“We need to know about other’s lives to know that we’re okay… you need to live bravely to encourage people to live bravely in their own lives.”
Laura Jane Williams on Fiona Barrows’ There Are Other Ways podcast
I love sharing my life online. I don’t know what it is about it, but I do find something truly cathartic about getting my thoughts and feelings out into the world. This is especially true when people really respond to it, saying that they too feel that way, or they also struggle with this certain thing.
I got accused recently of sharing too much of myself online, particularly the bad parts. Someone close to me said that my social media presence was taking too much of a ‘negative’ turn, particularly on Instagram. That sharing certain parts of my life – such as struggles with mental health and loneliness – was not something people wanted to see. “Instagram is where we go to escape,” they said, “we don’t want to be reminded of the sad things in life.”
And they’re right, to some extent. Instagram, and social media in general, is a great place to escape. There are countless of influencers and creators who have accounts that are a joy to follow; all of the exotic travel destinations, career milestones, interior design goals and perfect brunch snaps. It’s a great world to get lost in.
But on the other side of the coin, it invokes a different type of beast. The dreaded social media comparison. A quick ‘like’ of someone’s photo can quickly escalate into:
‘I work hard, why aren’t I where I want to be in life?’
‘How come they can live it up in Bali, while I can barely afford a weekend in Brighton?’
‘I’m a cool and kind person, why am I not in a happy, fulfilling relationship?’
‘They’re so happy… so why am I not?’
It’s difficult to forget sometimes that social media isn’t real life; it’s a highlight reel. We deliberately capture the perfect moments, whack on a bright, shiny filter and write a positive caption to go alongside it. We omit the slightly less glamorous parts; the gum we stepped in, the photobomber we had to crop out, the argument we got into with our friends/partner because spent too long picking the perfect hashtag than talking to them.
Recently, to combat this I guess, I decided to get a bit more real on my social media. To be more honest and open about what’s going on. Because I do struggle: with money, with long depressive episodes, with loneliness, with not having a tight-knit family. And while I don’t want to be a downer, I also don’t want to be fake. If I waited to post on Instagram only when I had a perfect ‘Instagrammable’ opportunity, I wouldn’t be posting that much at all.
Sharing the not-so-picture-perfect parts of my life helps me, because it helps when I hear others share, too. When someone I follow and admire admits, “Well, actually, I’m not feeling great,” or “I’m really struggling with this today,” it makes me feel less alone. It reassured me knowing that we’re all on a journey, that healing isn’t linear, and that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes.
That’s not to say I revel in people’s misfortune. In fact, quite the opposite: I love cheering others on and celebrating their achievements with them. But to be a bit more honest about the less ‘Grammable parts of life makes me feel like we’re all part of the same team, championing each other and wishing each other the best. I feel this especially when I post something particularly tough on one of my social channels, and then met with comments like, “I struggle with this too,” and “you’re doing okay.”
I asked on Twitter about what people thought about ‘oversharing’ the less glamorous and more vulnerable parts of life, and these particular responses really resonated with me:
Isn’t that such a great sentiment? ‘If I want people to be honest with me, I’ll be honest with them.’ There certainly seems to be a nice community that’s built when we share the more authentic, vulnerable parts of ourselves. I went to a Scarlet Ladies event last night, where we spoke a lot about being raw and vulnerable on the internet, particularly when it comes to speaking about mental health, sex and personal journeys. We speak out so that others feel less alone, and in doing that, we feel less alone, too.
What I’m doing on this patch of internet isn’t ground-breaking in the slightest. I’m not moving mountains or creating big social changes. I’m simply being as honest and authentic as I can; with the good and the bad. It helps me. And I like to think that creating this type of dialogue helps others. Because if I feel this way, surely there are others out there who also feel the same?
I guess it’s a ‘different strokes for different folks’ kind of thing. Not everyone will want to bear their souls online like this, and not many will understand why we would want to do so in the first place. But so long as it helps me, and feels good, I’m gonna keep on sharing. As my lovely friend Jo Fisher once put it, “Don’t let people make you feel what you do isn’t enjoyed, loved or important.” And I hope this is a sentiment you can carry in your own life, too.