The selfie. It’s as ingrained in our culture as cheeseburgers, football, and Kardashians. It represents a raw, candid view of reality, right at that moment in time. Or at least it’s supposed to look like reality. Take the above photo, for instance. What do you see? Johnny and me, dressed to the nines and happy after a day of wedding festivities. A perfect, romantic night. What don’t you see? Me, with a migraine, and Johnny in a rented suit that doubled as a sweat towel. Less than an hour later, I’d be throwing up on the side of the road thanks to said headache. And then a little after that, throwing up in a McDonald’s cup in the car. How very romantic indeed. Apologies.
There’s always more to the selfie than meets the eye. The problem is that the person taking the selfie is the only one who knows what that “more” is. And he/she can include as little or as much as he/she pleases. For the most part, the measurements of our lives — our happiness, relationships, style, excitement, and financial success — are all presented in a very controlled manner.
This can be a problem. Don’t get me wrong, most of us don’t jump on Instagram expecting or hoping to be inundated with the harsh realities of our friends’ lives. We want to see the ideal and glamorous and picturesque because, oftentimes, we want to escape our own reality. I prefer to document and remember the happy, exciting moments of our lives, and I enjoy seeing others’ beautiful moments. But it becomes a problem when we start seeing others’ pictures as a reality we should measure ourselves against.
It’s really hard to not feel cheated about sticking to a strict budget after a scroll through our social feeds. Perfectly colored hair and manicured hands and painted lips and adorable outfits — it leaves us wanting it all. Not to mention the impromptu trips to Europe or the tickets to a sold-out show or an evening at an exclusive restaurant — all with your friends’ carefree, happy faces plastered with their very best selfie smiles.
These documentations aren’t the problem. Everyone has a right to post their happy life moments. The problem occurs when we think of their pictures as a full documentation of their lives. And we try to measure our success against their presented success, and we end up feeling like we fall very, very short.
And when you’re on a budget, you may feel especially far behind everyone else’s perfectly-everything lives. But few of us know what’s going on in the undocumented parts of people’s lives. And we don’t need to know. But it’s not always (or hardly ever, really) quite as peachy as it seems. Some of the people who are living a top-shelf selfie-life actually have bottom-shelf finances. And some people who are smiling their best selfie smiles actually have a raging migraine. Well, at least one person.
The key is to not compare. There’s no point in keeping up with the Joneses if you’re not keeping track of what the Joneses have (or don’t have). Don’t measure your success, financial or otherwise, on these unrealities. Measure them on goals that you’ve set for yourself. Measure them on where you were a year ago versus where you are now. Measure them on your balanced budget at the end of each month. And then keep on double tapping those selfie pics and telling all your friends how beautiful they are and were in that nano-second that was their reality.