Appearances are deceptive. And nowadays we have more tools than ever before to pretend.
I remember when I was in the acting industry I got completely speechless in a couple of occasions: I met some actors that looked radiant, successful and the happiest when there were flashes or photocalls involved but who were actually struggling with depression or alcohol problems. In front of the cameras, no one would have imagined this was the case but this was their reality. In front of the cameras, the most important thing is to smile no matter what; Public figures understand that! However, we are all public figures nowadays, or we have the possibility to become so in our hands due to Social Media!
Social Media: Our Public Persona
Social Media gives us the chance to design a custom persona of ourselves, that allows us to show the parts that we like most about our personality and keep our problems private. This way we can easily manage to hide our shadows behind the scenes. The idea of having or designing a persona in our social lives is not new, neither it is reduced to Social Media. In fact, this concept has always been there, and in one way or another, we all have our own public persona. The Public Personal is the conscious or unconscious selection of parts of ourselves that we choose to show when we socialise. It is natural to use our public persona when we are in a social environment, or situation that is new to us. We use our public persona with the intention of giving a good impression. Nowadays, thanks to Social Media we have the opportunity to design this public persona through different platforms that represent us. These platforms are all that most people know of us.
Therefore, pretending online is easier than not doing so. Choosing what story we want to tell in Social Networks is easy: a couple of photos and a good piece of storytelling and no one would ever know what was really happening. And when photos are involved, things get even more complicated. For instance, I am now travelling from Tignes in France to the Geneva Airport, and the first part of the journey has been spectacular! The roads were surrounded by white mountains and most people took their phone out to immortalise the scene. Halfway the journey we passed by a beautiful blue lake on a sunny day, and again most people took their phones out (including me). However, no one thought of taking a picture of all the dry trees that we passed during the journey. No judgements! I am the first one who tends to take pictures of what inspires me most, I take photos when I appreciate the beauty around me, and I think that is natural. That is why, in many cases it is not even a question of pretending, we just hide part of our reality without even realising it.
The COMPARANOIA Effect
Whether we have the intention to pretend or not, One of the most common Social Media tendencies is to put up what we consider that is worth it of immortalisation, the things we like most or the things we would like to remember. Who would like to remember a breakup, an argument, a bankruptcy or a crisis? However, how many people would love to remember a holiday on a paradisiac island or an anniversary? Most people would and there is nothing wrong or unnatural about that, but what is the effect that the Social Media phenomenon is having on us? A result of Social Media is that consciously or unconsciously it is so easy to end up comparing our day to day lives with ups and down, to the few things that other people show to us. When we constantly compare who we truly are with everyone’s public persona, we can easily feel bad about ourselves;
There will always be someone in the beach while you are at work, but now we constantly see it graphically without really knowing what is behind each paradisiac postcard.
We get to feel Comparanoia when we disconnect ourselves from our own lives and we focus all our attention and energy on comparing ourselves with others. We get driven by the fear of missing out (FOMO) and we limit our possibilities of happiness to a perfect ideal that is far away from any reality.
Act as You Want to Feel vs. Fake it Until You Make it
Constant comparison leads us to do anything in order to feel our life meets social high standards and to get other’s admiration. Whether is through social media or not, comparing ourselves with others take us away from our authenticity.
One of my favourite mantras which I have already shared on this blog is: Act as you want to feel. When you act as you want to feel it is much more likely that you will end up feeling that way. However, I think the key in that phrase is in the verb: ACT.
I believe there is a big difference between taking action and pretending. One one side, you can take actions that make you feel as you want like changing your body language in order to feel confident or model what a confident person would do in your situation. On the other, you can pretend things are going well without taking actions towards feeling better. When we pretend we are focused on the outside, on what people will think rather than on how we will feel.
I remember a day my partner and I were having a drink in a beautiful pool in Bali. We spent most of the afternoon there reading, swimming and relaxing as it was too hot! During the afternoon, we observe some groups coming into the place to take a couple of photos and leave. They didn’t drink anything, didn’t swim. Nothing. We were so surprised, and I share this as I think it represents the difference between acting as you want to feel and faking it until you make it!
When you act as you want to feel, you dive into the pool and even if the water is cold, you get the experience. When you fake it until you make it, you just focus on taking a photo so people know you have been there.
Appearances vs Authenticity
Pretending has more negative consequences than positive ones. Maybe if we learn how to pretend really well, we get social recognition or Social Media Success. However, when your life is so far away from the story that you are telling publicly, it is hard to enjoy the benefits of the apparent success. Lying to others is much easier than lying to oneself. When people perceive you as a successful happy person, they won’t help you as they won’t consider it necessary. That is why, if you pretend when you actually feel bad or unsatisfied, you won’t get the support you could get if you dared to show your vulnerability.
Years ago I went through a painful breakup, I had been sharing my relationship on Social Media for years: Happy moments full of love… and when the relationship broke, and I was mourning, I thought: If I share the good stuff, why don’t I share the bad as well? At first, I felt scared to do so but in the end, I dared to share what I was going through naturally, without playing the victim, from a place of love. I then wrote an article about morning which came from my heart. Not only this article was liberating for me, but also it helped many people who messaged me to express gratitude after reading it. Also, the support I got was immense. Time after my partner and I give our relationship a second go, and I didn’t regret having shared that painful season, as it is part of my story too.
I have a lot of respect for everyone who decides not to share their private lives online. I am not aiming to convince people to share what they don’t want to share. This is just a reflection for all the people who consciously or unconsciously choose to share only the good part, or are scared to show up as they are online. It is very common to see couples sharing their love publicly for years, and suddenly when the relationship is over, all disappears: Silence, removed photos and we pretend nothing has happened: showing always and above all a smile in front of the cameras.
Making Peace with Social Media
Social Media is a wonderful essential business tool…
However, when I launched SatisfACTION I felt I had some resistance against Social Media: I didn’t want to pretend or just telling the good stuff to benefit my business. I realised that I was rejecting Social Media and all that had to do with it. Not good idea nowadays!
Social Media is not going to disappear, it is part of the world we live in so we have two options: Either we make peace with each platform and take the best out of them (Acknowledging its positive side which is huge!) or we resist to use them and criticise them constantly (As if that was going to change anything). Therefore, not long ago I decided to join Bschool, Marie Forleo’s Digital Business Program in order to make peace with Social Media. And she is teaching me an essential lesson. With Social Media we have other two options: Pretending or Showing with Authenticity, our lights and shadows. The second option convinces me. Thanks to Marie’s program, I feel inspired to keep telling my story with authenticity and vulnerability. And I just would love to invite you to do the same.
This article can also be applied to real life. If you are the kind of person who responds a fake ‘Good’ when you are asked ‘How are you?’, maybe next time you can try to answer with your truth and see what happens. And if you don’t feel ready to share but Comparanoia is present in your life, remember that there is always movement behind the scenes and that this is not a fair comparison as there is so much information missing, hidden behind each photography.
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Love and Satisfaction,