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When I left university in the noughties, I may not have achieved many of my life’s ambitions, but at least – in that simpler, lower-tech world – I knew what I was aiming for.

Now, with social media invading even the darkest corners of our lives, whatever we do, we will always see someone richer, slimmer, more popular or more successful boasting online; meaning that rather than enjoy our achievements, we feel the need to simply set the bar higher.  Like fast-food addicts in a takeaway world, it is hard to ever feel satiated.

Whether we like it or not, we’re all running personal PR these days – and our busy friends and acquaintances are treated to our edited highlights, rather than the day to day knicker-washing, TV -watching, feeling-bored-at-work reality.  Someone out there is probably jealous of your Friday night out, the flawless skin on your selfie, or the fact that your kids seem blissfully happy – whereas in reality, you spend most Friday nights on the sofa, posted the selfie after several uglier attempts and managed to get a quick snap of the little-uns before they resumed their fistfight.

People’s propensity to post details of everything from the distance they’ve jogged to their uber-healthy, Masterchef inspired dinner plate means that no area of our lives remains secret or sacred – and everything we achieve, from chocolate fudge cake to our third daily workout is served up for scrutiny and hopefully, a retweet or two.

Weirdly, despite knowing how the social media machine works, we are also – inexplicably – caught in the trap of the world-wide web.  How come my bestie can afford the time and money to go to a spa?  Why is my nephew immaculate and properly dressed when my children seem to be – more-often-than-not – half-naked and covered in food?  How come my cousin’s got a new car and I’m still praying my dented nine-seater starts each morning?

The celebs are at it too of course: amateurishly airbrushing their holiday snaps; posting work-out pics that look effortless or calling themselves an author when they’ve really told their story to a ghost-writing journalist.

These days as a mother-of-five little ones living in a high-tech world, I’m more likely to be covered in a silvering of snot than the sheen of success; and even the highlights I do choose to share seem paltry when I look at the tweets of others.

Social media has moved the goalposts.  Being successful in one area of life is not enough.  We must also be slim, young-looking, well-known, have a Marie Kondo-ed house and the ability to cook a low-sugar, raw-food nutritious feast at a moment’s notice.  And, of course, document it all on Twitter.

In terms of ambition, we want to have it all; and we want everyone to know about it.  But each time we succeed, our old aims seem to fall short of the mark.

The only saving grace?  In the virtual world at least, until we achieve our ambitions we can create the illusion of being happy, fulfilled, modest, young-looking (at least in our twenty-fifth selfie attempt), successful, popular and moneyed.

The downside?  Someone out there is probably intimidated by our projected online self, just as we are intimidated by theirs.

The result?

Whatever we achieve, we end up feeling not quite good enough.

Gillian Harvey

Mum of five, freelance writer and prospective author... Columnist for Telegraph Expat; Columnist for Living France magazine Blogs at: http://www.mumplus5.com

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