I saw a friend for lunch a few weeks ago. While eating a scrumptious mix of salads and tea sandwiches in her spacious and fabulously decorated home, I recognized every part of the space from the countless photos she’s posted with her husband. Ever the hostess, she asked, “Any wine today?” I shook my head, and she nonchalantly retrieved her own glass. She filled it up, and she filled me in with this bombshell: “I don’t want to alarm you but I’m seriously thinking about divorcing Ed.”
I was both shocked and confused. I had just browsed her Facebook feed that morning, where she had posted inspirational quotes on marriage, selfies, excitement over gifting Ed a Fitbit, kissing him, making silly faces, holding hands. She seemed, in a word, happy.
This prompted me to do some research. I came across a Voice of America study, “Facebook Users Less Happy,” which mentions how “it’s easy to assume Facebook friends are always as happy as they appear on their profiles because they are not posting negative attributes or events, only positive ones.”
How you choose to identify and represent yourself leaves an indelible mark in cyberspace. As soon as you sign onto a social site of any kind, you begin branding yourself, shaping your life into whatever story you want to present to the world. The way my friend does, branding herself as happy.
Sure, there are those in life who simply exude confidence and those who don’t. In real life, confident people strut around as content with who they are, and they’ve got their story down, so to speak. And they’ll probably succeed because of it. But when they drop their guard, it crashes hard, all that confidence they made sure we saw suddenly evaporates, and we glimpse the stripped-away version of themselves they’d been hiding all along. Not so when it comes to branding yourself online: Nothing evaporates there.
I saw my friend yesterday for coffee, and while she claims to no longer want to leave Ed, she’s not totally happy with him either. Never mind that she had just posted a shot of them in a puppy kennel together, deciding whether to adopt. She then mentioned how down she gets when she clicks through her friends’ posts, showing their perfectly happy married lives. Oh, the irony. Thing is, it’s hard for me to take her seriously at all now.
No one can tell you how honest to be online, even with yourself. But if you’re going to tell your story, own it and believe it. Because, remember: That’s the narrative everyone will know and never be able to forget.