I am starting an authenticity challenge on Facebook for the month of November. Why? Because Facebook is a lie. Because we should have a space where it is safe to be real. A space we don’t feel the need to compete with one another.
No one would dare post that today they were not their highest self. They did not meet their expectations. They certainly would not post that they needed help. Vulnerability online is met with criticisms of haters (people are so brave behind the safety of their screens, aren’t they). The Authenticity Challenge dares each post to be true to the one posting it. To reflect what is really going on behind the posts.
I’ve never been a fan of the November gratitude challenge because it perpetuates the lie that is Facebook. Live life every day in gratitude. You should be grateful for your spouse, kids, family, health, maybe even your work. There, five days down. The rest is fluff. It feels fake. By November 30, reading those also feels like a stretch. The gratitude challenge adds to the problem, and I don’t think it was intended to do so.
Social media is the pendulum swinging back to a 1950s marketing model, except this time it is powered by people instead of companies. Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique upon interviewing female alumni for a 15th college reunion discovered many women felt depressed, useless and did not care if they lived or died. Why? Because they were educated women without purpose. They had an onslaught of images through advertisements and other popular culture media telling them to be happy homemakers. They were not fulfilled by living the image and felt it was their fault.
What does this have to do with Facebook? Because Facebook is flooded with those same here-I-am-happy images. Forbes, Huffington Post, The New Yorker; there are many articles to support a link of Facebook use with depression. The primary reason being envy. Everyone puts their best face forward on Facebook. We think we use it to “stay connected” with those we care about, but connections are not made at all.
Behind the happy family photos, are your friends and family actually happy? How many of us have heard of a break-up or other turmoil going on in someone’s life and been shocked? They looked so happy just a few months ago.
I dropped out of my social circles a couple years ago, but not off social media. Did I tell my followers that I had post-pardum depression for 18 months? That I had a baby I loved dearly but couldn’t comfort and lived on 2-4 hours of sleep per night for 12 months. Did I tell everyone that I was struggling, that I felt like a fraction of myself? No. In fact, talking about it recently on a friend’s Facebook page I read a reply that might as well have slapped me in the face. “Suck it up and drink coffee.”
Like I wasn’t doing that. Until you have lived it, don’t judge it. My kids are worth it, and I love them dearly, but I walked through hell as a half-dead zombie and lost a majority of my friends while I was sucking it up and drinking lots of coffee.
Last week I was told the story of a woman with post-pardum who disappeared for a few days. The baby’s father used that as the reason to gain custody and refused her her son. She took her life. This could be a whole blog itself, so I will just reiterate: we need a safe place to be honest with ourselves. In our busy lives we need to stop and ask what is really going on with our friends.
The entire month of November, post only what is real and true. Let your friends and family see the real you. Let us cheer your successes and support you when you fall. Because we all do. When you read an authentic post, don’t be snarky. Admire the bravery it took to say in front of hundreds of people. This is who I am and what is going on in my life.