I (Matthew) shared 50 pictures on Facebook yesterday. It was down to 49 and minus a few tags within hours of being posted. The pictures are a memory trip and though I did not pick the worst-of-the-worst, the style choices represented are sometimes humbling. I was most merciless to myself. Besides laughs, of which there were many, why would I do something like this? One displeased person in particular had the same question for me.
*as a side note I am treading the line of a rule we have in our household: NEVER social media / digitally communicate when emotive. It rarely translates well. “Touchy” is how I feel about this subject at the moment.
We take ourselves very seriously. The celebrity-created concept of a “personal brand” has increased our awareness of how we present ourselves. The goal: 25. Years of age that is. When we are 17-years-old we want to look 25 and perfect. Fast-forward 2 decades, when we’re 37, and we want to look 25-years-old and perfect. Combine this with ever-changing social media platforms that allow each of us to build our own brand. To present the self-portrait of our choosing to anyone, anywhere, always.
This is work. Rather than enjoying moments in their entirety, we have to keep part of our attention dedicated to capturing these moments to post for others to see. Those selfies aren’t going to take themselves, after all. My Facebook Me is awesome. You can see him skydiving, whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, traveling to places you’ve never been, and occasionally writing in languages you don’t know. He’s pretty great. You’ll never see Facebook Me first thing in the morning, stressed by his inconsolable child or flossing. Facebook Me is not marred by such things.
“It’s as though you’re an artist and ‘awkward’ is your medium.” Kristen Hager (as Nora Sargeant)
Yesterday I added some honesty to my personal brand and Facebook Me became more well-rounded. Here’s the proof that I paved the way for Mr. N. Dynamite and his awkwardly great fashion statement. The reason Napoleon’s antics are so funny is because of their relateability. Flip backwards far enough in the photo albums (you know, from when we had to print our pictures) and we’ll all find that look (or looks) we now regret. This is Grade 6 Me making my way home from Cummer Valley Middle School. It’s hard for Facebook Me to take himself too seriously when Grade 6 Me is sporting a dual-zebra-headed, heart-shaped t-shirt.
Though not every choice in my past was stellar – and thankfully, my fashion has evolved – who I was has shaped who I am both positively and negatively. I continue to deal with and learn from the footsteps behind me. There are patterns that I want to tackle and moments I’d rather forget. One thing I don’t want to do is be so concerned with my personal brand that I stop developing who I am in lieu of maintaining the perfect image.
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” Steven Futick
Unflattering pictures do exist and this is not an argument that all pictures must make it online in the interests of fair representation (perhaps we should be required to take a picture of what we look like while posting the amazing pictures we choose to present. Here are my great Paris snaps and here’s me at 2am after a long workweek in my pajamas editing them). Rather, it’s about keeping a sense of humour about yourself (arguably the most difficult subject to be amused by). Perhaps this is why I got a few angry comments. I was messing with the perfection of someone’s personal brand. Life is full of funny moments, even daft ones as Jef Walton shares on his real-life blog, and I appreciate people’s willingness to share. It’s not about self-deprecation, but being able to laugh at pictures like these.
The reality is that Everyday Me doesn’t routinely skydive or whitewater raft (admittedly I do travel more than most – because of my work and because I have intentionally made it a priority). Most evenings when Everyday Me is tired, wearing sweats, and sitting with horrible posture, he goes online and sees Facebook You – looking great and doing fabulous things. The comparison in that moment leaves my life lacking because I really did want to go to that concert, eat at that restaurant, visit that place… Facebook You vs. Everyday Me is not a fair comparison, and yet we do it all the time.
Back to the original question: besides the laughs, why did I post those now 49 pictures? It’s not a revolutionary statement, but rather an attempt at honest, shared ground between Facebook Me, Everyday Me and Everyday You. We all have a dual-zebra-headed, heart-shaped t-shirt in our past somewhere. Facebook Me owned up to it hoping that Everyday You would laugh, reminisce and feel a connection we’ve grown unaccustomed to in social media.