The great power, smoke and mirrors of Social Media

Tonight I saw my digital self in a new light and I was reminded of the immense effect social media has on my own life. It all started with my daughter’s daycare requesting a family picture for a project they are working on. It is not surprising at all that we didn’t have any actual pictures in our house that she could bring- despite the fact that we recently had professional family pictures taken. In fact, it made me realize that I hadn’t done anything with our family pictures- not even downloaded them from the digital album that I had viewed them in.

In an attempt to make printing them easiest I used my phone to upload the pics I wanted to Facebook so I could stop quickly at the DIY photo kiosk at our local grocery store and turn my digital images into hard copy pictures. After uploading the pics I ran a few errands and attended to my sick daughter (the reason for being able to run a few errands and not be in the classroom today). It was several hours after uploading the pics that I checked my phone again. I was shocked to see over 50 likes on our family pics.

It was a pretty great feeling. A bunch of people had commented, including a bunch of friends we haven’t talked to in a long time. People had great things to say on Facebook and the joy didn’t stop there. I got 4 text messages from friends I haven’t heard from in a bit that expanded into text conversations updating each other on the recent happenings in our lives. It was this experience that served as a great reminder to me of both the power of social media and the smoke and mirrors used in the digital representations of our lives.

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Getting professional family pictures done was a first for us (other than our wedding pictures). I planned out a nice lakeside location in fall during sunset. There are lots of things we, as parents, should know are not going to go as planned. In hindsight, I should have realized planning a photo shoot with a 1 & 3 year old the hour before normal bedtime was going to be a challenge- and a challenge it was. The tone was set by the super cold September evening we got- 15 degrees colder than the average evening temperature that week. My 3 year old refused to smile for about half of the pictures and my 1 year old was rocking a near-constant snot-stream (as documented in the photo below. We left the photo shoot commenting that it was a complete fail- hoping we would get at least one nice picture to justify the money spent.

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When I looked at the pictures I posted (based on my desire to print them) I realized just how different the story the pictures told was from the real experience. We do look like we are having fun. I can see how people like Madison Holleran, whose story you can find here, become disillusioned by the “lives” we see on Facebook. My ffriends (Thanks Jason Millar for the new term) didn’t get to see the ‘threenager’ sass, the chattering teeth, and all of the out-take pictures (not to mention the later than normal bedtime followed by regular wake-up time melt downs).

After realizing how deceiving the pics were I thought about posting some more of the real story to go with the pics- but right now I am just happy looking like the family that is happy and has it all together.

I have always known that social media doesn’t tell the full story, but my experience today combined with our recent readings and conversations in class has made me realize just how different my own digital identity is from my entire identity. I agree with Veletsianos’ article The Fragmented Educator that these pieces of my identity are authentic- but they are just that, pieces, and not the whole story.


Enjoy the snow,



5 thoughts on “The great power, smoke and mirrors of Social Media

  1. Wow Brittany! While reading your post, I was making so many connections to my personal life as well. I agree that social media only shows, as you call it “pieces” of one’s life, and not the “whole story”. I appreciated reading this short narrative. My husband and I got married almost two years ago… We still haven’t developed a hard copy photo yet, and it was -42 with the windchill when we did have photos taken… We are smiling for the camera, but nearly dying between shots – pieces… Not the whole story.

    Great post! I enjoyed it… Very relevant to the class content, and practical. Nice work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel the same way about pictures showing only a glimpse of an evening, or a vacation. A few years ago I realized that we don’t print pictures to share and keep anymore. We tend to just leave them on our computer hidden in folders somewhere. I have made a big effort since my kids have been born to take pictures, but to make sure they get printed. I have started making photobooks and although they are time consuming and expensive to make I LOVE getting the finished product in the mail. I have told myself that I will make one photobook each year for each of my children sort of like a yearbook. I try to work on the page throughout the year so it stays manageable. Every 4-6 weeks I will upload my pictures and start to organize them in the book with some blurbs about what has been going on. I don’t know how realistic it will be too keep up with making a ‘yearbook’ for each year, but I can’t stand to think about all the pictures and memories simply sitting on a computer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing your picture and your thoughts Brittany! I’ve had the same thing happen to me- I recall comments made by friends and family about really having it ‘together’ and I remember wondering what having it ‘together’ means, and where on earth someone would get that impression from! On any given day our kids are crying, or someone’s screaming, and we’re late for this or hungry at that (I haven’t perfected the ‘sports mom’ snack thing -where they somehow have a plethora of non-ending healthy snacks available at every activity,yet).

    After this week’s class, it’s easier to understand that people take my snippets, as more than snippets, and fail to see the ‘whole picture’. The problem that exists for me with the struggle of perfect images, is that if I care about my digital footprint I don’t want to post every piece of our lives, and while some days my kids do some ridiculously cute and funny things that I capture in a picture and would love to share with the world- I have to be cognizant of the fact that in sharing those funny/cute/imperfect moments, I am also affecting their digital image before they have control. So now, I have to wonder, is there a way to find a balance?


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