Hands up if, like me, you’re guilty of leading a double life? If you use social media (and I’m particularly looking at you, Instagram) then you probably do. I have two lives: my everyday life in all its unfiltered and imperfect glory and the life I lead online, otherwise known as my shiny, highly polished Instagram life.
“But your life looks so exciting” commented a friend recently, one who sees a lot more of me online than she does In Real Life. No, my Instagram life is glamorous and fun, my real life far from so. This lady is a successful novelist and I am in total awe of her but she will tell you that the life of a writer is neither particularly lucrative nor glossy and involves mostly thankless work, as opposed to the common perception of book launches, TV interviews and long wine-fuelled lunches with agents. Things are rarely what they seem. And don’t get me started on travelling for work, another very misunderstood activity.
Many of us use smoke and mirrors online and I too am guilty of carefully curating my social media life, honing and filtering it to give an illusion of near perfection. So why do it? Well, the simple answer is nobody really wants, or needs, to see the depressing detail of my life – or anyone else’s. Long, cold waits on a train platform, my un-made up face, the pain I struggle with at the end of every working day, picking up after the dog in the pouring rain, an overflowing laundry basket. Need I go on?
Take my recent holiday. The pictures are fabulous: breathtaking beaches and scenery, amazing food, exotic cocktails and all pictures of me in full make-up (complete with false eyelashes) and dressed up for a formal night on the cruise. The truth behind the illusion was persistent food poisoning, heavily delayed flights, frequent domestics, rain and seasickness. Most of the time I looked so rough I forbade any photos being taken whatsoever and I always have a three-day rule on holiday: it is at least day four before I am ready to appear in any form of picture.
Yes, I would love to live my shiny online life. Wouldn’t we all? Partners are charming and attentive, dogs and children well-behaved, houses stylishly decorated and weekends are one long round of fun and socialising with friends over perfectly cooked and presented food. But the modern day voyeurism into others’ lives is addictive and the pressure to keep up pretences huge.
It is so important to keep a check on reality and realise that this is not real life. Real life is peppered with disappointment, struggles and exhaustion as we try to keep everything going and pay the bills. I would highly recommend reading the excellent My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. Unlike the heroine’s, though, all the pictures on my Instagram and Facebook account are actually mine and true, albeit often filtered. Discontent with one’s own life complete with badly behaved dog, very average house and boring weekend full of chores has to be kept firmly in check. And always remember: never compare your fly on the wall documentary with the edited show reel of someone else’s life.