There’s a movement I won’t join. In an effort to combat the “perfect life” that some people portray on social media, there is an outcry for “real” photos. These photos are supposed to be ugly, or at least accompanied by “my life is terrible” types of captions.
When people don’t join this movement, there’s the outcry that others are feeling depressed and sad that their lives aren’t as glamorous, that they compare themselves to your social media photos.
I’ve considered the realistic approach. When I was throwing up every 20 minutes on a 4-hour, turbulent flight to Costa Rica, the thought “how about this, Instagram?” actually crossed my mind. But I didn’t take a photo. Because while it was real, it wasn’t a moment I wanted to capture (not to mention I didn’t actually have the physical strength to dig for my phone in my carry-on). Yes, you should know that there are bad parts of travel. But you have to realize that on your own.
Here’s the various reasons I won’t be sharing the ugly moments:
1) I’m busy surviving, not documenting.
When I’m lost and trying to find my bus before it leaves in two minutes, I’m not taking pictures. When I’m washing laundry in a sink and accidentally drop the clean clothes on a muddy floor, I don’t take a picture. I am trying to get through a difficult moment, and I don’t need to document it.
2) It’s not the moment I want to remember.
Various studies have already shown that people naturally remember negative events more than positive ones. Negative emotions tend to be more powerful and latch onto our memories. I don’t need help remembering that I threw up on a plane for four hours. But I do want help remembering exactly what that sunset over the Pacific looked like.
3) It’s not the moment I want to show.
I want to show you the beautiful things. I want to show you what made a trip beautiful and fun. I don’t want to show you what made it miserable or difficult. Maybe that makes me a liar, but if I focused on the long lines to get into that gorgeous national park, I wouldn’t travel and neither would you. If you think just because I show the beautiful parts that I never had to squat in a nasty bathroom or eat PB&Js for the fourth day in a row — you’re wrong.
Perhaps that gives you unrealistic expectations and you’ll be bummed when you have those difficult experiences on your travels, but we all have to learn it for ourselves and decide if it’s worth it. I can tell you that I had to wait two hours to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but the truth is I’d do it again in an instant. So how about instead, I tell you how beautiful the view is from the top?
4) It helps tell a story.
I can vividly describe that two-hour wait for the Eiffel Tower. What’s harder to describe is the breathtaking view from the top and realizing you’re in the most romantic place on earth. I can show you the photos though.
5) We want to capture beauty.
It’s human instinct, and one of the reasons we have a hard time putting the phone down to actually enjoy the moment. It’s the reason people have painted, ever since people have been around. We want to show beauty. We want to capture it and store it up. We can’t do that perfectly, but a photograph can help.
6) I don’t compare, because I know.
I know when I see someone’s photo that it isn’t the whole story. When I see your cool picture of you doing yoga on the beach, I’m wondering who took that photo and how many pictures it took and if there’s still sand in your yoga pants.
Maybe I get it because I’ve tried to get those photos and I know how difficult and forced they are. But the truth is, for me at least, they’re capturing a real moment. I know you (probably) really were reading that book and drinking the sparkling water when you realized, hey cool pic! That’s fine. Appreciate the beauty in others’ lives without thinking yours is ugly.
7) I can share the ugly without focusing on it.
I’m not saying I’ll only ever share beautiful pictures. I’d love to share a picture of how under-impressed I was with the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, or how ridiculous the line into Versailles was. I do want to be realistic. I will gladly share the funny ironies of travel, I just don’t want to focus on them alone, or have to apologize for every beautiful picture I share.
The truth is, you aren’t going to get true reality on social media. You have to step outside for reality. Create your own beautiful reality. Because the kind online will never compare to real life.