Timehop can be a pretty enlightening app during its first year of use. If you’re unfamiliar with Timehop (looking’ at you, Dad), the app displays all your social media posts and pictures taken on the current day, each year back in time. It’s fun to check in the morning, usually to say, “Hey, another cat picture!” But there is one particular year, especially around January, that is hard to look at: 2010. Because despite the fancy Instagrammed photos of my feet on a beach and palm trees along the Western coast of Florida, I know what is behind each photo, and very few others do.
I started thinking about this when I woke up this morning to the stunning snowstorm outside our window, only truly stunning because we have no responsibilities to go outside today. The only reason I’ve put on pants so far is to bring a pot of pumpkin seeds to my squirrel-friend, who looked very cold and miserable on the tree outside our bedroom. I don’t think he has quite warmed up to our friendship yet, but I have hope. Anyway, after sitting for a bit with Ben, cups of coffee on hand, flanked by cats in purring comas, I checked my Timehop for any fun insights into the past. I first realized that this is me and Ben’s “half” anniversary of meeting, something we excitedly celebrated early on, and honestly still think is fun, because why not? Five and a half years today! But I also saw a gorgeous photo of a sunset off Lido Key Beach in Sarasota, where I was living during an internship in 2010.
Now in one universe, the one where I play into social media misperceptions of reality, I would have posted the two photos side-by-side, beach and blizzard six years apart. I could have said something about wishing I was on that beach, warm and happy, mixing sand through my toes. Or I could have chosen option B, (my go-to approach with pictures from that trip) which is to ignore them, and never allow them to see the light of social media again. Or C, write a blog post all about the photos, just to make a point about something. Ah C, you’re a great option for a day stuck inside.
I wasn’t into hashtags at the time, I can’t honestly remember if they were a thing yet, and if they were, if I understood what their point was. I later learned their purpose is threefold: some people use them to tag the obvious (#feet #sand #beach #toe #metatarsals #heels); others use them to attract a group to check out their post (#actor #dancer #corporateofficeworker #brainsurgeon); and others, and this is my personal favorite for creativity’s sake, use it for subtext (#soblessed #ilovecheese #mycatisajerk).
Honest posting during difficult times however, is a tricky thing. Because in the end, who is it really for? I know when I posted my photos during that bumpy period of my life (understatement of the year), I was doing it just for me. And yet, ironically, by posting how awesome everything around me seemed, I may have alienated people I desperately needed to connect with. Was there a better option? I don’t know. But I get thinking about this whenever I see these photos come up on Timehop from that year.
Let’s back up a bit. If I’m going to allude to a crappy time of my life, I might as well at least touch the surface of what was going on. Essentially, I had recently graduated college and just finished walking the Camino. My six-day trip to London, after walking 500 miles across Spain, sent my inspired, enlightened, and motivated mindset plummeting into a sharp nose-dive to Depression-land, something I had warded off since my early teens. A relationship I had thrown all my energy into, dramatically and humiliatingly came to an end four days after reaching Santiago. As an older adult, I now know that relationships end for a reason–it’s hard, and life goes on with the support of your loved ones. But add the layer of being 22, graduating college without a solid plan, growing family issues, digging through all of my emotional layers that had been suppressed since childhood during a 5-week hike, and jumping back into a job with hostile coworkers, and that’s where you’d find me at the end of 2009. The history of anxiety and depression did not help, something I didn’t yet realize should be treated as a physical illness as well as a physiological one.
The sunny posts I see from these days usually do not have descriptions or hashtags, simply because I couldn’t lie as much as I would have needed to without sounding like a I was reaching out for help. In reality, these photos would have said (hashtags/comments added)….
Throughout the experience, I constantly thought about how I was in a such gorgeous setting while constantly standing on the edge of falling apart. During performances, I stood in the wings, usually getting nasty glances for Ms. Friendly during the show, while taking deep breaths to put on the cheery face I wanted to share with children. Looking back, I should have gone home, but had never faced a situation like this, and didn’t want to let her win. Why this girl hated me so much is beyond me, but it sure was the icing on the cake. She was very small, we probably should have just duked it out once and for all. But that’s not like me. And we all know how karma works, now don’t we.
As you can tell, especially compared to my other posts on this site, thinking about these 6 awful months of my life put me in a pretty bitter place. And so I go back to the image that inspired this post in the first place. Snowed-in with my husband and cats, blizzard going full-steam outside, nowhere to be, and nothing to do but write and watch SAG screeners. Six years ago I couldn’t have predicted this turnaround. I couldn’t have predicted that 7 months from these photos being taken, I would meet Ben, move to NY, start this blog, and forget about petty people that make you feel smaller than them. Which is hard to do when they’re already quite tiny.
We have no idea what anyone is facing when they post online, and often it’s hard to know how to reach out unless you do know. As much as I would love that every happy photo I see is genuinely from a place of joy–we only have the visual, the other senses, and more importantly, the storyline behind the photo, is left off. There may not be a way to be truly honest on social media about our emotions, nor do we really want be, but recognizing that we are only skimming the surface of that person’s life, is important to remember when comparing it to our own. We only see the feet, or the cats, or the sunset. It’s better to reach out to find the rest.