The Tug of War Between Being “Perfect” and Being “Real” Online

There’s a lot about motherhood that’s talked about on the internet.

Mom blogs are rampant — and you can find one on almost every topic. If it’s not a mom blog, it’s a mom Instagram account. Or a mom YouTube channel. All of which are gleaming with the superficial: lists of favorite products, the ingredients of recipes for a smash cake, brightly-lit photos marking the passage of time. My blog contains a lot of these things too, I’ll admit.

And we’re getting better at talking about the things that are harder — or should be hard, anyway. It seems as though every other day, some mom is going viral for revealing her stretch marks on social media, or another one is gaining internet recognition for talking about postpartum depression. Maybe it’s the jaded side of me, but part of me wonders how many of those posts are genuine, especially now that it’s become “trendy” to take the mask off and bare it all. How many of those people who claim to love their post-pregnancy bodies really do? How many of those people who share those “real” photos actually edit them first, creating a version of themselves that seems unfiltered, but rather is an image that they’re simply comfortable sharing with the world?

I’ve only written a few entries in this blog so far; when I first created it, I had the impression that I would write every day. Some of my posts, like this one, feel somewhat real, feel like me. Others, like this one, feel manufactured, like I’m trying to fit in with the mom blog genre — a place where I don’t really belong.

I’m not the mom who can share endless Instagram stories of herself talking into the camera about her day, showing off long hair extensions and perfect makeup (honestly who tf has the time for that, I call BS). And I’m also not the mom who will get tens of thousands of Instagram likes by posing in a bikini photo touting that “we should love ourselves,” or that “we should be proud of a body that created a child.”

There’s so much online pressure to be perfect, but there’s also a lot of online pressure to be “real.” But somewhere along the line, somewhere in this bizarre world of parenting where we leave digital breadcrumbs of ourselves everywhere we go, we’ve lost the ability to just be ourselves. There’s no middle ground: it’s glossy perfection or it’s manufactured “truth.” It’s airbrushed photos or it’s #NoFilter, #LoveYourself. Some of us get lost; some of us just get stuck in the middle.

And yet, the things we label “real” are also questionable, because they’re the things people choose to share. Every “real” blog post, every “real” Instagram, they’ve all gone through some form of edits, some form of thought process, where the person posting it has paused, pondered, and wondered: Is this OK to share with the world?

The truth is, I do want to be more real online, but I’ll admit that I find it hard — borderline impossible — to do so. There are things about being a mom that I will barely admit to myself, let alone my entire friends list. I think about things that I know I shouldn’t think about. I get lonely a lot, even though I’m never alone. I don’t love my body and I won’t pretend that I do in exchange for viral fame or endless heart emojis in the comments. I’m terrified of rushing away time, yet I’m constantly looking backwards or forwards, and never right here, right now. And deep down, I know I can’t talk about the things that would make me more “real” because I know that I’d censor myself, put an optimistic spin on my thoughts, and wrap it up with a pretty bow or a high-contrast Vsco filter.

Maybe the admission of all of this is as “real” as it’s going to get. Maybe my online mom persona will just always be somewhere in the middle.

Featured image by Kate Williams on Unsplash

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