I posted this photo on a day in mid-November. It wasn’t the day the photo was taken. On this mid-November day I was struggling with depression, but you had no way of knowing. On that day, if you had looked at my social networks, you would have thought; “wow, she is out in the world, smiling and having a great time.”
This photo was actually taken in mid-October. On the day this photo was taken I was at peak happiness. My smile was real and my joy was genuine. However, the same can’t be said for the day I posted this photo a month later…
Here’s my point: what you see online isn’t always a fair representation of someone’s actual life.
There are times when I’ve been drowning in depression, but I’ve posted a happy photo online. There are times when I’ve been riddled with anxiety and crying in the kitchen floor, but I’ve posted a fun foodie photo. In the past, I’ve posted photos that make it look like I’m out-and-about, when in reality I hadn’t left the house in weeks. I’m proof: what you see on a person’s feed isn’t always a fair representation of their actual life.
Here’s a real-life example: A few months ago I was concerned about an acquaintance. I didn’t know them well, but I had noticed a slight change in their behavior. I casually asked a mutual friend about them, the mutual friend said; “I’m sure they are fine, they post happy pictures on social networks constantly.” I walked away from the conversation feeling very uneasy. I sent the acquaintance a message. After several days of check-in’s and small-talk they finally shared that they were actually in a really dark and depressing place, but didn’t know how to ask for help. This happens far too often.
I’m a mental health advocate. So, I try to be vulnerable and real about mental health and illness. I’m working daily to accept who I am, and share it with others. This acceptance is helping me be more real online. The more real I am, the more people I can help.
I must admit, though: sometimes the desire for connectivity causes me to post happy things when I’m actually not happy.
Creating the illusion that I’m happy when I’m not is an unfair thing to do. First off, it isn’t fair to me: I’m posting happiness, when I’m actually broken, thus potentially robbing myself of the mental health support I could get if I was honest. Second, it is unfair to my followers, who don’t get a fair representation of what mental illness is really like. This unfair representation could cause them to harshly criticize themselves, because they “aren’t as happy or functional as me”.
Sincerely, you never know what’s going on through the window of someone’s phone or computer. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself.
If this is you, remember: you are not alone. Be gentle with yourself. You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not. In the words of Evan Hansen “you’re you, and that’s enough”.
Sincerely, Elizabeth – Uncustomary Housewife
P.S. — For those curious, the photo was taken at the Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel Tour. I was waiting in line to meet the novel’s author, Val Emmich.
You can connect with the Uncustomary Housewife on social networks: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also subscribe to the Uncustomary Housewife Blog.
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES: Every time you call out, you’re a little less alone. You matter, and you deserve support. For a list of mental health support systems and online communities, visit; Uncustomary Housewife – Mental Health Support Systems and Communities.
I think sometimes we can look past someone’s smile into their eyes to find sadness, weariness or depression. That old saying the eyes are the windows to the soul could be true. 😊
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Thank you for sharing!
I love this.♥️
“You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not.” I like what you’ve said! Wishing you all the best!
when I started my blog It was to escape my frowns, to live in a world of who I was and who I want to be. as time passed I slowly have let that guard down as I see more and more posts like this one, people like me, who say its ok to be sad sometimes, who know how one can be crying on the floor and post as if they are on top of the world ( sometimes scheduled posts, in my case often scheduled posts)
found you through all the shoes she wears and now am a follower
Thank you for this. Thank you for being honest about the fact that we don’t always post the full and complete picture of what is going on in our lives.
People post happy things when they are not happy. Sometimes, it’s simply an attempt to make themselves feel better, or bring their spirits up. But sometimes, it’s because they are afraid of “burdening” others with their unhappiness. Sometimes, it’s because they think they “should” be happy – and they often wind up blaming themselves for their negative feelings, which is never a good thing.
And when looking at someone’s feed or blog, all of us need to remember that sometimes what we see is not the complete truth. This is so even for those of us who are not struggling with mental health issues – many people tend to post only the upbeat stuff, and downplay any negatives. So it’s easy to get a skewed picture of what people think, or feel. We see what we think is “the perfect life” when really that person’s life is far from perfect. We must all guard against comparing ourselves to what we see online – or, rather what we think we see. No one’s life is “perfect”, and everyone has their own struggles – struggles that are often hidden from sight.
To those that struggle with mental health issues, please know you are NOT a burden. I know that sometimes, asking for help is incredibly difficult. But please try. Sometimes the rest of us can be clumsy – we can say the wrong things, or miss cues that we should have picked up on. But we really do want to help, to be the supportive, caring friend that you need us to be. We just need a little guidance in how to do it right.
You are NOT alone. We see you. We care about you. And we want to help, if we can.
There is some truth in the notion that if you fake it you can make it. The physical act of smiling and laughing induces good feelings. I work with the public and can switch a smile on in a second. Great post.
I think this goes beyond social media. People with depression often pretend to be happy around others in person as well. This makes me think of Robin Williams, the funniest, seemingly happiest person in the world and depression ultimately took him.
On my goodness yes!! Robin Williams is the best example of this…hiding behind his public mask all the while suffering. I put on the mask very very very often and it’s amazing how many people never see past it.
Thank you, Elizabeth.
I reposted this on Facebook: Healthy Strokes for Healing Folks.
This is something so important to remember about social media. I’m so glad you wrote this!