​What You See Vs. What You Get

Kasey Schumacher

what you see—kasey schumacher—oct 2020

As I'm writing this, my phone is holding 9,614 photos. No, that's not a typo. Nine thousand photos. I'll easily hit 10,000 by the time 2020 is over. I'm not some photo hoarder — 95 percent of those photos are of my 2-year-old son. I'm the proudest of proud mothers, so I snap pictures of him all the time.

Interestingly enough, though, I've shared only a handful of my son's photos on social media. Why? Well, first of all, I don't want to be one of those people who posts constantly. I also try to avoid sharing my entire life on social media. And even though he's little, I still think there's something to be said about being considerate of my son's personal privacy. Finally, I've listened to enough gruesome true crime podcasts to be paranoid about oversharing and its detrimental consequences. Given the sheer number of photos I could share of him and the number of photos I do share are so different, I put thought behind what and when I post.

I recently shared a photo of my son and me on Instagram. It's a sweet picture of us lying on the couch – my eyes are looking into the camera, but he's more interested in the movie “Cars” playing on our television in the background.

I received a direct message shortly after I shared the photo. Someone said something along the lines of, “You always share these picture-perfect mom moments!”

I kind of shook my head in confusion when I read the message. Did this person write to the right person? Me? Are they talking about me? Are you kidding me? I'm the furthest thing from that. Trust me, I'm never going to be one of those picture-perfect Pinterest polished moms (try saying that three times fast!). That's not my endgame, that's not my intention, and that's certainly not my experience.

I responded to the direct message with a lighthearted, self-deprecating joke. I tried to move on with my day, but the message kept popping up in my head. I see moms all the time on social media who seem like they have it all together. I logically know that's not reality. However, it's still difficult to avoid comparing yourself with others on social media. It never crossed my mind that a photo I shared would ever make someone respond the way this person did. I wasn't upset by the comment; it just made me think – a lot. There's always an intention behind what someone shares on social media, but how people perceive what they share can be completely different. You're inevitably communicating messages even if you don't mean to communicate them.

From the outside looking in, I guess I can see how the picture I shared comes across in a certain way. My goal in sharing the picture was not to show any type of "picture-perfect mom moment." I merely liked the picture and the memory we were making when I took it. In fact, I'd be lying if I said there aren't several less-than-beautiful outtakes sitting in my camera roll of the same moment. I was dealing with a lively, adorable, 2-year-old model, after all. (He was mid-sneeze in one! Maybe I should have shared that photo!) When you have 9,000+ photos to choose from, you naturally decide to share the best one, right?

The interaction I had with this person who sent the direct message was a reminder that what is shared on social media is a tiny fraction of reality (and sometimes it's not reality at all!). It was a reminder to step back and think about the natural disconnect between posting intentions and others' perceptions.

I can't control what other people take away from what I share. But, I can control what I share and why I'm sharing it. I can also control the snap judgments I make in my head about what other people post and share. Just because I see someone's life a certain way online does not mean that's how it is, nor does that mean that's how they are attempting to showcase their life online.

Online, I share a tiny fraction of photos I actually have sitting in my phone. Online, I also share a tiny fraction of my life compared to what it actually is. We all do. And we should all remember that fact as we make assumptions and judgments about other people.

Stay up-to-date

Sign up for a monthly digest of everything new in GB.