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Parenthood: Moving Beyond Facebook Envy to Reality

Feb 3 2012
What we see online is only a part of the larger—and better—picture.

Over Christmas break, I became obsessed with the idea that I wanted another baby even though my soul knew this to be untrue.

I did not want another baby, but I'd read a blog that made me think I did. On the blog, a woman had described her birth story as an experience so spiritual it bordered on holy. A process that strengthened the bonds between herself, her husband, and God.

And here sat I, knowing full well that birth for me had never strengthened my bond to anyone but my anesthesiologist and Preparation H.

Her idealized description of giving birth had confused me so much that it led me to believe I wanted things that I didn't actually want.

In short, it made me jealous.

It wasn't an isolated occurrence. Countless times I've logged onto Facebook, Twitter, or my favorite blogs only to see vintage-filtered vignettes of other people's seemingly perfect lives. There are my friends, on tropical vacation (again). There are my favorite bloggers, wearing artsy duds, sitting in their homes that look like exact replications of the Anthropologie catalog. And there are their children, perpetually glossy-haired and rosy-cheeked and smiling.

Meanwhile, here I sit in my untidy home in the cold of January, wearing an old college t-shirt. My kids are fighting in the background. Reading these blogs, seeing these profiles, often feels like browsing a fashion magazine. It's fun to look at, but afterward I feel inferior and inadequate and ugly and fat.

The problem is that so often people's Facebook photos and status updates capture fleeting moments of happiness and, by nature of social media, pin them down like that one perfect moment represents what life is like all the time. I walk away thinking that if only I could do what this person has done, I would be as happy, always, as they were in that moment. Like all my problems could be solved by the perfect glittery scarf or a beautifully photographed craft hour. Like there's something wrong with the truth of a messy, un-photogenic life.

It's not that I don't understand the urge. As we learned from Facebook's IPO filings this week, it seems nearly everyone is on Facebook—people I went to high school with, former teachers and professors, current coworkers. My mom. And dozens of people I never see in real life. Of course there is the instinct to present one's best self. But all of us, collectively, posting only rosy images has added up to a great cultural misunderstanding. A place where we all believe that other people are having a better time than we are. That our Facebook friends have lovelier homes, nicer vacations, and children with lower propensities for tantrums and flinging the contents of their diapers than ours do.

Related Topics:Facebook; Motherhood; Parenting

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