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Balancing the “Highlights” Reel with Reality: Why it’s more important to be authentic than perfect on social media

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Take a nice, long look at the photo that coincides with this article.

You’ll see my four boys perfectly dressed in suspenders and matching bowties. My dress is coordinated with their outfits. My hair and make-up is professionally done. I’m smiling at them adoringly, despite the fact that one of them has horrific farts. They are behaving well and grinning big because the photographer has yelled, “look at mom and smile!” and I’ve promised Oreos at the end of the shoot.

When posting this picture to Facebook and Instagram later that day to promote my upcoming book, I could’ve hashtag-ed it “blessed” or left some long-winded quote about how these cherub-cheeked little hellions are “my world” and the “air I breath.”

Instead of #grateful #thankful #blessed, I chose to share that while this photo was a perfect little moment, the rest of the entire day that followed was a complete catastrophe, leaving me counting down to bedtime, busting into our stash of Halloween candy and asking Jesus to take the wheel. Our house turned into “Lord of the Flies,” and by the time my husband walked in the door I was hunkered down in my closet “folding laundry” which is code for drinking a glass of wine and recklessly loading my Amazon cart.

It's important for me to show the truth of the day in my social media feed, because as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and too often these days moms are feeling less than by simply scrolling. They see a false sense of perfection, and in turn, feel less than about themselves, which is beyond ridiculous considering the façade so many of these posts possess.

Social media has in many ways enriched the lives of moms today, allowing us to share and connect in a way generations before us never experienced.

We can not only keep in touch with our high school friends and college roommates, but also watch their children grow up in our feeds.

It’s an exciting time to be in the world, but the flip side of this wonderful opportunity for connection is the level of filtered comparison it can bring. I’ve watched countless friends experience FOMO (feeling of missing out) and envy through what they view on social media.

Maybe a group posts pictures from a holiday party you weren’t invited to. Ouch. Or your cousin’s kid made the honor roll and yours is still trying to dress himself and put the underwear on before the shorts. These are the types of things you’d likely never know or care about without social media, and they can make you feel pretty, crummy at times.

There’s also the highlights reel – the curated photos of amazing vacations, perfectly thrown parties and candid photos that are anything but. The highlights reel reminds me of the Christmas letters my mom would receive long before the internet was a thing. People would go on about their child making the dean's list or getting MVP on their soccer team, but they wouldn't dare share the ugly.

The highlights reel moms see every day on social media creates constant little reminders that someone is living at a fabulousness level above theirs. And the truth is, someone always has been, but without social media you never focused on it and appreciated your little bit of awesomeness in an entirely different way.

There’s a hilarious meme floating around about a mother screaming at her children and pulling her hair out, attempting to capture that perfect photo. The kids are crying, untucking their shirts and scampering off. After losing her mind to get the “perfect” shot, she posts it with the caption, “My Purpose in Life.”

Yes Mama, you are blessed, but you didn’t need perfection to prove it to the world.

What this mom doesn’t realize is captioning it with a funny, truthful comment may make her friends appreciate her even more. Perfection is not what drives people to want to connect with you, authenticity is.

My advice for managing your social media in a healthy way is to decide what you hope to get out of the online exchange and experience, and design things to your needs. Follow those who bring you joy, weed out the comparison and focus on the beauty of the connection with others you love.

After all, who really has time in life for anything that’s not going to bring joy to journey?

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