I was sitting in the kitchen with my own, perfectly wonderful, boyfriend when I saw it: yet another gorgeous photo of my friend, Michelle, and her boyfriend out on a date. And in the time it took me to stumble on the photo in my feed, double tap my screen and move on to the next one, a million wordless thoughts raced through my mind.
Ugh they look so good together. Oh they’re out on a fancy date. Well, she looks fabulous as always. I want to look like that. I want US to look like that. Why don’t we have that?
So I bitterly and resentfully whined to Daniel, as if it were all his fault, “Why don’t we go out too?” Because I wanted a pretty relationship like theirs, and I wanted pretty pictures like those.
And so, Daniel thought to himself, but voiced in gentler terms, “you’re crazy”.
The truth is, we don’t go out too much. He’s been raised to appreciate home cooking, and it hurts me to drop $60 on a dinner when I know I’d be just as satisfied spending the time with him elsewhere and for less cash. So, many times, we opt to stay in. It’s a combination of exhaustion (our work schedules are polar opposites of each other and one of us is always feeling emotionally/physically spent), laziness (it takes him forever to get ready) and time effectiveness (2 hours round trip on the subway for a one-hour meal? No, thanks.). And when we do go out, we always forget to take that ‘night on the town’ selfie.
I don’t blame us; but in that moment, I did. I was thinking, what’s wrong with us that we don’t have such pretty keepsakes, too?
But there is nothing wrong with us. The only honest-to-god difference between my relationship and Michelle’s (other than absolutely everything because every relationship is unique and hopefully beautiful) is the two seconds of time she and her boyfriend took to snap and post a picture. Okay, maybe a little more to add the filter.
But realizing that the variance in our social media feeds doesn’t constitute a fundamental difference in the way we interact with each other is hard. Because it’s so damn easy to take a pretty picture as is, and cast out the rest.
Here’s the truth:
Michelle is a talented photographer. She’s been secretly borrowing her dad’s camera for YEARS and spending more time learning Photoshop than you and me combined. People always wonder how she takes stunning photos, and here it is: she put in the f*cking time to learn.
And I’ll bet you any sum of money that Michelle can attest to how much of her life her Instagram doesn’t show. Like how she works a billion hours a week, and so does her boyfriend. Or that she’s so involved around her house with her little brother that life gets hectic very often and very fast. And how much of a treat it is to just go out, not worry about cooking or dishes or noisy siblings, and just enjoy each others’ presence.
So let’s all please stop taking pictures at face value.
They aren’t worth it. Often we inject too much value in others’ pretty moments, belittling our own in the process. It’s counterintuitive not to compare your raw present to somebody’s post-edit, but we have to try. Because if we don’t stop miserably chasing perfect pictures, we’ll miss out on picture-perfect.
And that, as far as I can tell, won’t bring us success.
A special note to Michelle & Erik: Please, as I’m sure you will, take this piece as a compliment. I wish the two of you only good and happy things, and hope for you to always be blissfully in love.