“I have gotten off Facebook. I just can’t stand how everybody is happy all the time” a young friend in her 30s declares. “They are all getting married, having babies and doing fun things” she carries on.
“But you know that is less than half the story” I feel compelled to point out.
I am still not sure how I feel about Facebook but I get her point. I unfriended a couple of people whose sole postings involved restaurants, vacations and what they ate. More than ever, being able to have an online persona allows us to construct a glamorous life of, not exactly lies, but half-truths that make up a tiny little sliver of the whole pie.
A few months ago, on an extremely successful lifestyle blog I follow, the author confessed to having gone through a bout of postpartum depression a few years back. Her stylish blog is all about cute children, beautifully curated apartments, pretty everyday food, fashionable clothes and the like. The overall mood, even when tackling subjects like work or health, is happy. And why shouldn’t it be? Who wants to read about depression, disease and misery? Well, plenty actually, but that is another story.
If you buy a fashion magazine, your connection to the stories is not personal. You might admire Grace Coddington’s styling but don’t really know what she does with her spare time or what she thinks about global warming. When I read a story in a newspaper, I connect with the story, not the journalist. But blogging has blurred the lines: bloggers can be virtual acquaintances, if not friends, and should they have a responsibility to disclose that all the free clothes and beauty products come with a set of problems? That there is another side to the coin of stylish living rooms and perfectly executed DIY projects?
A few years ago, a troll left a comment on a blog post of mine that read “I hope you die of AIDS”. The venom of it left me terrified. Why would someone who had never met me take the time to write something so vicious? I deleted it and that was the end of it but, with so many women in the media shamed and criticized and insulted by faceless humans hiding behind monikers and ip addresses, being cautious and not revealing the whole truth is the smart thing to do.
The personal details make us feel more connected and that is the difference between reading a blog post and Marie Claire but they also make us more vulnerable, even if it’s just a single troll in Lithuania who will never land on your site again.
Because I like the connection I feel with certain bloggers I follow, whenever I write, I try to be me. Always. An honest version of me, even if not the entire version. I certainly don’t glamorize myself but I have wondered whether I tend to put my best foot forward. I suppose it’s human to do so. But what I have come to understand is that, whenever we read, be it a novel, an article, a blog post, we tend to superimpose our views and our perceptions on the words. Different people see different things within the same material. We relate to some aspects and that is what we hold on to and mold our impressions of the writer on.
And for every FB post on Polynesian vacation, gorgeous baby and effortless feast, we also know there are tears, burnt dinners and nights slogged on the couch. Who are we trying to fool?