Author’s note – It is now September 2016. Two years since I originally wrote this. I made this post “Private” as I was not quite sure that I was ready to share this after posting it. Call it a lesson in ‘oversharenting’ in practice. Today, our 4th has just started grade 1 and thankfully so, seems to be adjusting 100% better than he did to JK. He still hugs me each morning and begs to stay home. He even went so far as to ask if I could home school him because I “know everything”. His words, not mine. It was because of that first day back in JK that I pulled back from Facebook. No more first days of school photos. Sure there is the odd Xmas photo (after all I’m not The Grinch) or vacation shot so my social network knows we are still alive and ticking. But I learned a valuable lesson. A picture is not worth a thousand words. A picture is a mere one second in time. In that immediate moment, life feels good enough to share it with the world on social media. The minutes that follow may bring an entirely different set of realities and emotions.
Initially, I thought Facebook would be a good way to connect to distant family and friends, both near and far. Coming from an island like Barbados and living in Toronto, Canada, no wonder it has an island allure. To be able to “catch up” feels like running in to an old friend at the local supermarket. That was 2007. What I did not understand is that social media is a strange creature that encourages even the best of us to do the unthinkable: be inauthentic.
The guilt hit hit me about two years ago when I read an article in The Huffington Post, “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook“. What stood out from the hilarious, well written and illustrated piece was something I had never really given much thought to. Tim Urban described the term, image crafting, as “the author wants to affect the way people think of her“. It’s a little secret that anyone on Facebook knows all too well. It is the idea of sharing an image to project the idea that life is good, I am good, we are all happy and all is good in the world.
In my case, it was my kids’ back to school photo that I posted to my own wall. At the time, it generated 72 “Likes” and 16 “Comments”. Impressive, I know. Not bad for a gal with less than 200 friends! The article got me thinking. Was I too guilty of image crafting? Or oversharenting? What most of my “Friends” did not know was that behind the idyllic W.I.S.H. photo I shared was that I had snapped a photo of my youngest a few seconds after the one I publicly shared. Given his less than enthusiastic expression, I laughed and sent it privately to my immediate family by email with the caption: “Here is the solo that did NOT make it on Facebook…. Do you blame me?”
Yet, by the end of the day, as the “Likes” kept popping up, I felt increasingly uncomfortable. It felt like I had not been completely honest since the image that I shared on my wall was a textbook “everyone say cheese” picture. Then it dawned on me. Busted. Letting everyone think that life is good when in reality, unknown to most, including my husband and myself throughout that same day was that W had cried for pretty much his entire first day of JK. When I arrived to get him at 3pm, all the other kids got directed to their caregivers while I was kindly asked to wait. W’s teacher (who had also taught “S”) then politely led me inside where I found him, sitting, head on the table, sleeping and literally sobbing. My heart just about broke.
Should I have been honest and shared with all my “Friends” that in reality, life was not great at the moment? That would have likely opened the flood gates of sympathy. Then the comments might have looked something like this: “don’t worry… poor you… it will be OK…mine did the same thing….” I know for sure that I would have been “insufferable”, another no-no according to the article. We all love Eyore but no one really needs one in their lives.