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Is it okay to only tell half the story? | Thoughts on Instagram and other visual social media.

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A few weeks ago a friend commented about how spotless my house was in one of my Instagram photos.

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From her perspective, she was right – it did look spotless. I quickly commented back that it was a strategic angle and I had shoved several toys and some paperwork and junkmail out of the way before snapping the photo.

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Whether we mean to or not we can portray ourselves online in a way that makes everything about our lives look easy, polished, beautiful, and very much put together.

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I highly doubt that is anyone’s motivation for posting cute pictures of their kids or a still life shot of some lovely flowers. Most people aren’t trying to be something they are not… they’re simply recording the things that make them happy – the things they want to remember.

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It’s easy to scrutinize and villanize social media for only telling part of the story, because—sure—most of the time we’re not posting a photo of a sink full of dishes or the rude lady at the grocery store check out or our grossly disorganized linen closet… Because, who would enjoy those? Who wants to remember those moments?

These are the ones we went to remember:

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And so I think it’s ok that social media only tells half the story. I want that half of the story told. I want to celebrate that sweet expression or most delicous meal or perfect sunset or much-anticipated date night. I want that handmade card and that stunning Christmas tree cemented in my mind forever.

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And you know what? Capturing those things in a quick photo helps in that cementing process. (How many memories of your childhood do you have, purely based on a photo that you’ve seen over and over?)

  

It’s our responsibility to keep our own reality in check – to remember that others don’t have the “perfect” life that we might think we see through their feed, and to remember that they struggle with disappointment, frustration, rejection, loneliness, fear, anxiety, being overwhelmed, or any of the rest of the “stuff” that you and I do.

   

And if we’re having a hard time keeping that truth in check, then maybe it is time for a personal social media break to realign our priorities and to check our own hearts for straying into that mirey territory of jealously, comparison, or judgement.

   

 

I suspect that I’m not alone when I say that I want to let people tell half the story without critiquing or comparing. I want  my instagram feed to be full of cubby cheeks and twinkling eyes and pretty furniture arrangements. I want to click on “open” and see stunning gardens and adorable puppies and toes buried in sand. I look forward to seeing people in love and babies smiling and grandma’s cookies piled high on her fine china. I don’t care as much about seeing the perfectly exposed or composed photos… but I sure do want to see some of those perfect moments frozen in time.

  

I say, bring it on! Tell me that beautiful half of your story!!

   

I love that we can use social media to tell our wonderful stories and to capture the moments we most want preserved – the fun ones and the “normal” ones.

   

And I also love that every once-and-a-while we can throw in a small dose of the “other” half, and that—when we do—there are others there to laugh and cry and shake their heads along with us.

Behold, my favorite – the tandem tantrum:

Visual social media is fun and—for me at least—it’s also very meaningful. It’s helping me to notice and celebrate the little things and pause long enough to capture them for memory’s sake.

   

Because really, these are things I never want to forget.

   

Dear friends, do you have a love-hate relationship with social media like most people do? What do you think about only telling half the story? Are you with me or do you see it another way?

Love,
A

16 Comments

  • Reply Daniel Norris 28 June 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Love your take on this subject. So many people address it in such a negative way so it was refreshing to see the positive angles. Our parents did the same thing with photo albums and the photos they chose to hang on the walls in our homes. They remind us of the good things in life, especially when we are in the hard times. I still think we need to be aware how our images can impact others though let’s continue to share the beauty in life with each other. Great post Adriel!
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  • Reply Lisa @bitesforbabies 28 June 2013 at 3:33 pm

    I definitely have a love-hate relationship with visual media! I love posting pics of my family and my life (it’s like online journaling for me!) yet at the same time I sometimes wonder if it’s too much. It’s daunting to think that the entire world can see my pics on the internet (and do whatever they want with them!). Then I think that I’m actually much more private then most bloggers so I shouldn’t have to worry. I just go back and forth every time I post new pics…I figure if I ever changed my mind about posting them all I have to do is take down the Blog! For now, I’ll continue doing just as I am 😉
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    • Reply Adriel 8 July 2013 at 11:09 pm

      I think about that too. But I also think our kids are growing up in a completely different era and that it is/will be normal for them. Doesn’t mean we should just disregard their privacy though. It’s a tricky one, I agree.
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  • Reply Colleen Kessler 29 June 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Love this perspective! It’s one I share, but struggle with. On the occasional instances I’ve shared that sink piled high, readers have commented that they’re glad to see they’re not alone. And while that’s true, and we all need to know that the chaos and messes that come with motherhood are universal, it’s not the failures I want to remember. I share what I’d want too see and be inspired by… small hands clutching bunches of flowers, sticky smiles, and beauty. It’s THAT half of the story I want to know, too.
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  • Reply Tiffany 1 July 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Yes! I totally agree. My Instagram is filled with photos of memories that I use to make Instagram photo books. I also keep it private so I can take the pictures I want to take without considering what others that see it might think.

  • Reply Laura 11 July 2013 at 10:33 pm

    I agree with you. Thanks for putting these thoughts into words because it helps me understand my own perspective on this. Definitely worthwhile to capture the beauty and joy of these years. The only reason I want to remember the messy and terrible is so that I will have grace for young mothers when I am older. Seems like all the older women in my life have forgotten their hardships and think of motherhood as complete glee that ends much too quickly. 🙂
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  • Reply Lizanne 18 July 2013 at 3:19 am

    Thanks for this post. It really helped my perspective. I have some issues thinking that everyone else’s homes look better than mine… Thanks to photos on Instagram. And their kids behave better etc. but this helped me see that it’s really just a part. I think I need more grace…
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  • Reply Lisa @bitesforbabies 28 September 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I’m also becoming a big fan of instagram…still trying to figure out how to post the photos I take with my phone/Ipad onto a Blog post

    • Reply Adriel 2 October 2013 at 9:01 am

      Hi Lisa. If I have a photo or two that I want to use in a blog post I just email it to myself and then open it up on my laptop when I’m doing the post.

      Every now and then I want a bunch of pictures though (like for this post) and so then I just plug my phone in to my computer and get the photos through a program (copy them over). I use Lightroom but you can also use iPhoto for a mac or probably whatever the standard photo program is for a PC (not sure what that would be).

      Hope that helps! 🙂
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