Capturing Home is a mini blog series exploring the rich beauty of home in the midst of the everyday mess, routine, and joy of life. Throughout the series, we’ll cover the freedom of embracing the ordinary, the purpose of place, and the practical ways we can capture home with the art of photography and words.
Catch up on this series:
For our final week of #capturinghome, I wanted to touch on how we write and portray our everyday lives on social media. Authenticity has been a major buzz word on instagram lately, with many people volleying back and forth about the lack of reality on display, their distaste for “styled” photos, and how it’s unfair of people to merely post the perfect.
And while I don’t have a clear answer to the dispute and am still working out how I feel about the whole concept, I do have a few questions that I think are helpful for us to ask ourselves as we reflect on the heart of the issue.
1. Why does it matter?
This may seem like a silly or simple question, and perhaps it is, but ask yourself anyway, “Why does it matter to me that other people, that I choose to follow, share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their every day with me . . . and the entire online world?” Is it so we can feel justified in our own short comings? Is it so we can measure our productivity against theirs? Is it so we can gain a deeper understanding of who they are as a person? Is it so we can know how to better encourage them? What is the motivation for our pushing authenticity in other people’s feeds?
2. Should the artist bear sole responsibility for how their art is received?
Now this assumes that someone is using instagram as an artistic expression, and I realize that this is not the case for everyone. Some people love to just snap, upload, and share the chronicle of their day with friends and family, and others like to compose, style, edit, journal a caption, and share with their followers, and perhaps this is where the discontinuity is coming from. We expect others to use social media in the same way we do and get frustrated when they choose another angle. But assuming we’re discussing someone who enjoys the artsy side of the app, let’s ask ourselves how fair it is for us to expect them to anticipate every little way their post is perceived and interpreted by every single person that views it? I personally love the artistic expression of instagram and try and merge styling with reality as much as possible.
3. Do we have unrealistic and unfair expectations of what others should share with us?
Social media has given us the incredible power and privilege of being connected to thousands and thousands of people on a daily basis, making the world feel a bit smaller than it really is, giving us honest-to-goodness friendships that we wouldn’t have had otherwise, but it also gives us the false sense that we’re closer to some than we really are. When in reality, even though we’ve seen pictures of that person in their PJ’s, welcoming their first baby, and have exchanged comments of friendship, we still don’t have a claim on their heart. We call ourselves an online community, and I like that, but it’s an entirely different kind of community than the one we experience in “real life.” Online there is real cause to guard our words, our families, and our privacy. I’m not sure, but it seems as if many feel deeply entitled to be able to peek behind the closed doors and guarded hearts of those they follow, assuming the role of prized friend and confident when they’re more of an enjoyed acquaintance.
4. Are we being vulnerable and transparent with the people we interact with face-to-face?
There is so much talk about being authentic online, but I wonder, how many are pushing for authenticity in their everyday, face-to-face interactions? How many of us are cultivating transparent conversations and relationships with the people we bump into on a weekly basis? How come it’s just the people we’ve never met in-person that we’re concerned about being honest with?
5. In what ways can I foster an appropriate level of transparency in my words and art?
No one I know or follow on instagram wants to be seen as fake or is purposefully trying to deceive people into thinking they’re something they’re not. There is a deep desire to show the real alongside the beautiful, to find the good in the bad, to commiserate in the hard, and to speak words of truth and solidarity. I sincerely enjoy the people I follow and have learned so much from their honesty and experiences. In fact there almost seems to be a reactionary fear of losing authenticity in the midst of this debate. There’s a pushback against perfection, and in some ways it’s a really good thing. People are peeling back the curtain and letting the flash shine on areas they’ve been too shy to share before, and in the process we’re empowering and inspiring each other to celebrate the messy beautiful of life. But how do we do that with our words and images?
- First, decide what transparency looks like for you in your home, in your season of life. Don’t feel as though you have to share that you lost it with the kids today just because someone else you follow chose to share that too. Gain courage from others for sharing those things, but don’t feel pressured to. “Appropriate level of transparency” can be defined in thousands of different ways.
- Second, be consistent to your style if that’s important to you. In order to be transparent about every day life, you don’t necessarily have to show pictures that prove what you’ve experienced. No one wants to see pictures of vomit, the dog pee you stepped in, or a dozen pictures of your crying children. And chances are, your kids won’t want those images to be public when their older either. I often look for creative ways of capturing images in the midst of a hard situation, but I don’t rely on it to share my story simply because it may not be an appropriate time to take a picture or it may not be an image that will fit with my style. Under those circumstances, I use words to journal my feelings about life and home.
- Lastly, use your words. I’m a writer and someone who really champions the concept of vulnerability, but it’s not something I expect others to get gung-ho about online as much as I do. There are seasons I share more and seasons I share less. But I often rely more heavily on my words than on my images to do this. When writing about an experience, I try to be honest while respecting the privacy of others involved and share with the goal of building others up (not just to vent or get things off my chest). Keeping those two things in mind I chronicle about our lives here on my blog and on social media.
I hope these are helpful questions and thoughts as you wrestle through what authenticity online looks like for you and your family. There’s so much more that we could talk about, but I think these questions are a good place to start and will lead you into deeper questions and ideas. Thank you so much for following along with this series! Feel free to click around and catch up on any posts you might have missed!