I have been working to figure out social media. God, is it hard.
I fell in love with Facebook 10 years ago. My first post, from March 25, 2008, read: “Aaauuuggghh! I don’t know how to do this Facebook thing!” I have evolved from silly posts like that one, with some stops along the way for oversharing or airing professional grievances, in an effort to live a truthful life. Now I am more judicious about where that truthful life really belongs. I have gotten better at using filters and hashtags and presenting my best public self. Mostly.
About five years ago, I found Pinterest, and I could scroll through pictures of beautiful living rooms and historical costuming all day long. I have boards called “General Geekery” (for Star Trek and Harry Potter), “The Democratic Diva” (mostly inspirational quotes about my core values), and “Women I Adore” (Streisand, Streep, Alcott). I save photos from Gilmore Girls and Supernatural, and I recently created a new board called “It’s a Grand Baby!” That’s where I pin a ridiculous number of nursery decor ideas for my first grandchild on the way.
And now: Instagram. I joined the dreamy platform a few months ago. Here, meals are perfectly plated, fashions are always forward, and dogs never fail to make me smile. This is where my favorite authors send what I pretend are personal exhortations and juicy little details about their lives. (Did you know Glennon Doyle loses her keys all the time, too? We are so simpatico!) On IG, my BFFs are Liz Gilbert, Brené Brown, Martha Beck, Cheryl Strayed, and Oprah. We talk every day.
Had Instagram existed when I was in my 20s, my page would have been full of photos of me dripping milk down the front of my shirt.
Even now though, I am a little bewildered by social media. Unlike my daughters, who are, as marketers say, natives.
My younger daughter just posted a gorgeous selfie of herself with her cute boyfriend. They look lively and flawless, with great big smiles. She throws on a Snapchat mouse-ear-and-nose filter. Look how pretty and yet silly they are! When my older daughter hits an impressive yoga pose, she somehow manages to photograph it and post it on Insta with just the right caption. For my younger daughter’s senior pictures — destined for online sharing — she scheduled two photographers and an independent studio space, arranged for multiple outfits, a variety of backgrounds, and my bright yellow bicycle with silk flowers wired to its basket. For my senior pictures, I wore a pale blue feather boa and sat in front of a swirly brown background for a photographer hired by my school.
Had Instagram existed when I was in my 20s, my page would have been full of photos of me dripping milk down the front of my shirt or char-marked skillets full of cheeseburger macaroni Hamburger Helper. (I grew up on the stuff. I raised my kids on it, and I still love it. I don’t care what anyone says.) Had Pinterest driven my wedding, it would have cost about $10,000 more for the perfect streamers, flowers, and handwritten banners. My kids’ birthdays, too, would have been bigger and louder and with many more photo ops, so that they could stand out on Facebook and earn my children invites to all the #coolkids #parties.
I am glad I didn’t live my 20s that way. Though I sure as hell am doing my 50s that way!
Though I still feel occasionally bewildered by it all, social media does seem like a gift.
I learned about hashtags only recently, and I have been known to post some unflattering selfies. When I walk outside, I am always looking for just the right bit of nature to add to my online presence. Like my daughter, I use my yellow bike as a prop for my “brand.” I created a Pinterest pin of my new fancy living room chairs just to see if it gets repinned.
Though I still feel occasionally bewildered by it all, social media does seem like a gift. I am back in touch with childhood and college friends; I get to coo over the baby photos of my cousins’ infants. I can crowdsource advice on taking care of plants, and one of my green-thumbed buddies will help. I get to admire the creative work my friends are up to: wire-wrapped jewelry, photography, writing, acting — and I can share mine unironically with the hashtag #lovemylife.
Of course, there is danger in the temptation to live and love only online, so I take care to set the phone down. To look into my husband’s actual eyes, not just the ones in digital photos. To eat nourishing dinners, rather than just double-tap them on Instagram. To touch, to listen, to be present IRL.
Kim Bryant lives in Texas, where she manages the largest Renaissance festival in the country. You can read more of her work at fairymiddlin.com.