As I uploaded a new family photo the other night, I started thinking about highlight reels, specifically, how people only upload their best photos, where they look their best, and their kids are behaving. Only the clean house or mowed yard, the greatest vacations, the best parts of their day. It has become a phenomenon to not focus on the highlight reels of other people, but sometimes, it seems like we are missing the message when we say we aren’t focusing on highlight reels.
Are we telling people to not focus on what is the best moment for someone else? Or are we telling people that things are different from what they seem on the internet? Are we saying that we aren’t happy for others by comparison?
One time, I sat down with a fellow contributor at an event and she asked me, “So, do you and your husband really love each other as much as you appear to on Facebook?” The question caught me off guard because I didn’t know we looked like we “loved each other” so much on Facebook. We just shared what we shared because we did love each other, I suppose. It wasn’t meant to be a Facebook show.
Sometimes people really are just happy. Sometimes their house is clean, their life is together, and their kids are being good. Sometimes the stars align and for a while, things are good, really good.
You can follow me on social media and read my previous articles to quickly discover that I’ve made it no secret that I struggle with depression and anxiety to a pretty significant degree. I am open and talk about it; I never try to hide how it’s affecting me or my family, and I never try to make my life seem better than it is on social media. But sometimes I find a spark of joy and light in an otherwise dark night and I want to share it.
When I uploaded my newest photo on Facebook, I thought about how I really was happy in that photo — how we all were. That it’s a really good photo because we got a really good photo. That someone might look at it and think, gosh, what a perfect little family. And guess what? Yeah, sometimes we are the perfect little family. Sometimes I look at my life and it’s everything I ever wanted and to me it’s a perfect little family. Sometimes the sky is bright, the days aren’t dark, and my highlight reel is real.
Sometimes I cry in the closet, the house is dirty, there is a lot of laundry, and I get mad. Sometimes I love but don’t like my husband and the six-year-old gets on my nerves. A lot of times, my life isn’t a “highlight reel”… but when it really is, I feel guilty for sharing a happy family photo, as if I were breaking a mom code by “not being real” on the internet. Because isn’t that how we make it seem? If we don’t share a photo of our piled up laundry and dishes, then we’re faking it. If we show a well-balanced home cooked dinner, then we are trying to cover up the fact that we eat cereal for dinner most nights. Or, and it’s a radical thought, maybe we are just happy that we had the energy to cook dinner tonight and shared it?
There is no in-between; we either assume someone is only showing what they want us to see or their life is actually awful. How is us bashing people for being happy or getting a great family photo any better? Their day trip to the zoo may not have resulted in six meltdowns and just because they’re happy about that doesn’t mean their life isn’t real or that you should feel any type of guilt about it. Their family may actually be living the dream on a deserted piece of property in a camper. They actually might really love their job and their spouse.
Instead of assuming that people are only showing their best moments, can we shift the perspective to assuming they’re trying to make the best of a moment and season?
The tiny squares you see as you scroll Instagram aren’t someone always trying to make their life seem better than it is, but instead it’s their way of focusing on what is going better than what isn’t. I’m all for being real, taking off the lens of a social media perfect life, but I’m also for choosing joy where we can. Being grateful for the vacation even though it was really hard. Being happy the house is clean, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Recognizing the gratitude in having the energy to cook a meal for my family.
I get where everyone is coming from ranting on about highlight reels because having first-hand access to your 500 closest friends’ daily lives can make comparison really easy. I get that. If we want to break the stigma of mom guilt and highlight reels, it starts with how we are receiving it. I want to see your happy smiling family on vacation. I want to know that you cooked dinner or lunch for your kiddos today. I want to hear that you cleaned your whole house and went for a run, I’m cheering for you!