Once upon a time, it was much easier to keep up with the Joneses (or the Tans). You may be jealous when you see your perfectly groomed neighbour climbing into her perfectly polished new car, with her perfectly behaved kids trotting after her. But once they zip off, they’re gone for the day. Your jealousy doesn’t go beyond that.
Today, however, you’re forced to continue witnessing, and living vicariously, through your friends’ amazing lives. Everything is documented on Instagram/FaceBook/Snapchat, and catalogued according to #hashtags.
Nobody wants to admit it but we’ve all done our fair share of cyber stalking. We can’t avoid reading about our friends when their status updates pop up on our newsfeed. And often, we also can’t help clicking on their accounts or hashtags, scrolling through months’ worth of updates, marveling at their amazing expensive restaurant meals, oohing over their #homecooked delicacies, being envious of their effortless #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 happy instead of sulking/quarrelling like ours do?
We’ve all been there. It’s okay, there’s no shame in admitting that we’re Green-eyed Monsters growing almost neon, by the minute, as we (helplessly) read post after post. Short of declaring a total social media ban, there’s no way you can avoid being bombarded by such infuriating perfection.
What You See Isn’t Always What You Get
We all know that we only put our best face forward on social media. After all, we’re also guilty of snapping several (or several dozen) selfies, then picking the right one, editing it with the right filter and so on, before posting it. And then we wait for the ‘Likes’ to light up.
So yes, our reality is actually pretty fake – remember that the next time you read about your friends’ lives. Like you, they’ve carefully curated the best moments, all neatly showcased on Instagram.
Asian blogger Cheesie (www.cheeserland.com) has been on both sides of the coin. Cheesie, 32, currently lives in Singapore with her husband Daisuke Hamaguchi, who recently set up the Singapore branch of his hairdressing salon chain, Number76, at Orchard Gateway.
A popular blogger who wrote the book How To Be A Popular Blogger, Cheesie singlehandedly cares for her two kids Junya, 2.5 years, and Sakura, six months, while jetsetting between Singapore, Tokyo and her hometown, Malaysia, with her family.
Readers often comment on how amazed they are at how she juggles everything so well – until she blogged about ‘How Instagram Helps Me Lie’, while testing out the new ‘Instagram Story’ function. The hilarious post is full of self-deprecating humour detailing a day in her life. Ironically, it was inspired by her own observations of other friends she noticed leading Instagram-perfect lives.
Cheesie documented her day, adding sarcastic captions to photos such as the beautiful veggies that go into her meal of Japanese curry (Caption: “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”). A breezy wefie with her son was captioned: “I woke up looking like this. Huh, what makeup? Why would I put on makeup when I stay home the whole day?”
“After documenting my day using Instagram Story, I realised that hey, these are not the things I do every day. I was being a bit pretentious because Junya’s food usually looks like canteen food [instead of what I’d prepared that day],” shares Cheesie. “Eh, I’m also doing it! I’m projecting a very unreal image!”
So, she decided to blog about it. “I was just trying to be a bit sarcastic and at the same time, gently poking fun at some of the mothers I know who show off on social media.” The post was well-received, which surprised her. She received several e-mails thanking her for being so honest. “I really didn’t think it would touch so many people.”
Dressing Up For The Internet
In real life, Cheesie considers herself “quite ‘slack’ although people think I’m very hard working”. Her job as a blogger often requires her to dress up in the latest fashion and makeup for glamorous events and photoshoots, but she also notices that the rise of social media has made anyone and everyone extra mindful about showing off their best side.
She reasons that if people don’t have anyone, or any social media accounts, to show off to, they probably wouldn’t dress up (or photograph themselves) as much.
Citing herself as an example, she reveals: “Like, right now as I’m talking to you doing this phone interview, I’m wearing my PJs with my hair tied up – that’s the super unglam me.”
While her readers envy her for being a supermum who has it all together, Cheesie jokingly refers to herself as ‘PokeMom’. She says between caring for an active toddler and exclusively breastfeeding a baby, there are more important things that demand her attention than curating a perfect Instagram life.
She admits that she has her own Green-eyed Monster moments. She envies “just about every single Japanese mum’s blog that I read”. “These mums are not social media influencers. Yet, they look so good while they do everything else. 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 our lives through a lens isn’t all bad. It has made us more attuned to things such as taking better photos, writing cleverer captions, capturing sweet moments that we can look back on and smile about when Facebook sends us a reminder years later.
Being able to take peeks into my friends’ lives has helped me keep up with them in a way we never could 20 years ago. Now, when I run into long-lost friends, we quickly catch up in no time.
No doubt about it, social media has made us all more social. But do remember that what is presented is usually only the best bits. If you wouldn’t think of taking a photo of you and hubby quarrelling and posting it on Instagram, then none of your friends are doing so either. Their marriages are not always as wonderful as that $600-dollar anniversary dinner they just posted about.
Bottom line? Take social media as what it is – it’s social, it’s fun, but it is also media. And everyone knows that with the media, you really shouldn’t blindly believe everything you see.
Learn From Your Social Media Envy
Turn all of it into something constructive.
#1 Your friend always seems to organise the most amazing parties for her kids.
What to do: Pick up tips on how she does the decor or where she holds the parties, for your tyke’s next bash. Also, don’t assume she did everything herself. She may have simply hired a great party planner. Ask her for the contact. There, next party sorted.
#2 You’re absolutely jealous of the gorgeous holiday photos showing up on your newsfeed.
What to do: Take a 15-minute crash course on photography by examining what and how your friends shot their photos. Then Google or Youtube “simple holiday photography” to pick up the basic concepts. Often, it only requires just a couple more minutes to get that beautiful pic. Make it a habit not to click blindly, but to spend some effort framing your shot. Before you know it, you’ll be the one posting the gorgeous holiday pics.
#3 The home-made bento pics that your friends made for their kids’ lunch bags are making your kids jealous
It’s really not that difficult to make kawaii bento, if you know all the shortcuts. Ask your friend to share her recipes or search for ideas online. Shop at Daiso for the cutest (and cheap) bento knick-knacks. Start slow. Target to make just one bento per week, and use pre-made ingredients to save time. For example, buying pastry sheets to make a sausage pastry, instead of kneading the dough yourself, can be done within 15min. Just do them the night before and heat up in the microwave in the morning for Junior’s breakfast, plus a treat at recess.