If you're comparing your life to curated images, it's time to step back for a minute.
Photos of beach vacations, a family in matching outfits, children who look like models, magazine worthy images of delicious food, advice about how to live better … this is the “daily bread” of social media accounts about parenting and family life, and they have millions of followers. It’s a lifestyle many aspire to, but few ever feel they reach.
Forbes web page on “top influencers” reveals that the parenting influencers on its top 10 list reach a public of 13 million people across various platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube). But do they really transmit messages that help families? Or have they become simply a new way to make money?
The truth lies somewhere in between. First of all, while these accounts surely reflect something of these people’s lives and may include helpful advice at times, influencers often propose ideals, rather than documenting reality with journalistic rigor. They show their followers selected and curated situations, often giving the impression of having children who do enriching activities every moment of the day; food that’s not only healthy but also aesthetically perfect; and families that have coordinated schedules and are always smiling. It can be difficult to distinguish these images from reality, especially if we forget that, for most of the influencers, their Instagram accounts are a business, tied in with sponsored links, book deals, speaking engagements, and so on. When we begin to compare our un-commercialized and un-Photoshopped lives to theirs, it’s unsurprising that our life doesn’t look like theirs.
Making comparisons can put pressure on us to imitate these lifestyles and emulate the images we see on social networks. It can also make us feel dissatisfied, or think that we’re not doing things right. We can end up always trying to find the best angle for photographs in the park, inventing new recipes and presentations of our food just for the photo we’re going to post, or buying matching outfits for children so they’ll look good on Instagram. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that, but life should be lived for its own sake, not as a production for an audience. Even professional influencers need to have a private life they live for its own sake, not for the camera.
So, if we’re getting caught up in trying to embody an unrealistic, social media-produced ideal, we need to stop and distance ourselves from these highly produced images. Remember: influencers are usually running a business, and they want us to buy into it for their profit, not ours. We should consider taking an occasional break from social networks to examine why we are using them. They are great for staying in touch with people who are far away, and sharing our joys and memorable moments with family and friends. However, we need to put on the brakes if we realize that we’re putting more emphasis on our social media accounts than on our real lives, creating an image that doesn’t represent who we really are. We need to feel free to enjoy an afternoon in the park without worrying about how the photos come out, to teach our children table manners instead of using all our time to take pictures of what’s on the table, and to be really present with all of our attention at a school event for our children.
There’s no such thing as a perfect family, no matter what we see on Instagram or Facebook. We need to be sure we’re keeping a healthy relationship with our social media, so we can take the time to live our real lives, and discover what makes us unique and different, what we need to improve, and what our children really need—which is often not what will look best on social media.
We will most likely realize that what our children need most isn’t a quinoa and apple salad in the shape of a dinosaur on a perfectly decorated plate. Instead, they probably need to learn attitudes and skills like generosity, organization, and knowing how to enjoy the simple things in life.
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