real life

'Fauxrealism' is the new way we're all hurting each other on Instagram.

 Listen to this story being read by Laura Brodnik, here.

It was an unremarkable Wednesday when I started my day with an extra-large coffee and an extra-large lie.

While waiting for the signal lights to flip from red to green so I could shuffle down the street to my office, I carefully balanced my Venti Starbucks cup in my one hand (the one without the slightly chipped polish), and rotated it until it was perfectly flanked by tall buildings swathed in morning sunlight.

With a well-practised hand, I snapped a few different angles of my quickly-cooling beverage until I had just the right ‘casual’ looking shot, popped a glowing filter across it and uploaded it to Instagram with an off-the-cuff caption…words I’d been rolling around in my head since before I placed my order.

“When your morning starts with a 7am interview and you’ve still got three stories to write before sitting in front of a camera with movie stars trying to look human when you feel dead inside, a giant coffee is an absolute must in order to survive.”

Not a caption to rival the works of Shakespeare of course (or even E.L James), and yet I still would have counted that stylised coffee shot as one of my good deeds for the day. Smug in the belief that this photo, and the dozens like it I’d posted to Instagram stories over the last few months, was a way to ensure I was never presenting an overly curated or perfected life through my social media feeds.

That week, I’d posted a lot of glamorous looking shots to Instagram, photos from movie premieres featuring free-flowing champagne, sumptuous red carpets and plenty of B-List celebs practically knocking each other over to secure their place in the spotlight.


Thanks to my job, my social media life can sometimes look very glossy, and so I felt like this harried looking coffee pic evened the score just a little, a way to bring a sense of realism into a curated platform that regularly makes so many of us feel like failures in our own lives.

Honestly, after posting that photo I was so busy looking up my shiny self-appointed halo it’s a wonder I didn’t walk into oncoming traffic and spill my coffee.

The brutal truth of this situation, however, is that this ‘realistic’ imagine barely scratched the surface of the true problems I was battling that week. Instead,  it just highlighted a more acceptable set of problems, while still working hard to strengthen the narrative I’d constructed around my own life.

If I had posted a real moment of worry and stress from my life it would have elicited a sense of pity from my followers and not the touch of envy some selfish part of me sometimes lightly trawls for in Instagram captions.

On that day I could have talked about the fact I’d just shelled out a tonne of cash for expensive and scary medical tests and now I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay my rent. Or the fact I’ve lived in this city for three years and still feel so lonely at times I want to stand in the middle of Pitt Street Mall and scream until even the buskers run away from me in fear.

But those problems and so many more I can’t even write about here, are too raw, too personal and frankly, too embarrassing, to share with the world.

"Thanks to my job my social media life can look very glossy and so I post harried looking coffee pics to even the score a little. Yet my real problems are too painful and private to share."

Once I became aware of my own use of 'fauxrealsim', a way to show a fake reality in lieu of sharing the messiest sides of life, I began to see that so many people I follow on Instagram were appearing to spin a similar web.

That week I opened my Instagram account to see one influencer, whose feed is usually sprinkled with designer outfits and beautiful travel montages, had shared a snap of her and her handsome finance curled up couch in their living room which looks photocopied from the set of Gossip Girl. 

The caption read along the lines of "just to keep things real and honest here, it's past 12am and this is what planning a European wedding for 200 people looks like. Not fun."

A quick scroll down the 'gram there was an image of a well-known actress, sitting on the floor of her mess-strewn (yet still stylish) kitchen, in a beautiful flowing dress with an accompanying caption explaining how a successful workday equals domestic failure.


And it's not just the people who use social media to fund their lifestyles or further their creative careers who are using fauxrealsim to join in on a movement created to abolish perfected feeds without letting their public masks slide too far down.

In that same feed of images, a friend of mine had posted a selfie from the front seat of her broken down car, with two mascara-laden tears dripping down her face. I knew that just days earlier she'd found out her husband was having an affair and I suspected that was the real culprit between her red face,  but there was no trace of that in her Instagram lament.

And also using the 'large coffee to convey stylised stress' trick was another friend of mine who was posting about having to head into the office on a Saturday. Except I'm sure I was one of the few people who knew that she was really there because she felt so bullied and stressed by her co-workers during the week that she pressed through the weekend in a bid to avoid their wrath come Monday morning.

Now, not one of these women have done anything wrong or should feel the need to alter their behaviour around the words they share or the pictures they chose to post.

The truth is there is not one person on this earth who owes us their stories, their humiliations, their failures or their fears. The problem is there is now such a currency and pride in sharing these 'real and raw' moments of our lives. To the point where we have all gone too far down the rabbit hole of creating glossy and glamorous highlight reels that now we've felt the need to drastically overcorrect, yet the problem is we still don't know how to share a brutal truth without out a Valencia filter.


The difference between fauxrealism and it's very distant cousin, humblebragging, is that fauxrealism does require you to share some element of reality, even if it means selecting the less-broken chocolate from the crushed box.

The trouble with believing that we're now seeing everyone's lowest lows along with their highest highs is that we're still in a position where we're comparing our lives to a curated version of someone else's, still walking blind and coming up short.

We used to all compare our best days to one another and now we're now comparing our worst, which is just as dangerous.

I don't think I'll ever find the courage to completely self-correct and share the ugliest parts of my life to social media next time I feel the need to pull back the curtain and add a touch of 'realism' to my Instagram account. But what I will do is look at the images of the people I follow with more honest eyes, knowing that their mess too has just been cloaked in a glossy filter.

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here).