I had just returned from a ‘holiday’ in Queensland, the first since our toddler twins were born. A week later and substantially poorer we returned home, exhausted. The boys’ whinging was unrelenting – they had decided not only to relinquish their midday nap, but sleep altogether and the longer they were up switching on the fan at 2.00am, the higher and louder the whinge. I felt defeated. Defeated as a multiple mum, defeated as a parent, defeated as a happy-go-lucky-holiday relaxer, just plain defeated.
Two days after we returned, a friend posted photos of her own family on a gap year in Germany. There they were, all blond-haired and summer-skinned, posing in front of medieval castles, knocking-back bratwurst while kicking back in their mini-birkenstocks. And always smiling. Always.
‘Do your children ever whine?’ I asked, expecting her to say Oh no, when they’re not singing the Hills are Alive in three-part-harmony, they just frolic merrily in the Edelweiss.
But instead she wrote Oh yes. And fight non-stop. Only now they do it in front of exquisite backdrops.
Two things have struck me about this exchange.
Firstly, that, on balance, I will never holiday with my family again. We work hard, we’re entitled to an annual sleep-in, the kids are happier at home – and sleep – it’s a no brainer.
Secondly, that in this electronic age, it is not only faces that need to be photogenic, but lives. Social networking means we are in a perpetual state of editing of our lives and the way we live them, for the most part sub- consciously. I reflected on potty-training, a horrifying task we are undertaking with the boys at the moment. This, however, is the photo I posted on facebook.
I did not post photos of the state of absolute degradation in which we reside. I did not post photos of poo smeared up one twin’s back or across the cot, of the drenched couch, the pool of wee on my new computer, of the boys slopping urine all over the floor, the 12 pairs of stained trackies hanging daily on the line, the undies I have discarded because even the power hose couldn’t assist. At times, our house makes a Calcutta slum look comfortable.
There is of course nothing new in this. I remember once marveling at an acquaintance’s idyllic island life – a perfect hut set on the absolute beach, only to be reminded you don’t see the sand flies in photos. But with the sheer volume of personal information up for posting on social media, this sand fly effect is exacerbated. People have started withholding more and more information. They are wary about dropping details of their holidays or gifts for security reasons. They are sensibly cautious about dissing the meal made by their mother-in-law. In this age of sharing there is as much editing as divulging.
Perhaps, however, this self-edit is not only for security reasons. Perhaps people, or at least older people are starting to exercise restraint with their postings because they are concerned about what employers and colleagues may think. Or perhaps, as one friend wryly suggested, people only post gorgeous photos of themselves on the Côte d’azur to make other people feel crappy about their own lives. Sometimes I wonder, but I don’t think so. If anything, I post good shots to remind myself of the happy moments. Or at least in the case of twin potty-training, moment.
Kim Kane is an author and a mother. She has written one novel, Pip: the story of Olive and two picture books The Vegetable Ark and Family Forest. She is currently working on a further two novels and a picture book.
What do you think? Do you consciously edit your life on line? Do you suspect you have friends who do?