September 21, 2015

Curated Life

Years ago I went to a prom night. It wasn't fun. It should have been fun, but it's really not. When images of that party appeared on Facebook days later it looked like a blast. In fact it looked spunky and joyful and really, really lovely. And that's when I understood, really and truly, that almost nothing on the social media is as it appears. That, in fact, the appearance of a life is often at the expense of life itself. 

I know this. I've seen this. From both sides. And still occasionally I'll see photos and feel the knee-jerk reaction of I-wish. I wish that was mine. I wish that was my life. More and more I've seen think-pieces about how we need to examine that impulse in ourselves. There's finger-pointing, but we pointing the finger at ourselves. And I get that, I do. I'm the first person who will take on blame, even if it's clear the blame isn't mine to take (this is not a good quality). But this self-reflection assumes, to a certain extent, that everyone's willing to take the time to do that. And it lets the medium, which is to say the internet, off the hook. But the thing is, while you can put a verified checkmark next to a person's twitter handle, there isn't any real policing of validity beyond that. Search algorithms are based on popularity, not truthfulness, and certainly not value.

We see a curated picture and we want the handbag, the heels, the husband, the wedding, the life. And okay, yes, we have to approach the image with critical awareness, but that takes a pretty high level of intelligence. It's like asking consumers not to gain weight in a society where food is specifically designed to get us to eat more than we need, or even want. Not-gaining-weight nowadays is far harder than maintaining weight and yet we blame the consumer. I think there has to be change on both sides, how we produce and how we consume. 

And I fear sometimes, that the bloggers who respond to the criticism that their life's too curated, aren't actually the bloggers presenting the most highly curated lives. Because there's a difference between boundaries, meaning what one's willing to discuss and what one keeps private, and a stylized representation of what's presented. I guess what I want to say is this: it's okay to feel like shit sometimes when you're looking at other peoples' lives online. In fact, a lot of people are banking on it, they all make a lot more money that way.

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