Does “curated” mean it’s fake?

A friend of mine recently took a hiatus from Facebook.

It was prompted, she said, by the growing disconnect she saw happening between what people were posting online and what she knew was really happening in their lives.

So many people were posting pictures and status updates that suggested their lives were perfect in every way – happy family shots, selfies on the beach, “I love my kid” quotes, or photos of themselves laughing with friends in some beautiful outdoor location or ultra hip-looking party.

None of their posts hinted at the problems she knew they were struggling with – difficulties with their spouses or children, problems at work, a worrying lack of client projects or sales coming in, serious health issues, disappointment in themselves, or discontent at where their life is headed.

“We’re all sharing these carefully curated portrayals of our lives – and I feel like it’s taking us further and further away from what’s real,” she said. “I just really needed a break from all that.”

Her words got me thinking about what we share or don’t share on Facebook.

When it comes to sharing on social media, ALL of us curate our lives to some degree. It’s inevitable.

Even if we make a conscious decision to be as authentic and transparent as we can, it’s simply not possible to share EVERY little thing that happens in our life. By necessity, things are going to get left out. After all, not even the Kardashians are capable of showing us every single second of their lives (though it might sometimes feel like they are).

So how do we decide what to make available for public consumption vs. what to keep private?

The answer, I’m sure is different for all of us. For me, it comes down to a simple question:

How is this going to make people FEEL?

Is the content I’m thinking about sharing going to brighten their mood or make them feel better about their lives in some way? Or is it going to bring them down or make them feel envious or inferior?

Is it going to make them laugh – for positive reasons or mean-spirited ones? Is it going to enlighten, inform, or entertain them? Is it going to inspire curiosity, wonder, or awe? Or is it going to make them feel like people suck and the world is a horrible place?

Is it going to inspire them to have faith in themselves and others – or is it going to make them see danger in every dark corner?

Is it going to make them feel hopeful – or despairing?

This is what I ask myself before I hit the publish button.

Does that make it “fake?”

I don’t think so.

I think it means I care about the experience I’m giving the reader.

Sure, I could go on Facebook to vent about the jerk who parked his truck across three spaces in the grocery store parking lot, requiring me to walk an extra thirty whole seconds to the entrance.

Or I could complain about the woman who bitched me out in a private Facebook group because I made the mistake of offering unsolicited advice instead giving her what she really wanted, which was validation of her “It’s impossible! I’ll never succeed!” story.

Or I could post links to articles that talk about how stupid and uneducated the people voting for “the other guy” are.

Or I could write post after post about how awesome my clients are, and how great my relationship with my husband is, and how incredible my genius kids are, and how perfect my life is.

But what kind of experience would that be for the reader?

That’s why I strive to post content that informs, enlightens, entertains, uplifts, or helps people in some way.

I don’t think that means I’m not “keeping it real.” Everything I post reflects something that’s happening in my life, or is thought-provoking, valuable, inspiring, and/or hilarious to me. And I think that makes it intensely personal — even if it is carefully considered instead of shared on a whim.

So that’s how I decide what to share vs. what not to share on Facebook and other social media sites.

How about you? What kind of mental filter do YOU run your social media posts through before you hit “publish”?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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15 Responses to “Does “curated” mean it’s fake?”

  1. Hi Erin; love “How is this going to make people FEEL?” – I’m not a huge fan of F/book/social media in general as I think it’s very narcisistic and only a great outlet for those individuals. However, I’m coming to learn it can be very valuable for companies and so I shall continue to hone my skills in this area. My personal sites will be coming down this fall. Great piece, thanks for ‘sharing’.

  2. Good thoughts Erin!

    I always appreciated the value of privacy. It’s the space where we can make our mistakes, take chances, fully express our doubts and sorrows, without the repressive fear or apprehension that people’s judgement brings. It’s absolutely critical for personal growth. Then, when we’ve made peace with our bellies, love of Frank Sinatra, or other personal matters, we can come out in public without fear.

  3. It seems to me that many people use FB as a kind of public diary or journal, where it’s all about how they feel, not about how the readers will feel. Which is fine – those are often the most interesting posts. Maybe your friend who took the hiatus doesn’t have friends like that but I do.
    Others carefully edit everything they post. Which is also fine. Especially if it’s edited for grammar, ha ha!
    Most are likely somewhere in the middle.
    Variety is the spice of life!
    The reader has the power to choose what to focus on, positive or negative.

    • Hi Teresa! I love this – and agree that the posts where people share their personal feelings are often the most interesting. But I would still say that the best of these posts are ones that express those feelings in a way that benefits others – by informing, enlightening, or uplifting them, or provoking some sort of positive action or emotion. Maybe it’s something that people often think but seldom say out loud – and so readers feel solidarity and justification on seeing someone else talk about it. Or maybe it’s something that’s poignant or beautifully expressed or really just very human that people will appreciate and empathize with.

      The ones that bother me are those that serve the writer with no benefit whatsoever to the reader. I’m talking about endless complaining or “vague post” criticisms about people in their lives who have let them down in some way, or outright attacks on another person or group of people. I also get tired of posts that paint an unending “wow, look at how awesome my life is!” kind of picture. If that’s ALL a person ever posts, I find it somewhat alienating.

      But that’s just me, and like you said, variety is the spice of life. 🙂

      Have you ever read this blog post by Tim Urban of Wait But Why? OMG I love it so much:

  4. Hey Erin, great piece and question. I have been talking about this phenomenon more and more lately with friends (in real life). You make a very good point: it’s all about the “feel”, and I agree with Teresa: my sense is that many people post personal updates or photos to make themselves feel better, not necessarily thinking about how others will feel, but rather about how others will judge them (positively if the story is happy and life is great). Aren’t most posts or interactions reflecting on your own reality? state of happiness? unhappiness? frustration etc.? Even if the story/post is real (a happy moment in a perhaps not so happy period), the reflection it might have on ourselves makes the whole interaction somehow unreal, so I tend to agree with your friend that the real interactions, when you get ALL the details about one’s situation and opinions are much more satisfying, in the friendship context. Instead of hiatus, I remove the “my life is perfect” and the “vague criticism/rants” friends off of my feed. And I give the rest of you who make me laugh, think, dream, read, move, research, evolve, discover more air-time. Voila 🙂

  5. Hi Erin. Love this article. When I was reading it, I was thinking about how we decide to share what is going on for us in “real life” with our friends and family. We pick and choose who we speak to about what, don’t we. We would not open our hearts to everyone we know. We keep that reserved to our very inner circle of family and friends. We don’t speak to everything in our professional life to our colleagues or business partners. We keep that limited to our mentors and trusted partners who we chose to build a better future with. The same applies to how we use our Social Media and within it, the various platforms. In Facebook we have the option of communicating openly in our profile or on our pages or in a group we might lead or be a member of. Depending on the “stage” that I choose to engage on, I am becoming more selective in what I am sharing. And overall, I see Social Media as a very wide platform that is outside of my control – hence, I will always be more guarded in what I share. And sometimes I wish others would do the same because some of the posts truly are upsetting. Thank you for making me think about this with more awareness with your article!

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