“It looks like you had a fabulous time staying at the Ritz! Your beach pictures from California are beautiful,” one mom said to me at school pickup after the Mom 2.0 Summit this past May. If you only knew me from my social media updates, my Facebook wall, Instagram photos, and Tweets, it would lead anyone to believe that I lead a glamorous existence. Sure, I post the most interesting content in these forums — such as press trip photos from exclusive media events, Facebook updates that engage and inform, and images that help me convey myself as a professional — but what those who claim to know me through social media don’t see is my reality.
Parents at school may think they know me from my social updates, but they don’t. What I post is a carefully curated slice of my life that allows the true me to show through selective sharing. The couple of sentences of in real-life small talk that we cram in as we’re picking kids up from school or dropping them off don’t make for a friendship, nor do they allow us to truly get to know each other. Only those that I talk to on a regular basis in person and through Skype really know me. They’re the ones that know the constant work I’m doing in between those updates and images, the crazy pre-trip preparation, and the scramble to make my way down my work to-do list before I leave — and how I always feel behind when I come home.
I’m not alone in carefully selecting the things I share socially. A recent story by NPR called What Gets Lost In Our Carefully Crafted Online Conversations describes how a man named Walter Woodman selected the most flattering Facebook photos, his most appealing interests, and flattering personality traits to the extent that his profile was “just a version of the person he wanted to be.”
Why do we present our best selves via social media? Social media allows a voyeuristic look into our lives, and I’ve always erred on the side of caution about my sharing through any online platform. Content I share through my social channels is consciously curated for my various audiences, not because I want my audiences to perceive me as someone I’m not, but more for my personal protection and to keep my family’s digital footprint small. I’ve always been conscientious about what I’m sharing and with whom. I’ve always been protective of my family.
I’m not the only one who is protective of loved ones on social media. High Country Mom Squad’s Sarah Pinnix says that she’s “open about things that involve me, my shortcomings, stuggles, etc. but if it’s someone else’s story as well, I will keep it off social media.”
Even though we can control what we share, we can’t control how it’s perceived by others. So much of ourselves is exposed through social media, we can’t help to edit ourselves a bit.
“It’s all me, but it’s the PG-13 version,” admits Jennifer Quillen from The Rebel Chick. “Once I realized that everyone from my mom to my husband’s boss were stalking my Twitter account and reading my blog, I stopped dropping the F bomb!”
Erin Lane (A Parenting Production) also posts a PG-13 version of herself, while Elena Sonnino of Live Do Grow finds herself pausing before she posts to edit out anything that could be construed as animosity or sarcasm towards others.
Others such as Lisa Frame (A Daily Pinch) operate with more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get philosophy. “Truly me,” she states about herself on social media. “I just lay it all out. People either love it or hate it. There is no in between.”