My stories often start in the middle because that’s usually where things get good. When I land in a new place, I don’t waste time talking about weather patterns or flight delays or exchange rates. Nor do I tell people where to go or what to see and how to get there. That’s not what this blog is about.
What I post online is an abridged version of my comings and goings: the moments of note; the extraordinary or peculiar; the high points, if you will. In this way, everything I share is true, but none of it is real.
How can it be? There’s a lot more to life than what fits in the frame.
The problem with only sharing the highlight reel is that it gives people the impression that life is nothing but the good stuff. On Instagram, it’s all up and no down. All the hits without any of the misses.
I’m guilty of that – but not because I’m trying to fool anyone into thinking that my life is perfect. I just don’t care to get bogged down in the mundane. I don’t want to complain about the little things when the big picture is pretty amazing.
I mean, who wants to hear about a shoebox sized, windowless, hot water-less, apartment that reeked of smoke in Tel Aviv, when this was happening right outside my front door?
Who cares if I spent the night sleeping on a bench at an Espresso House in the Stockholm airport when, the very next day, I happened upon this scene in Helsinki?
Why would I write a post complaining about four straight days of rain in Thailand when this is what it looks when the sun set through the clouds?
Those pictures are real. But they’re also picked over, cropped and filtered. So are the stories that go along with them. Like, remember that first picture I posted from Munich? The one that looked absolutely perfect?
Well that was Day 3. Not seen here are Days 1, 2 and 6 which involved nearly 24-hours of travel, getting hopelessly lost on the way to the German registration office, and an unsuccessful Blue Card application, respectively. Also not seen: purchasing a local cell phone plan, which I learned could not be done without first setting up a bank account, which could not be done without securing a permanent address, which could not be had without listening to a relocation specialist tell me that a lot of landlords won’t rent to “Americans, Indians of Chinese.”
Instagram doesn’t include those moments. There’s no real evidence of them anyway. No one takes a selfie when they’re lost and crying in the street. No one posts a photo of a failed application. No one thinks to take a picture of a man who hates foreigners even though his very job is to help them find places to live and work. I guess, in moments like that, we’re concentrating on bigger things, like not punching anyone in the face.
By now most people are savvy enough to read between the lines of an Instagram feed. They recognize the disconnect between what is shared on social media and real life. Drawing comparisons is an ill-advised practice to begin with, but that goes double when browsing the Internet.
But I’m not so sure people realize that the distortion of social media cuts both ways. Not only does it present other people in their very best light, it often does the same for us. When we only post the highlights, friends and family assume all is well and they keep on scrolling. Social media is supposed to draw people closer together, but sometimes it does the opposite: it robs us of a support system that would be there if not for glossy pictures indicating that everything is under control.
For the record, things here are fine. My apartment is great, my residence application is settled, my bank account and cell phone are up and running. I’m not writing this post as a thinly veiled plea for help.
But I will admit that things are not nearly as easy as they seem. The pictures look great and the weekends are fun, but the in between is a whole lot of work. Still, I’m bracing myself for what’s going to happen next, when the newness wears off and the to-do list is over. If there’s one thing I dread more than a struggle, it’s boredom.
Check in on me then, no matter how good things look.