For some people, the appearance of leading a fun and interesting life has become more important than living one.
I was reminded of this recently when a friend shared the story of watching her neighbors a mother and two children come out of their house and pretend to play in the snow while taking photos. Then, they scurried back into the house, probably to sit in front of electronic screens and ignore one another.
This is just another example of something that has become widespread on social media.
The family in the story apparently didn’t care about having fun playing in the snow together. They just wanted to create the illusion of this to impress their online “friends.”
I have observed this phenomenon many times.
Perhaps I’ve been at an event, or enjoying some beautiful scenic location, and I have watched people who were completely removed from what was going on around them.
They stay just long enough to get photos to use as online evidence that they were there, and then they move on as quickly as they can.
It is not too much of a stretch to imagine people jumping out of their car, taking a selfie with a mountain in the background, and then jumping back in the car without ever stopping to admire the spectacular view.
Before they leave the parking area, one can imagine them busily composing the messages they will post with their photos of the magnificent mountain they never really saw, even though they were there.
Similarly, there’s not much point in posting photos of oneself next to a sign for a museum or art gallery if one never stops to enter the facility and have a look around.
For some people, however, that has become the whole point. The appearance has become more important than the reality.
Based on some of the stories I have heard, parents can be the worst offenders.
They rush their kids into one ideal backdrop after another, force them into poses that depict how much fun they are all having, and drag them off to the next photo op without ever letting the kids stop and explore.
Social media sites such as Facebook can be the perfect platform for sharing the highlights of our lives with family and friends.
We can use our posts to entertain others, to share common experiences, or commiserate when things don’t go the way we planned.
The trouble starts when the perception becomes more important than the reality.
If we are experiencing a fun vacation, there’s nothing wrong with sharing that experience with friends. But, if we spend our whole vacation creating the image of how ideal our lives are, instead of relaxing and enjoying the vacation, we are cheating ourselves.
One important point to remember is that life is not a competition.
We have to get over the temptation to compare ourselves with others.
For one thing, we are all different, and our situations are different.
For another, if we are comparing ourselves to others, we are probably comparing ourselves to a fictional, idealized version of others, not to the reality.
Other people, especially on social media sites, only show us what they want us to see.
This can create images that are dramatically different from the way things are.
So, instead of trying to create our own ideal profile of a perfect life to compete with someone else’s fake portrait, we would be much better off focusing on living.
If we commit ourselves to living in the moment and taking the time to appreciate what we have and the beauty around us, it’s likely we will be happier and more fulfilled.
Compiling our own authentic collection of new experiences is far more satisfying than collecting “likes” on Facebook.