Your End Of Year Social Media Post Is Missing One Vital Thing
You’re about to see them flood your social media feeds: those ‘summing up my year’ statuses. They’ve become a thing.
Some people spend a long time curating photo montages of their best selfies and selecting the perfect phrasing to articulate their best bits: achievements, moments of joy, milestones.
It all comes from the popularity of the psychology of positive thinking and upbeat mantras. All worthy stuff. They’re fun statuses to read. But they’re not authentic. Not truly. They’re polished and highly selective.
What I’d love to see more of is authenticity: big, scary, vulnerable, bold authenticity.
The best 'summing up my year' Facebook status I ever read came from my friend Racquel, who, that year, had another series of illnesses following a cancer relapse, and the associated highs and lows of living with chronic illness.
It was brutally honest -- she described how, while convalescing, she'd "seen others succeed and temporarily resented them for it" and "actively wished people ill will or to fail" in episodes of weakness, jealousy, bitterness or just exasperation about the curated nature of social media.
In other words: being human. It was one of the most refreshing and, ironically, uplifting posts I’d ever read.
Why? Because it made me feel better about myself. The recognition. The relief. I’m not the only one.
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That post was written two years ago, but it’s one of only two Facebook posts I can ever remember reading that have really stayed with me (let’s face it, most are transactional and temporary) -- and both for the exact same reason.
The other was Sheryl Sandberg’s poignant, devastating, vulnerable and incredibly strong status she wrote describing her grief over the sudden death of her husband. The post was so widely shared, it led to her writing the book, Option B. In it, she wrote:
“I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well.
But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning...I have lived thirty years in these thirty days. I am thirty years sadder. I feel like I am thirty years wiser.
I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. ...Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not.”
If you haven’t already, it’s really worth reading the post in full. That rawness, that realness and the honesty -- no wonder it resonated so widely.
Beneath the gloss, we’re all hiding something we feel too tentative to reveal on the very platforms that package us up and market us back to ourselves, addict us and profit from those personal revelations.
When I asked Racquel about that memorable status (it turned out to be one of the most ‘liked’ ones she has ever posted), she said,“I spent a lot of time missing out on things, and I’d go on Facebook and see people having the most amazing time and I would genuinely feel jealous.
"Not for long but I’d feel it. I know I’d also feel like what they were saying wasn’t real."
“One reason I did it was because I believe strongly in the paradox. We embrace the good, but we’re terrified to mention the bad.
"We’ll say we’re happy, things are great, love my job, love my life -- but given that you can’t have one without the other, that you can’t feel blessed and grateful unless you’ve known loss and failure and rejection -- you don’t often see posts saying, 'well, today I’m feeling really lonely, vulnerable, jealous and irritable and I also spent a good 20 minutes wishing really hard that someone I know would get fired from their job or get dumped.'"
Bam. That honesty right there. That’s what real authenticity looks like.
It can be brutal and ugly and show the very worst of our human failings. But once all that is out there, on show, in an act of impressive candour, people will trust your word so much more thereafter.
You will find yourself embedded in people’s memories, like Racquel and Sheryl Sandberg are in mine. By sharing your darkest thoughts, you will bring light.
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Not a single filtered selfie, #blessed or Kim Karbloodydashian post will ever do that.
So, I propose that we should all try something different this year, and, like Racquel, share our failings and vulnerabilities as well as our achievements and joys. Maybe some Celeste Barber style pictures.
Forget about the hygge in which you luxuriated in 2018. Bring on the carbuncles. It’s time to redress the balance.