kimbly grace and keiko lynn
Lifestyle

On Social Media and The Delicate Psyche

kimbly grace and keiko lynn kimbly grace and keiko lynn

photo by Bobby,  from a truly happy day with my best friend

I start so many of my conversations with, “I was listening to this podcast about…” — and that’s exactly what I’m about to do. As I’ve mentioned in my favorite podcasts posts, I love Hidden Brain. Their recent episode (episode 68) about social media and the disconnect between our real and online lives really hit home for me. It’s not that I’m presenting a fake life to you; I really don’t know how to be anyone but myself, even in my life’s most curated form. But therein lies the biggest struggle: I don’t know how to be anyone but myself —  and sometimes, I just don’t think that’s enough. I willingly put myself under a microscope with every post to social media, but my harshest critic isn’t a follower or a reader (who, for the most part, are absolutely lovely). It’s me. When I’m feeling low — and oh boy, have I ever been feeling low — I rip myself to shreds and assume everyone else is secretly doing the same. I compare my life to friends and strangers alike. And so, I found myself relating to both sides of the story on Hidden Brain: the girl who posts only the most insta-ready moments of her life, and the viewer who feels inferior as a result of that seemingly picture perfect existence.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life. While I consider myself a pretty resilient, high functioning and generally happy human being, I occasionally have bouts of depression that are so intense that getting out of bed feels like the most impossible task I could ever endure. The combo physically manifests in hives and rashes and panic attacks, and most recently this new cute thing where my feet and hands are tingling and half numb as if they’ve fallen asleep. And there’s a constant metallic taste in my mouth, same as the one I get when I’m on the verge of passing out. Only I’m not passing out, and my doctor said there’s nothing wrong with me. I just feel as though I have a mouth full of pennies, and I’ll have to wait it out…while maintaining a social media presence that conceals it. As it turns out, anxiety and depression don’t make for pretty pictures.

When I’m lying in bed, still in pajamas despite being up for hours, and chastising myself for being a worthless piece of you-know-what while simultaneously vowing to never get out of bed again (EVER), that’s when the feed full of well dressed, impossibly stunning, jet-setting women with their handsome husbands and cherubic offspring (also well dressed jet-setters) feel like a personal attack. I want to be happy for them. They look so perfectly at ease in their magazine worthy homes, so #goals with their girl squad brunches full of avocado toast and latte art (no hate, because I love both). And on a normal day, I am. I choose to follow them for a reason: their lives are aspirational, sometimes relatable (depending on the account), and I enjoy seeing the world through their lens. I might follow someone because I love their style, their skills, or simply because I enjoy their steady stream of beautiful photos. But I am fickle and there are days when I just can’t take it, no matter how much admiration I normally have for that [any] person. I have to put my phone down and walk away, because that constant feed of perfection invites too stark a comparison with my own current state of discontent. And of course, by “put my phone down and walk away,” I probably mean I toss it just out of reach, because I’m hiding under the covers. Whatever takes the least exertion.

Strangely, it isn’t until I start to come out of my rut — and I’m not totally there yet, but I’m definitely getting there — that my logic kicks back in: if I, dweller of tangled blanket nests and perpetual sad song player, am not accurately portraying my life at its sit-in-the-shower-and-cry-until-the-water-runs-cold worst, what makes me think that anyone else would? When I’m at my lowest, I’m not posting photos of myself crying or the massive bag of laundry (and adjacent pile of hangers) that will probably be worn straight from the bag before I ever get around to hanging them. With the occasional blog post as an exception worth noting, given this current draft I’m typing, I’m not airing my grievances and every personal hardship — even on this blog, I edit out the specifics. This isn’t LiveJournal, you know? Times have changed.

Instead, I’m posting photos I took on happier days. I’m letting them trickle out one at a time, rationing my backlog of content I’ve prepared in advance and filling the void with throwbacks. Because I can’t pretend in real life. I can’t take photos and make everything seem lovely when I’m feeling like hell. So I post photos from my real life, only from a better point in time. Everything is real, but it’s not always in real time. And of course, the bad stuff is edited out. And I’d like to think that for every seemingly picture perfect insta-life out there, there’s a whole lot more going on behind the scenes. I hope their lives are full of happiness and romance and  good hair days and quality time with their awesome girlfriends, because those are all great things that we should get to experience (and yeah, I definitely put good hair days in there). But I know from my own experience that for every good hair day, there’s one (or two or ten) where you can’t be bothered to run a brush through it. For every picture perfect moment, there are ten (or twenty or thirty) outtakes that immediately went in the trash. For every goals-worthy couple, there are spats and struggles and nights when you want to smother them with a pillow because they won’t stop snoring (ahem, BOBBY). And behind every seemingly picture perfect life, there is a lifetime full of varied emotions and circumstances, of tragedy, loss, love, heartache, and the positively mundane. We are all just trying to present our best selves.

It doesn’t make it fake. It just makes it a highlight reel.

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43 comments

  1. “Envy is the thief of joy.”
    I often feel like I live in the future and forget to enjoy the current moment… Luckily I have a boyfriend that reminds me of this 🙂

    • I can relate! I have a history of fretting about the future and fixating on the past, which made me feel paralyzed. But I’ve stopped worrying about the past, so it’s babysteps from there;)

  2. Behind every seemingly picture perfect life, there is a lifetime full of varied emotions and circumstances, of tragedy, loss, love, heartache, and the positively mundane..

    That got me. I recently got engaged and moved in with my fiancé/best friend, was planning on eloping only to have my parents plan this wedding… and it’s a strange thing. On paper, I can cultivate the version of myself that I wish to present, the parts of myself that are there but not all-encompassing but that are really a part of myself, and portray the pretty and the fun as the whole thing. There are moments when I’m driving to work and I want to scream or cry or veer off the road… but I fix my makeup, get to work, and laugh about the wind messing up my mascara. It’s as if people as how you are, wanting to know how the curated image of you is, rather than the person itself.. and even on those instances where people do genuinely care, it’s such a difficult and fickle thing to be vulnerable like that. Benjamin (my partner) is wonderful, has his faults, and I know that mine are the more intense of the two of us.. and yet I find myself picking at him, egging him on because what could he see in me? Why would he choose to remain by my side? And wouldn’t it be easier to show everyone the rotting walls beneath the flimsy wallpaper, or something to that extent?

    It’s a weird thing. You’re happy and cultivating a life, feeling bouts of inspiration, and then it hits you. Your lungs feel like they’re full of dust, and suddenly breathing seems like something that requires the most absolute concentration. Blanket forts seem like a safe-haven, but then you feel like you’re failing by crawling back to them..

    I know this is a lot and I’m sure not a lot of it makes sense, but last night was one of those HARD nights for me… and now I’m sitting here at work, reading this, and preparing to phone it in, be chipper and spritely, and make my way to my boss to get some signatures on some forms.. to text Ben and pretend I wasn’t a terror last night, and to plug through the day, dreading the exhaustion and knowing that I can’t be sure of what awaits at home.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that you have a way with expressing things, and I respect that about you. I can’t say I completely understand everything you are going through– no one can– but I understand my version of it. So from a virtual stranger– stay strong, and know that you’re in my thoughts.. and that you aren’t alone in this.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I totally understand the “grin and bear it” kind of way of going about your day, because we still have to function, you know? But it’s also important to make sure to address those issues head on, instead of completely burying them or brushing them off forever. And I hope you have an open and honest conversation about what you want (re:wedding), because it’s ultimately about you and your fiancé, and what works for you<3

  3. As someone who has been reading your blog for several years, I can honestly say (real talk time), that I and probably many others feel the same way as you do towards other bloggers and that my life is just not comparable to yours. You are beautiful, have an exceptionally handsome fellow, amazing furkids and have successfully been running your own business for years. This is a dream for many. And really, if I saw you on the street I would be extremely hesitant to approach you to say hey because of this view I have of you. Do you feel this way towards other bloggers/others too? I really think this is a never ending cycle of putting ourselves down and the joy of social media which has brought this curated affair of perfect highlight reels into our forefront. We no longer see the bad days, the crippling depression days, the days when we struggle to even put on a bra and leave the house. Is this because we as individuals just simply don’t want to remember the bad moments as often or because we feel we have to present a rose colored view of ourselves to society or both? Probably both. I want the best for you (and all of the other bloggers lives I read about), but when I feel like I just can’t compare and feel like I will never be as beautiful, successful, interesting or whatever my depressed anxious brain feels that day, I have to walk away for my own sanity. I love reading blogs of others, whether I find their photographs aesthetically pleasing, dig their style or simply just like their personality but I wish there were more posts like these which describe that it is not all as beautifully curated as it seems. So thank you for writing this and humanizing yourself more.

    Love,

    Heather

    • Oh, totally. I think it’s human to compare ourselves to others, and one big fault is that we compare our worst attributes with their absolute best. It’s not a fair fight. I hate the idea that anyone would look at my life and feel sad about theirs, because while I feel so lucky to have the life I have, I really am picking and choosing which parts to display. I’m not going to post about Bobby and I having a fight, you know? But we’re a real couple — together for a decade — and sometimes we argue. Sometimes I say awful things. Sometimes I look like an absolute ogre, and if anyone put a camera near me at that moment, I might actually turn into one.

      It’s important to take a step back and detox, every once in awhile. Because even when you know that they’re (or I’m) just putting out the good stuff, it’s hard to actually believe that. Because we believe what we see, and the photos don’t tell the whole story.

      And p.s. I hope that if you do see me on the street, you come and have a chat with me. Whenever that happens, it always makes my day!

  4. I love real posts like this. Thanks for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and to share something that you struggle with. I wish more people, and not just bloggers, would show the things they struggle with and not just the instagramable moments. Sending you love during the hard times! <3

  5. I appreciate posts like this because I see someone who I view through a lens also fighting, also stressing, also human. When I get stressed I get acid reflux symptoms too, my hands swell and become tingly and hot and sometimes I get shaky. It makes me feel very alone and isolated no matter how much I am surrounded by support.

    When it makes me feel like I’m flailing around in a fail pool I remember that these pictures can show how much you have to fight for your present. Not the hair and clothes and destinations but the memories and happiness. I recently had my first kid and my husband and I have swapped our carefree, unplanned weekend getaway, sleeping in, going to the theater / art museum / science exhibit / concert for a tiny person who demands all of our time and more. And when I view these pictures of people who never look like they will be getting up at the crack of dawn to make a bottle or realize at 2pm that they only got half dressed and are still wearing the shirt they wore to bed last night I get pretty jealous. (Do I even still own jewelry anymore?) On the other hand my husband and I fight for our little snatches of time alone together and they are incredibly precious. My occasional evening bubble bath is incredibly precious. Every time my kid smiles at me is incredibly precious. I have never lived so much in the present before, instead of planning for this weekend or the next vacation or the next holiday I am always right now.

    I’m sitting here and I haven’t brushed my hair and my coffee certainly is not stenciled with flowers and trees and I am wearing sweats and wishing I had the energy to do everything I really should get done today and I’ve gotten up twice to help the baby while trying to write this. But my coffee still tastes pretty good and I saw a picture sent from a friend who is hiking, which I miss terribly, an one of my things to do today is to plant some flowers I picked up in our (never going to be Martha’s) front yard. So it’s not pretty but it’s not so bad.

    • Shaky, yes! I always tell Bobby that I’m “vibrating” – it’s that weird fever chill feeling. And just so you know, I think parents are superheroes. Whenever I think about how my mom had three kids by the age of 24, I’m like…how?! I’m 32, no kids, and this morning I left my apartment with my shirt on backwards.

  6. Dear Keiko

    I’ve been following your blog for ages now. It always makes me happy. I see colours, I see joy. But I also really appreciate everything you wrote above. Behind every blog are real people with their own real struggles. It sometimes feels like everyones life goes so great while I’m feeling down and not getting off the couch for days on end. There is so much pressure to ‘live life to the fullest’ and be great, stable and successful, and honestly it’s too hard to live up to that. And you telling about your struggles (which I truly admire so much) helps me, and maybe also others, see the other side of things.

    Lots of love xxxxxx

  7. I love this and your take on it. It’s something I think we ALL think about and struggle with, but very few people (especially ‘influencers’ like yourself) rarely talk about. xo

  8. I love this. Your highlights reel is wonderful and your realness is so beautiful in imperfection. I totally want to respond to this with a picture of my piles of laundry and a video of my kids screaming. And even though it doesn’t feel wonderful to experience all those things we try to hide on social media it is wonderful to feel at all and know that all things pass if we can just remember to breathe. Hugs for you today and every day. Even the good ones.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing. I struggle from anxiety and depression too and I’m in the midst of my toughest year yet. At a high point in my career and personal life, but I’m always waiting for that next bout of depression to knock me back in my place. I appreciate you being honest and open. Hopefully one day it won’t be so weird to share all the dark parts of our lives with each other too.

    • Isn’t it strange how it happens that way? Sometimes my worst anxiety comes from when things seem too good, and I’m constantly fretting about the future and possible failure. Oddly enough, what forced me out of my emotional rut was Miku getting sick — even though it made me feel like I was spiraling even more, it ultimately made me stop focusing on my own issues and shift 100% to her and making her feel better. And since I know my emotional state affects her, it has given me that much more reason to get better.

  10. I was having a conversation with one of my besties just last night about how you can make anything look good on social media, but in reality all of those people still have mess to sort out, bad days, laundry to fold and a myriad of normal tasks to sort out. Thinking of it as a highlight reel is brilliant. I appreciate the courage of bloggers to put themselves out there to inspire those of us who read and enjoy.

    • Absolutely! I think it’s natural for most people to only want to document the best of everything. It’s not as fun to look back on the bad (or boring) times <3

  11. Thank you, Keiko – I’ve so appreciated your honesty here. I’m also one who can sometimes get caught up in the insecurities associated with assuming that everyone else’s lives are better than our own. The reality is that we all have highs and we all have lows; we have sunshiny champagne moments at times, and we have to clean the kitty-litter tray at other times. It’s how it goes, and it’s all okay. Thanks for the reminder, and thanks for the good work on your blog – I very much enjoy it.

  12. So glad I read Helena’s post and came to check out yours. What a beautifully written post that I think we can all relate to. Thanks for sharing your story! ❤️

  13. Highlight reel! That’s a really great way of putting it. Once I realised I was doing that myself, it made it easier to understand that the people I’ve been slightly jealous of in the past are just doing the exact same thing as me. I’ve been doing a lot of meditation recently to help with my anxiety and depression. It’s really helped with just figuring out who I am, and that’s made me feel more confident in myself and realising that everyone is just trying to present their best selves. Though it’s important to talk about the bad days too x

  14. Dear Keiko, have been following your blog since LJ days. Still have because I really enjoy what you post about it- through good and tough times and though I’ve not met you, you seem like an awesome person and great friend. The fact that you stay true to yourself makes your blog special to me. I look forward to the posts that you share with us xoxox

  15. I’ve followed for a long time, but never commented, and just wanted to say, “YESSSS.” Depression and anxiety are so common, and I’m only learning in my later years (turning 39 soon, been dealing with this crap since I was 9 or 10) that they’re fed by the dark, hidden places. I’m also not one to want to (or have the energy to) discuss my feelings of terror and worthlessness as they’re consuming me…but acknowledging them the teeniest bit, even, defuses them a little. And seeing someone else light up a bit with the, “Oh my God…you too??” look: that helps. Not that I want any of us to go through this crap the human mind throws at us, but knowing we’re not alone in it, that it’s not personal, that most thoughtful people deal with brain stuff…it’s helpful. Anyway, thank you for continuing to bring this discussion into the light. It can really help others.

    Also, I hope Miku is doing well! I have an older pup who had to go into the doggie ICU last year for what turned out to be a really tricky, “bad prognosis” autoimmune disorder. He’s doing much better than anyone expected (they warned us his chance of making it through the first month was not very high, and he’s still kicking!), but omg stressful. I was a wreck for awhile after it happened, and still watch him like a hawk. It’s rough to go through, even when they get a second chance, and it taught me I needed to be kind to myself and give myself some space to breathe and feel what was happening, versus assuming I’d be at 100% right after, even when it’s a not-terrible outcome. So…hugs to you and Miku, and take that “pet parent healing time” seriously!

  16. Linda Jenkins says:

    Although I am decades older than most of your followers and you, I love this post and the honesty you have shared. Nobody is perfect. (Even Donald Trump:) I hope you have professionals who help you through your dark days. Our mental health is so very important and can truly affect our physical health. Please know that who you are on all days is enough and continue to work to accept the good and the bad. We all have to learn this. As a former English teacher, I also know writing is a wonderful healer too. Keep up your good work for thousands of others and yourself. Peace and love.

  17. This post really hit home with me. Making struggles with mental illness public is difficult, but it is so rewarding, especially for the people reading it because (if they’re anything like me) it makes them fell less alone. I struggle with the things you do, and I thought of you as a person that had picture perfect life. In my eyes, this post has just made you shine brighter.

  18. Thank you for sharing! I too enjoy Hidden Brain. It’s so crazy to see someone else mention the hands/arms and legs/feet tingling as if going numb. This is something I have and it’s so hard to describe. Different than going numb, and so frustrating. My doctor thought it could be linked to a vitamin b deficiency, but as a very anxious person, I was interested to see you mention that here. It something I will definitely look into. Again, thank you for sharing. It’s nice to know you’re not alone, when it sometimes feels that way.

  19. Oh my word, I know this feeling so well. I think anyone on social media, who suffers from depression will get this. I rip myself to shreds daily too (currently battling PPD) but just yesterday I decided I’m sick of my negative self-talk and projecting things onto other people. I feel like everything I do is the wrong choice and I’m so broken. I’m just done.

    I’m also on a crusade to bring vulnerability about mental illness into the world. I have less than a thousand IG followers and so I’m relatively sheltered by being open, but anytime I’ve opened up, I hear resounding replies of “I’ve been there.” Thank you for being brave enough to share all of this, in such a public way. If we speak out, we can end the stigma of mental illness.

  20. I’ve been following you since LiveJournal days. I sound a little stalkerish but I remember your posts from then. They were raw but also inspiring because you still worked hard despite the emotions. And even though you went on to be even more successful your personality still shines through your posts. Which I can’t say for most instagrammers. Keep shinning on.
    X

  21. LOVE this. So true. It breaks my heart when I hear anyone (specifically someone who doesn’t blog) get down about comparing themselves to a blogger. I’m always like, “oh no honey – this is a Pinterest board!” I think Insta Story and Snapchat have been SO amazing for social media because it presents real-time, makeup-free, real life moments. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability to share. You have always been one of my favorite bloggers because you keep it so real!

  22. First, thank you for your vulnerability. I’ve been struggling with fairly severe anxiety that pours over into feelings of desperation every few weeks, and a lot of it has to do with social media, the comparison game, and even stupid obsessing over Instagram algorithm changes. It was hard for me to admit that publicly because it felt like such a stupid thing to get upset over, but it paid off to make it known to people I trust, as well as share about it on my blog. I’m not over the hurdle, but, like you, I’m starting to be able to reorient some of these negative emotions into productive, life giving conversations and creative exploration.

    We’re all in the same boat even when it seems like some are more resilient than others. I don’t know, maybe they are, but it doesn’t make those of us who struggle – publicly and privately – *less* somehow.

  23. Thank you for sharing, and being so honest! Know that you’re not alone…I keep a journal just for my “what I have to be grateful for” lists…and I use it constantly. I’m my worst enemy some days…and it helps to keep me at bay with tough thoughts…I’m able to breath a little bit. Also another thing I do is locate a few things in a room the moment I feel a panic attack coming on…just a few things to redirect my focus. Such as counting ceiling tiles…no joke I do it. People I’m sure are wondering what the heck I’m looking at but hey it helps sometimes.

  24. Well, after having a day of it myself over here I just climbed into bed and decided to catch up on the posts I missed while I was traveling this past weekend.

    And here- my friend sharing something so real. And I appreciate it so much.

    Love youuuuu. Catch up like, oh probably tomorrow. xo!

  25. It feels so appropriate that this was posted on my birthday, because WOO BOY was I feeling this (do holidays or birthdays ever trigger your depressed or anxious brain? It does for me for some reason. I legitimately stayed in bed all day and cried and watch a bunch of trash TV. People were calling and texting to wish me a happy birthday and I had to cut off my phone, because the thought of peopleing was just too much.)

    First of all, thank you for being so honest about the struggles of depression and anxiety. I have both of those, too, coupled with depersonalization episodes (looking in the mirror and not recognizing my own face, feeling that “out of body” experience, it’s extremely terrifying) and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. You articulated the feeling well, I also break out into rashes, and I get EXTREMELY forgetful during bouts of depression. The impulse to die (via “What if I just jumped in front of this car”) or worse, the even-more thought out suicidal thoughts, are the absolute worst, it feels like your brain doesn’t even belong to you at that point.

    I also experience a lot of involuntary muscle movements with anxiety, and it makes me even more anxious when people point them out to me, like YES MY HAND IS SHAKING IT’S FINE, NO I’M NOT COLD OR NERVOUS JUST ALWAYS ANXIOUS, THANKS FOR NOTICING. The numbness and tingling can be a sign of overactive nerves, which is likely due to the anxiety. Have you tried a new medication recently? That could explain the copper taste.

    My favorite is when people are like “I WOULD HAVE NEVER GUESSED YOU HAVE DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY, YOU SEEM SO PUT TOGETHER” and it’s like ya because I’ve gotten really good at hiding it both on and offline. I’m making more efforts to be more transparent with people, as I think it helps us forge more connections in the age of social media correspondence.

    I’m super tight with my therapist, Ed (a 65-year-old dude with one earring and a thick NY accent), and we had a lengthy talk about social media and its effects on the psyche, because I was feeling this especially as a blogger (I started my blog in 2012 but didn’t post regularly enough to gain a following due to mental illness and other personal stuff, and other bloggers that started around that same time are HUGE now. Definitely bruised my ego.) He reminded me that social media is a tool–the tool itself does nothing, but depending on how you use the tool, it can cause harm or it can be useful. The most important thing to note, he said, is that we have the power to control the tool–the sense of anxiety or comparison comes from the feeling of us lacking control, control of our surroundings, emotions, what have you. Once we let go of the uncertainties, we begin to better appreciate the tool for it’s unique possibilities and how we can use it to enhance our lives as opposed to restrict them. He said it much more eloquently than that but I haven’t had enough caffeine to formulate my thoughts properly.

    Regarding the comparison, when you mention the “highlight” reel, it makes a lot of sense and we’ve all been there–but to put it bluntly, a lot of people are seeing through the “carefully curated” bullshit that most bloggers are putting out these days. The reason people became attracted to blogs and social media personalities in the first place is because they represented the “real person” aspect and not the paid spokes-celebrity hawking a product. I find myself drawn to bloggers and Instagrammers like Design Love Fest, Paige Joanna, Annika Victoria, and Studio DIY (her story about trying to conceive really choked me up) because while they have inspiring feeds, they also aren’t afraid to ~go there~ about their struggles. A lot of people are gravitating more towards the “realness” whether in mild or major forms, because they need the reassurance of “I’m only human,” which again could be perceived as both good and bad.

    Personally, I would love to see more rawness like you presented in this post, it makes me feel like I know you a little bit better and makes me want to continue reading your blog. I’d much rather hear about a blogger’s off day(s) than to see another bot-loving bae posting a methodical flatlay and her oh-so-unrelatable #thinspiration bikini beach bod laying out in Tulum (all expenses paid, of course). Zoe London actually did a great post recently called The Fake Side of Blogging, which really resonated with me, you should check it out.

    Send you positive vibes and a reminder that this too, shall pass. <3