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.