I had an interesting conversation with a friend a while back. It was about social media and how we cultivate images of ourselves. This isn’t a new discussion. There are tons of angles to it, how the internet makes us lonely, how Facebook can lead to depression, how everything we see is a carefully choreographed version of real life. This video explains it best.
In case you didn’t click on it, the video shows a week in the life of Scott Thompson. It shows what is actually going on in his life vs how he depicts those events on Facebook, and how he is egged on by ‘likes’. Facebook Scott has a fun, vibrant, wonderful life. Offline Scott, not so much.
I don’t generally give this concept much thought, because I’ve always considered myself very authentic. In my head, I present myself exactly as I am. But then again, everyone thinks that. Few people deliberately set out to create a certain image of themselves. At least not consciously.
Yet even as I type that, I’m reminded of a quote I read in blog post. I forget the exact words, but it said everybody creates an image of themselves. Some people even create the image of not creating an image. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Until you find yourself typing something like this *pointing*
When I posted that update, I was trying to be tongue-in-cheek. Trying to show I’m really NOT the kind of girl that does salads, but admitting that I’d eaten one for breakfast all the same. It’s almost a kind of reverse-bragging. And while it wasn’t intended that way, it came out as a not-so-subtle insult to girls that eat salad. Also, I edited that update five times before I finally hit ‘post’.
My next sentence was going to be, ‘Now … I have nothing against salads, but …’ And that would be dishonest. Because I struggle with weight. And although I rarely eat
kachumbari salads, I routinely stop eating before I’m full. I’ve trained myself to survive on half of what I want to eat, and as a result, I’ve lost 10 kilos in six months.
Of course human beings – being human beings – only see me on the days I order two-for-one pizza, or have a big bowl of noodles and sausages for breakfast. Workmates make snide comments on my diet. One claims I eat like a pig but never gain an inch. A girl said every time she looks at me, I have something in my mouth. A boy I had a crush on said I’m the only girl he knows that is constantly eating. He also said he loves to watch me eat…
What these three don’t know is after one pizza binge, I can go the next three days on black tea and two slices of bread. So for me, that update about salad and kachumabri was choreographed on lots of different levels, none of which I even noticed. I was a landmartian for a while, and I remember being told that knowing something makes no difference. Take these rules for guys. Not to be confused with these rules for … guys? *pointing*
The second rule says just because your man is checking out another girl doesn’t mean he’s going to leave you for her. According to the rules, it doesn’t even mean he’s going to sleep with her. The rules may be true, and they may even make sense, but it doesn’t make them any less annoying to the girls. Le sigh.
So knowing that my image is not having an image … doesn’t stop me from nurturing it. And knowing that I sometimes publicise embarrassing things just so I appear to be ‘real’ may not stop me doing it. And saying I’m ashamed to have eaten a (huge) bowl of salad doesn’t make my struggles with weight (loss) any less torturesome. Yes, it’s a word. Because I said so. And, yes, I did follow up my salad with a large bar of chocolate. Because I like being seen as a girl that gorges large bars of chocolate.
I once heard this generation described as one that f*cks in public and eats in private. It was a commentary on thigh gaps and eating disorders. I think we’re also a generation that has perfected role-play. Because while social media has made it easier to hide who we are, people have been doing it offline for years. If you met the same person at school, at work, and at their in-laws, you’d swear they were schitzophrenic.
I think it’s just human nature to blame things. We blame tardiness and dishonesty on mobile phones. We shame digital devices for urban solitude. We fault sexual violence on fashion. We say kids are immoral and fat because of TV. We forget that long before mini skirts, microchips, or McDonalds, people still did bad things, simply because they chose to. I guess technology just makes our flaws easier to see.
And on that note, I’m off to have some chicken steeped in mushroom sauce and butter, followed by hot chocolate and ice cream. After which I will seriously consider not eating for three whole days.
♫ I see fire ♫ Ed Sheeran ♫