Back to 'reality'
Well, it has been two months since I returned from my travels and have been thrust back in to a reality that seems unfamiliar. The fact that it has taken me this long to write anything about it probably speaks volumes about my sheer disbelief that I am now 'home'. Today's US election results and Brexit earlier this year makes 2016 feel like a complete alternate reality. But anyway, back the post I drafted a short time ago and have been procrastinating posting...
Since returning 'home' (and I put home in inverted commas there because I am now back in Sydney for the first time in almost four years and I am still adjusting to calling it home again) there have been more than a few questions about my travels and exclamations of "oh, you looked like you had the best time!". These sorts of interactions have got me thinking more and more about the reality we live in, particularly regarding social media and how it alters our perceptions and expectations.
Having been a teenager in the golden age of MySpace and the emergence of Facebook, I've lived most of my late teen and early adult life in a world where it is normal practice to construct a perception of yourself through social media. Before we could clutch our Facebooks in our hands though, I remember actually logging in (who even remembers their password these days?) and then out of Facebook (how quaint, I know!) and it didn't take up much of our lives.
Travelling this year has also been incredibly different compared with my last big trip in 2008 through South-East Asia in terms of connectedness - phone calls back home were via prepaid international calling cards and emails were once every few days or even weeks depending on internet cafe availability and price - forget Skype, WhatsApp and abundant free WiFi.
But I've noticed more recently how social media platforms increasingly permeate our lives - and of course I am not the first to notice. Gone are the days of sharing your photos once you return home - now each travel day and relevant snaps are published, commented on and liked in almost real time through Facebook and Instagram. These posts serve a few purposes most often to show family members you're safe and well, but they also show one's followers that yes, indeed you are enjoying your holiday, even when you might not be.
It's these pressures and expectations to show the world your fabulous life and/or holiday that got me rather down once upon an afternoon after having compared my life to those I see on my screens everyday. I was feeling a mixture of defeat and envy when a wise someone reminded me that what I see on said screens, on social media, is what whoever is posting wants me to see. They might have had an awful day or a huge argument with their significant other, but chances are they're never going to post that on their profile.
I had an absolute ball travelling around all the places I went to this year, and I am extremely lucky to be in a position to do that, but the glorious, carefree highs were definitely balanced out by some very low lows. You might not know it though since I chose to represent just one side - the happy, traveller side - through social media, which might lead you to believe it's been all sunshine, rainbows and gelato. I am guilty as charged of doing exactly what I have pointed out above - of constructing a reality and projecting it through social media to shape people's perceptions of me and my experiences this year.
And I must admit that I have also, perhaps hypocritically, provided similar counsel to other people around me who get down about what they see on social media when they too fall into the trap of comparing their reality to a constructed and projected reality. People leave out the bad bits because they don't get as many likes, double-taps or comments. I too fall victim to this trap and have to remind myself of the advice that I pass on yup others
So I suppose my message is to remember that what you see on social media isn't always an accurate reflection of reality, and maybe even what you see is an increasingly constructed, manipulated and projected ideal of life/relationships/travel. People will, mostly, only show you what they want you to see, which isn't always the full story.
Until next time.
(Here is a random assortment of photos from my travels that remind me of the other reality I lived for a while, and one that looks rather appealing given today's events...)