My wife and I attended a marriage retreat a few years ago. We like to do this from time to time as a commitment to each other and as a sign that the health of our marriage is important to us both. It is often easy to get carried away with work, personal hobbies or the basic survival necessities; $300 trips to Costco, daycare drop-offs, the 8 loads of laundry that need to be completed each weekend and an endless pile of bills. A weekend marriage-minded get-away can be good for the soul.
Through social media we see images posted of what appears to be the perfect family. The Mitchells took a great trip to Florida last week and all of their kids are smiling at Disneyland while the Palmers just ran a family half marathon and joyously went out for ice cream after. It is easy for people looking at those photos to think that a perfect life exists or that their own family is dysfunction by contrast. In the real-world, my Facebook posts would contain images of my son having a meltdown in the backseat of the car or maybe pictures of my over-grown lawn that desperately needs care. Despite what jaded world Facebook may show us, in reality, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” family.
Generally, people only show the good aspects of their family on the Internet. Sure, there’s always that one friend who airs their dirty laundry all over social media, but they are the exception, not the rule. People post images of who they want to be rather than who they really are. This faux reality is unhealthy to both the poster and the viewers.
Naturally, people only want others to see good things. While they’re not aiming to deceive others into believing that, in their world, everything is perfect and their families don’t have any negative issues. It’s completely normal to avoid throwing yourself and children under the bus by avoiding posts with negative or embarrassing images . Who wants to be Debbie-Downer? Instead, we are being selective about what we share and selective in a way to frame the perception of happiness.
Family dynamics are always changing. Nobody on this Earth is perfect, so no family can be perfect, either. Judgement of other families and comparison through social media can be detrimental to overall family health. I have often thought the Facebook “Like” button should go a little deeper with the level of response it reflects. It could easily be replaced with a short anonymous button entitled, “Nice photo but your family isn’t perfect. I saw your son punch Billy on the playground last week and don’t forget your daughter was the one that shared lice with her entire 3rd grade class”. Just something short and sweet that functions more as a reality check than a sharp jab in the side. Just kidding, of course, but I have had this kind of thought run through my mind once or twice. The structure of Facebook with Likes and comments naturally puts viewers in a position that suggests comparison and competition.
Happy Families Don’t Need to Be Perfect
Never think that anyone else’s family is perfect or even better than your own. At the end of the day, all families have issues. Strive to celebrate the joys of other families as, at some point, your family will also have exciting news, great accomplishments or successes that you will want to share. Never let social media images of “perfection” fool you. All families have flaws and it is all part of being human. Focusing on your own family and happiness is the best way to strengthen the bonds in your family.
Writer, reader, husband, father, triathlete, and clearly I drink too much coffee.