It starts with finding the light. Always finding the light. Preferably, an open window on a sunny day, but a well-lit room will work. If the vibe is right, the soft glow of the lamp in the corner or the faint beam of the twinkle lights hanging from your doorframe will do just fine. It always starts with finding the light.
Then comes the angle. You’ll try a few. One with the tilted head letting out a laugh…another with your lips pursed together in a sassy almost-pout. Chin up. No. Chin down. Half smile…eyes closed…fake laugh. Oh, that looks dumb…real laugh.
You turn the mug that’s full of freshly poured coffee this way, then that way…finding the light, making sure the right amount of oaky wood table is showing beneath it. You push your brunch food back the way it looked when it was first set down in front of you, before you snatched a few forkfuls of eggs and hash…before you remembered you needed to capture it.
37 screen taps to capture the photos. 37 images with oh-so-slight differences, all dragged into the editing application of your choice to be brightened, contrasted, saturated and sharpened. Then…it’s done. You have the photo. The one that will go to Instagram to await likes and heart-eye emojis and comments about how much you slay and werk and kill it.
On May 31, 2016 I posted a photo of my glass of Moscato D’Asti from my apartment balcony with a caption about my first day of big girl jobbing being the next day.
On September 5, 2016 I Instagrammed (that’s a verb now) an image in my favorite one-piece bathing suit by the pool, with a plate full of freshly grilled hot dogs in one hand and a bottle of Moscato (I really like Moscato, okay?) in the other, with a caption that referred to me as a “weiner grilling goddess”.
On October 2, 2016 I posted a picture snuggled in my bed with a copy of “Gone Girl” and a Hagen Daaz ice cream bar.
First of all, shout out to Instagram for adding dates to posts, exposing who follows who and making followers/following lists searchable. The transparency is dope. (However, sorry to everyone whom this has caused relationship issues for…being shady boots will get you nowhere, mkay?)
Second of all, I point out those three posts to say that in those posts, and all my posts, I found the light and edited my 1 by 1 image of the part of me I wanted to share at that time, exactly the way I wanted it.
You see, I know some people see social media as this big nasty fictitious place where people create these idealized caricatures of themselves to convince the world of an identity they really don’t have. I politely disagree. I think social media, in a lot of ways, is breaking up the power and bringing people together and handing out little megaphones to people who wouldn’t usually get one- which can obviously be good or bad. I think Instagram, specifically, creates the potential for us to be inspired and uplifted by, not only other peoples’ experiences, but also our own.
I think it’s downright optimistic and magical to have a place where you can keep a perfectly edited compilation of the moments you wanted the world the see. I think it’s a wonderful gift to be able to go back and see the times when the coffee was hot and sweet, your friends were close by, the joy was loud and contentment was laid on thick. I think it’s dope to have a place that reflects how capable you are of being the art director of your own experience, in a world where you don’t always get to pick the cards you’re dealt.
I think it’s really cool, but I think it should be seen for what it is- one really cool, sparkly dimension in the super multidimensional life we live.
I think we have to see it like that, and not let ourselves drown in the perceived “whole reality” of these little boxes because they are not, in fact, a whole reality.
There are things you won’t find on Instagram.
You won’t find the “holy crap, I really do not like the person I was today” post. You won’t see the “I wake up every day wishing my waist was smaller, booty was bigger and face was prettier, and it makes it really freakin’ hard to get dressed and walk outside with my chin up” post. You probably won’t see the “he’s really breaking my heart, and I don’t understand why I’m not good enough for him to be different” photo on your timeline or the “I am really struggling to find where I fit, and it makes it really tought to feel confident in what I can do” picture on your feed.
You won’t see a lot, if any, of that because it’s not what people go to Instagram for. We follow the bloggers because they have the best outfits and brunch pics. We follow the celebrities because we want to see how the other half lives. We follow the middle school friends we’ll never see again because we want to keep tabs. We follow our moms, even they only post pictures of us and our dog, because they gave birth to us, and it’s the least we could do after all that labor pain. We follow Beyoncé because, well, yah.
We do not follow people to hear about how bad their days were, how much they can’t seem to find enough love for themselves or why they can’t fall asleep because of all of the mean/anxious voices that swirl around their minds telling them they aren’t good enough and all the reasons their dreams won’t form into real things.
We do not follow people to see edited images of all the ways they feel small and how it’s tearing them up in ways we wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.
But the thing is this. Just because someone’s Instagram page is not a 3 by 3 layout of perfect squares explaining that they aren’t, in fact, perfect and that they do, indeed, struggle with figuring out the best way to find self-love and navigate their way to confidence...even though that may not be a thing- that does not mean it isn’t what’s real. From what I understand of other human beings and know of myself, all of that is very real.
I think it’s cool to have a place to go to remind yourself that there are times when your edges are laid, the outfit is perfect and the candid laughing picture of you and your best friend really did hold all of the drunken jubilance there ever was. I think all of that is good and golden.
I also think it’s okay, no…crucial. I think it’s crucial to also understand that real life trumps Instagram, and that in your real life- bad days happen. That in everyone’s real life- bad days happen. I think it’s crucial to acknowledge that you’re not strong and unbothered all the time, and that you don’t have to be. You are not obligated to show the world your scars; many people would say that it’s smart not to. I don’t have the answer to that. I just know that there are people in this world who will think no less of you if you do. I just know that you cannot think less of you for having them, for being a whole human being.
I like to read. I drink coffee every day, and I really am cooking my way through my cookbook collection. Getting dressed is one of my favorite parts of the day. I like doing the news for a living. I get random bursts of inspiration to be a better woman and friend, and I try to uplift other women. My momma is the cutest. Spending time reading through, and annotating my Bible does more for heart than anything else. Also, Moscato is the only wine I can do because it is essentially white grape juice. That pretty much sums up my Instagram posts, and it’s all true.
But I also take bad days way more personally than I should. I cry when I feel lonely. I actually cry about everything. I am short tempered. I sometimes find myself seeking affirmation in the wrong places and misplacing my sense of confidence. As much as I am learning and growing from living on my own and starting my career, I have had more days than I can count when it took every single thing I had to get myself out of bed and believe I was bringing something to the table. It’s hard sometimes. Like, really hard. I also kinda liked Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz album, so there’s that.
Basically, I’m as flawed as they come and none of that will be the stuff I choose to put on Instagram. But it’s stuff I get down about, and it’s stuff I pray on constantly and get lifted out of by the amazing people in my life….except for the Bangerz thing. I don’t know what to tell y’all about that.
So, I say all of this to say a few things. First of all, you’re a whole person, and that will still be a thing when Instagram no longer is. You are living a life that you only get one time, and while you can delete, retake and repost your photos, your life will keep moving whether you find the light or not...so I think it’s really worth it to chase it with everything you’ve got, and then fight to keep it.
Secondly, your mental health is really important. While it doesn’t put you in a cast or require cough drops or ibuprofen, it’s just as much a part of your well-being as all of the other important stuff.
It’s okay to admit that you’re not okay…even if it’s just to yourself. It’s okay to cancel the plans, turn the phone off and cry it out. It’s okay to be selective with who you let in your space. It’s okay to admit that you never really dealt with the thing that’s making you bitter now. It’s all okay, even though it’s not broadcasted for the world to see.
The purpose of your life is not to be an advertisement of continuous happiness and perfection for others. Like, at all.
The realness is what will bring you real friends, babe. It will be the thing that helps you find grace for others when you remember what it’s like to be broken, insecure or lost. It will make you kinder, tougher and more understanding. It will be the thing that trips you up, but it will also be the thing you will conquer over-and-over again. It will make you better every time, and it’s not even the thing you see on Instagram. Imagine that.
Find the light, babes.
With Love & Glitter,