The Danger of Selective Transparency on Social Media: Why Our Moments Behind the Scenes Often Matter The Most
I truly believe that our lives are complex masterpieces interwoven with contrasting moments. Each one of ours lives is encompassed with moments of stress and difficulty, moments of joy and victory, and ultimately moments that once combined, attempt to paint a comprehensive picture of who we are and what we value.
There are 1,440 minutes in a day and I never cease to be astonished by how equally productive and lazy I can be during those same minutes. But one of the most beautiful things about our diverse world is that every one of us redeems those same allotted minutes in unique ways depending on our circumstances, motivation, personal values, etc.
Now in my egocentric mindset, I have to admit that I often assume I am familiar with the the inner workings of my loved one’s schedule. And I inaccurately assume this because I instantly think that by spending a infinitesimal portion of my day checking in with my loved ones (whether through in-person or virtual interactions), I thereby understand how they choose to redeem the remainder of their minutes. Logical right? Hmm, maybe not so much.
But I like to think that my silly delusion seems less delusion when realize that it is nearly impossible and illogical for most adults to share even three fourth of the 1,440 minutes allotted in their time bank with another person.
So what do we do? Well based on personal observation, I think that we make up by for our limited ability to share the entirety of our moments by choosing: choosing what moments we want to share and what reality we want to carefully craft.
But the rise of social media has complicated this process even further by allowing us to go one step further than sharing a handful of our most memorable moments with our loved ones.
Snapchat, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc., each not only give us freedom, but make the process of editing and framing what moments we want to highlight and to whom we want those highlights to reach nearly effortless.
And when it comes to social media I have noticed that most people land somewhere on a spectrum of social media transparency. Some people choose full transparency--leaving no latte, social event or rant un-captured (confession: I can land here sometimes). Whereas those on the opposite side of the spectrum choose to simply observe the transparency of others while remaining mostly incognito themselves.
I think this spectrum of transparency is natural. And I think framing our lives in most ways is natural. But what degree does the selective transparency that social media perpetuates affect our mental health, perceptions of others, relational intimacy, etc.?
After taking spending this past week focused on my moments in between (aka moments behind those publicly posted) here are a few of my major takeaways about the danger of selective transparency:
First, selective transparency can obscure reality.
See this picture right here:
Guess what? Just like so many social media posts, it is framed in an attempt to strategically capture an “Insta-worthy” picture.
Or see this picture right here:
Guess what again? This photo may appear naturally effortless but it all actuality, it was nervously captured in between buzzing cars, judging looks and an array of seriously awkward outtakes.
True as it is that an aesthetically pleasing photo may not actually lead a person to degrade their lives, but based on personal experience, I think most of us would argue that continually framing and viewing perfectly framed moments certainly does.
Now by many accounts our desire to frame and publish a select few of our moments seems logical. I mean it makes sense why I want to post a picture of my rare and lavished brunch, rather than my generic, organic and almost always on the go breakfast, right? Or why I would want to post a picture with my friends and I at a polished night out instead of a disgruntled group photo during midterms?
But despite the logic behind choosing to highlight certain moments instead of others, many of us still unfortunately fall victim to the same obscured realities that we present.
Simply put, I think that we often compare our true realities with the perfectly framed one’s we see on our shiny, attention-grabbing devices.
All this to say, by accepting framed reality as authentic representation, social media and the selective transparency it enables, perpetuates a harmful cycle of comparison.
Second, selective transparency often inhibits us from truly embracing behind the scenes moments (aka what I call “the moments in between”).
Like mentioned earlier in this post, there are 1,440 minutes in a day and no matter where you sit on the social media transparency spectrum, a rudimentary understanding of time argues that everyone experiences plenty of moments amidst their framed realities.
To me these “moments in between” are moments not deemed by social media as necessarily glamorous, but those that are nevertheless valuable and arguably even more memorable than the moments we perfectly frame or capture.
Sometimes these moments arrival in the form of deep conversations, subtle smiles, gentle hugs, revealing self-reflections, prayerful drives, passing encouragements, or selfless acts of service. And other times they come in the form of cushy beds after discouraging days, comfort meals and routines in the midst of unnerving schedules, or monotonous, but meaningful observations of society.
And while each person could craft their reality in a certain way, I have to admit that it is often easier to appreciate my perfectly framed moments over equally meaningful, but often less glamorous ones.
I can only speculate that my unfortunate discredit for moments in between stems from social media’s unfortunate rubric for success; a rubric that appears to privilege certain moments over others and by consequent, frequently leads us to disparage the ordinary and unframed, but equally meaningful moments in life.
The moments that press and mold us. The moments that once combined, comprehensively paint a much more accurate picture of our lives than any combination of our framed realities can.
Third, selective transparency often presents success as a basic arithmetic problem, rather than the complex and grueling calculus equation it actually is.
And last but not least, I think that because selective transparency often fails to depict the hundreds and thousands of minutes that successful individuals spend toiling away behind the scenes, it is easy to distort how much time and effort we will need to exert in order to reach certain goals.
If we accept a framed final product without acknowledging the millions of challenging steps behind the success we observe (whether spiritual, emotional, physical, academic, etc.), then we do ourselves an injustice.
We do ourselves an injustice because we inadequately prepare ourselves for the road bumps and opposition that we will inevitably have to experience behind the scenes. Ultimately we set ourselves up for failure: a failure that stems from our irrational and incomplete comparison of our behind the scenes hustle with another person’s selective representation of their success.
Well that concludes my post, but I would like to end this post by introducing a new picture and video series I am starting called #momentsinbetween. As you will see in my first video, this series is simply meant for individuals to share and embrace their raw #momentsinbetween.
Ultimately, I want to challenge myself and anyone else who is interested to occasionally step outside the norm and embrace the real, boring, meaningful and messy moments that are not always perfectly framed or polished for publishing.
Here is my first video in this series: