My voice has been silent for quite some time. Not because I haven’t had anything to say. On the contrary, I have have many, many things to say over the last couple of months. Too many things to say, honestly. It’s been too much to think about, to process, to understand and ultimately to write and to express in words. I’ve been lost in thought, quite literally. Lost in the sense that I have no idea where to start expressing my thoughts or frankly why I feel the need to share my thoughts. But I do feel the need to share my thoughts. As part of this time of silence I have come to understand, more deeply, who I am as an individual and I believe that I am someone that has a voice and needs to open my mouth and share. So, here I am. I’m sharing. Take it or leave it for what it’s worth. The one thought that hasn’t been able to escape my mind is the thought that we need voices of truth to illuminate our paths. My hope is that my voice can be a voice of truth to help illuminate our paths as we navigate through all of the controversial and uncomfortable discussions of our time.
In light of the recent topic of “Lifestyle Porn,” which is a term that I just became familiar with due to a recent blog post being circulated, along with all of the other discussions going on regarding the negative influence of blogging and social media, I have had many thoughts on the subject and felt that sharing my opinion might help to bring perspective to the discussion. The biggest complaint that I hear being thrown around,regarding social media posts and blog posts, is that people aren’t “real” with their content or that the picture they are choosing to post isn’t “reality.” My reply to this complaint is two fold.
Firstly, so what?
So what if it isn’t “reality?” Why is that the standard for a social media post? Now, I do want to clarify that I’m not defending those fake bloggers or fake Instagram accounts. I am also not ragging on those who decide to use their social media accounts to showcase their “reality.” My intent is to only help us understand what we are truly asking for when we demand that everyone depicts “reality” in their posts.
From my perspective, I’ve been blogging since I was 15 years old, arguably before it was cool to blog. I guess you could say I’m a “hipster” in the blogging industry. Haha. Blogging was a creative outlet for me and I was literally surprised when people would comment or read my blog. My intent was purely creativity and an emotional outlet for me. My blog began as simply recording history-an online journal of sorts. Over the years it morphed into poetry and emotional expression of my experiences. Writing helped me to get through some of the hardest times of my young life. I soon began multiple blogs to explore different content such as music, religion, even hilarious dating experiences. When I left for my mission I didn’t realize how important it would be to back up all of my blog posts onto my computer and when I came home 18 months later, every single one of my blogs were deleted. Vanished into thin air. I tried everything to get them back, but they were completely gone and I was crushed. The reason I share this experience with you is to give you a background to how important blogging has been to me and how devastated I was to see my creative writing pieces completely destroyed. I was so upset that I waited over a year before writing again.
The reason I share that personal experience is to help you understand that although I have chosen to write about my real experiences and my real thoughts and feelings on my blog, not everyone feels the need to do so, but that doesn’t mean that their content isn’t important to them. Think about all of the fictional books that have been written, think about all of the fictional tv shows that we watch. Think about all of the advertisements we see, or the actors that we admire in fictional movies. None of those things or characters are “real” but they are still beautiful. They are still artistic. They are still creative and inspirational and worthwhile. If people decide to use Instagram as a creative outlet where they showcase their creativity, in whatever way that is, why should we demand that they are presenting “reality?” If an account doesn’t appeal to you, don’t follow it. If someone’s blog is just a bunch of “fake” or “set up” pictures and content, don’t read it. They are simply using their blog as advertising and they have every right to do so. I have chosen not to pursue using my blog as an advertisement but that doesn’t mean I look down at someone else because they do. It just feels like we are trying to start some sort of “dethrone the mommy bloggers” movement, which I don’t feel is what is truly needed.
The problem I have with the current discussion is that I don’t agree with grouping certain bloggers together into one stereotype and labeling them as “porn” for an entire demographic. That’s a little bit extreme. Porn is an entirely different thing. Let’s not pretend that they are even remotely close to the same thing. I think what really needs to be said is that as women (I say women, but these principles apply to men as well) we need to become better as seeing through facades and appreciating the inspiration that is available to us. I think the root of the problem with “mormon women culture” isn’t the blogging, or the so called “lifestyle porn,” but it is the women themselves. The root of the problem is that women can be envious and competitive and seeing other women that are, in their perception, more “successful” than them, can cause some pretty negative feelings of comparison. Maybe the problem is that women are allowing themselves to only be consumers instead of creators. Constantly consuming consuming consuming without looking outside of their consumption and trying to create something beautiful in their own lives. The solution isn’t shunning these bloggers as a whole, but learning how to balance your own feelings of envy and competition. If you can’t handle seeing pictures of another person’s “perfect” house, don’t look at them. I personally love seeing pictures of beautiful houses because of the simple fact that they are beautiful. Do I demand that my husband make more money so I can have a house like that? No. Do I all of the sudden have unrealistic expectations of what my life should be like? Nope. I’ve been able to get some really good ideas of how to decorate or organize my house in a way that feels more beautiful and artistic to me. Nothing wrong with that. In the end, the bloggers that are completely lying to their readers by depicting a facade as reality, will ultimately only hurt themselves or just lose followers.
Secondly, reality is fluid.
No, not the liquid fluid…I mean, reality isn’t stagnate. The problem that I have in demanding that social media posts are “real” or that they depict “reality” is that how do you define a “real” Instagram picture or a “real” blog post? Reality is ever present and ever changing. My reality right now is that it’s 1:28 pm in the afternoon, it’s 60 degrees outside and sunny. Your reality is probably different. For all my Utah peeps, you’re probably freezing into icicles right now. Yes sometimes my reality involves a crying baby, like it did 15 minutes ago, but my reality now involves a sweet napping baby and a clean house because I had the time to clean it. If I took a picture of my house right now it would look pretty darn good, but would people take one look at that and think “she’s not depicting real life, she’s just trying to look perfect.” The problem is that we are acting as if reality should always look messy, and always look chaotic and always look imperfect but I am here to argue that sometimes I really do have “perfect” moments. Few as they may be, I do have them and those are the moments that I, personally, find beautiful and artistic and worth capturing. They aren’t the only moments I capture or decide to post, but when I do capture, what I think is, a perfect moment, I found joy in being able to share that.
Maybe to you, a “perfect” moment involves capturing your crying baby and saying that you are cherishing that time with her. That’s beautiful! Maybe to someone else a “perfect” moment is posting a picture that they took hours to capture and prepare for. That’s equally beautiful! How many of you wait until just before sunset to take the “perfect” picture of the horizon? I’ve done it many times and I do it because I found it fulfilling. In my opinion, perfection is worth working for and capturing and I think the whole idea behind Instagram is to provide a creative and beautiful feed to share with other people. I don’t know why people started holding onto the idea that social media was designed to show our “real” lives and our “real” lives only. Do we even show our “real” selves when we are out in public? I know that I don’t. Unlike the privacy of my home, I usually wear pants and I usually at least try to brush my hair. I never express to people how I am really feeling unless I know them pretty intimately and trust them. When a stranger asks me how I am doing I usually respond “good, how are you?” without really blinking. It’s not reality, but it’s still acceptable in public. So what is the difference with social media? What is the difference with blogging? Aren’t they just another way of presenting yourself in the public eye?
Our True Potential for Perfection
I believe that we are all beautiful, creative souls that are trapped in bodies that are imperfect and flawed. We live in a world that is chaotic, sometimes frightening and ugly at times. We find it easy to make wrong decisions because we are still trying to understand how to follow God and balance our desires. All of these things add to the idea that imperfection and chaos are perhaps the only reality, but I believe that underneath all of that, we do have the potential for perfection, beauty and inspirational creativity. I believe that perfection can also be our reality, perhaps in small increments at a time, but still a reality. I mean, isn’t that the whole entire point of our earth life? To become like God which, essentially, means to become perfect. I think that’s why the idea of perfection is so appealing. I think that is why I enjoy seeing beautiful scenery, pictures and videos. I honestly enjoy the Instagram accounts that I have chosen to follow because their posts are inspirational to me. I enjoy the bloggers that I follow because, although the pictures they post might be “set up,” I still think they are beautiful and walk away feeling more inspired. I enjoy it because I know that deep down, we all have the potential to become “perfect.” Whatever that even means. I don’t know if we even truly understand the meaning of perfection just yet.
So here is my proposal, instead of judging and stereotyping, and creating a bunch of negative energy towards our fellow brothers and sisters, let’s celebrate the beautiful pictures that we see on Instagram. Let’s celebrate the blog posts that inspire and uplift us. Look for the good and follow the good. Allow people to use social media in the way that they choose to use it. Allow them to be creative in the way that they choose to be creative. Above all, remember that truth is universal, it is something that is plainly seen if desired. As you use social media and as you read articles, blogs, essays, etc, remember that truth will present itself to you as you seek it. Look for the truth and relish in that truth. I think we forget sometimes that we have a loving Heavenly Father that will open our minds to truth and inspire us to find those things that are lovely, praiseworthy, beautiful and good. Seek after those things and create good things of your own making! I truly believe that each person has their own potential for creativity and will feel more happy and inspired in their life if they choose to create. Maybe for some that means using social media or the internet as a means to that end but maybe for others it won’t involve them at all. Whatever your means, create and appreciate the creativity in others.