Behind the Social Media Smokescreen

January 1, 2020 | by rebecca stewart

More often than not, what we see on social media is generally a carefully constructed snapshot versus a fully inclusive picture of our lives. Just outside of the frame and beyond every #blessed, there are probably messes and evidence of a family/person truly living their life. Whether it’s their “#bestlife” or more likely their “doing the best we can life,” remains to be seen. The point is, that hours, even moments, after that picture-perfect (or too funny not to share) moment was captured and shared, everything in that family’s life could have taken a sharp left turn that very few would ever be privy to.

And that’s okay.

Some would argue, however, that it's disingenuous, this lack of total transparency. That, by not putting forth for the world to consume the bad and the not-so-great along with the good that's happening in our lives, we're not keeping it real.

But let me ask this: why does every single person - within reach of my social media postings – deserve my transparency? Or yours? Or our favorite celebrities’? Even in this era of often overreaching and immediate access to each other, don’t we still have the right to choose who gets to be part of our inner circle; inside the nitty-gritty of our lives, without being deemed duplicitous for not sharing all the things with ALL of the people?

If we are keeping it real, our life’s story is not only ours to tell. Our lives are interwoven with everyone we encounter, some just more tightly than others. As parents, we know there will come a time when we have to more carefully filter stories about our children, it’s all still happening within our sphere, but the shared ownership of those stories is greater than when we were parenting babies and toddlers.  

So, if you and I can acknowledge that life shared on social media is generally not an entirely accurate portrayal of the lives we’re all living, can’t we dispense with the outrage of this lack of transparency? We forewarn our children of this truth, but there seems to be a disconnect with our own buy-in (and theirs). Well, jeez, Sally’s Instagram makes college look like a breeze…so, why do I feel like I’m drowning? Apply that same basic scenario to every other mom looking at a “Pinterest-perfect” mama’s posts.


Generally speaking, people aren’t aiming to create deliberate smokescreens in what they post (of course, there are exceptions), but as someone said to me the other day, when we went on vacation before social media, we didn't share the bad pictures. When taking pictures meant developing literal film, we were selective about the photos we took, we weren't recording the moments we would rather forget or cringe over and then sharing them everywhere. How we let people in was different – it was over the phone or sitting around the kitchen table…Times have changed, but so too have our expectations.

It has to be okay to hold some things back. The reality is, social media, it’s not some big group therapy session. Everyone who we encounter there - just as in real life - does not have our best interests at heart. Let’s say it again: the collective "they" do not deserve your transparency. You choose who does. 

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Be kind.


Originally printed in the January 2020 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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