Behind the “Picture Perfect” Illusion
By Marie Notcheva
Recently I saw a meme online which declared, “You know you are old if you remember going through an entire day without taking a picture.” There is some truth to this, as the “Selfie Craze” (and subsequent “Selfie Stick” phenomenon) has been lampooned by many Christian bloggers – both humorously and seriously. But beyond the teen-glamour competition and self-absorption fueled by social media, there is something else behind many of the pictures we post – the illusion of harmony and “the perfect family.”
We women are particularly guilty of this. Of course, there is nothing wrong with posting pictures of our children or family. Being proud of one’s grandbabies or sharing our kids’ concert performance is perfectly natural, and most of us enjoy seeing one another’s moments. But just as a lot of pain can be hidden behind a smile, much turmoil and family strife can be hidden behind a picture.
Why do we do this? We women especially are guilty of presenting the happy, smiling “perfect Christian family” image on social media – even when there is deep strife. It’s as if we are trying to convince ourselves and each other that all is well; we are “perfect”; if we just hold it together online maybe others will believe what we want them too.
Maybe the woman in the troubled marriage will almost be able to believe, if just for a moment, that they are the happy couple smiling back in the saccharine anniversary picture.
And then, a few months later, when her surname mysteriously changes back to her maiden name, everyone is shocked. A divorce? But, after all, they looked so happy in their Facebook pictures!
Almost everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. For some, it is the pain of damaged relationships in their family; painful marriages; or estrangement. Do not assume from social media pictures that everyone’s life is as it seems – glowing, filtered and oh-so-cheerful. Of course, the flip side of this is to expose too much publically. Many people also do this, and use social media as a chance to “air their dirty laundry”. Both tendencies point to a similar problem – the loss of meaningful, one-on-one relationships. Without someone close with whom we can be “real” – not fearing judgement by being our authentic selves – the virtual world of social media fills the vacuum.
This is not an indictment of family photos on social media – far from it! Rather, I am attempting to point to a real phenomenon that has become more common – the ways we adult women hide behind an “image” just as much as teen girls posting sexy “selfies” on Instagram and Snap Chat do. One antidote I can suggest is to become more involved in small groups such as book clubs or a Bible study. Have coffee with a friend, as time allows. The more we cultivate personal relationships with one another, the less temptation there is towards projecting an “image” (which is often rooted in loneliness).