’t think it would touch so many people.”
Dressing Up For The Internet
In real life, Cheesie considers herself a bit of a slacker while people think she’s very hardworking. Blogging often requires her to dress up in the latest fashion and makeup for glamorous events and shoots, especially since the rise of social media has made anyone and everyone more conscious about showing off their best side.
“Of course, if people didn’t have anyone or a social media account to show off to, they probably wouldn’t posh up for selfies as much. Right now, for instance, I’m doing this phone interview in my PJs with my hair tied up. How glam is that?”
While her followers envy her for being a supermum who has it all together, Cheesie jokingly calls herself a “PokeMom”.
Between running after an active toddler and breastfeeding Sakura, who only drinks Cheesie’s milk, constantly curating a perfect Instagram life isn’t always on her priority to-do list.
However, just like us, she is guilty of having green-eyed monster moments.
For instance, she envies just about every single Japanese mum’s blog.
“These women are not social media influencers. Yet, they look so good while they do everything. Ultimately, I want to challenge myself to be like them.”
Remember, It’s Life Through A Lens
So, if someone like Cheesie, who makes her living “living” on the Internet, can reveal that what we see is just the surface, that’s a lesson right there for us.
Living through a lens isn’t all bad. It has made many of us more attuned to things such as taking better photos, writing cleverer captions, and capturing sweet moments that we can look back on and smile about, especially when the Facebook shared memories post pops up.
Being able to peek into my friends’ lives has helped me keep up with them in a way that wasn’t possible 20 years ago. Now, when I run into long-lost friends, we catch up in no time.
Without a doubt, social media has made us all, well, more sociable. But remember this: If you’d never dream of taking a photo of you and your husband quarrelling, and posting it on Instagram, then it’s likely that your friends wouldn’t either.
Also, most marriages are not always as wonderful as that $600 anniversary dinner post you just glimpsed at.
Bottom line? Accept social media for what it is – it’s social, it’s fun, and it is also media. And everyone knows that you really shouldn’t blindly believe everything you see.
A version of this article first appeared in the January 2017 issue of Simply Her.