People often use the term “in real life” to denote that something happened face to face, or to assure that it wasn’t simply a virtual event. It’s as good a phrase as any of course, but if one were to really think about it, this is a phrase that our ancestors not so many generations ago likely wouldn’t have understood, or at least not as we do today. Besides books, face to face was pretty much the only option they had for life. I wonder how much of our world they’d be able to process at all, or for that matter, how much of their world we’re able to comprehend today. Isn’t the past simply a collection of facts that made it through the chronological mill-wheel as chunks big enough to be easily identified? History is written by the winners they say, but from that we can gather, there are countless tidbits from the annals of humankind which have occurred that we’ll never know about. Countless happenings that because they unfolded in real life, are lost in the chaff.
With the rise of dating apps like Tinder and Grindr, and even non-romantically centered apps such as Facebook and Instagram, we can often present a version of ourselves which isn’t very realistic at all. Filters allow us to soften harsh light, others allow us to accentuate what we perceive to be our physical strengths, and of course to edit out any takes which we deem not good enough. What they do not encourage us to do however, is show ourselves in real life, and that’s where I reckon it all gets a bit shady. Facebook seems harmless enough, but how often do people post pictures of their children looking awful and throwing tantrums? And why do people post pictures of their kids anyway? I assume that pictures of the angelic little ones feed into the identity construction of the parents and have little to do with their photogenic offspring. In real life, we see children throwing themselves onto the supermarket floor and wailing when they don’t get some sugary treat or other. In real life, we see embarrassed, exhausted and frustrated parents at every turn — no filters, no lighting tricks, no editing. Maybe it’s just all too real?
At job interviews, who are we really presenting? Who is that person who can do everything, needs no time off, never gets sick, and isn’t looking for anything better ever again? Why do we feel like that’s the version of ourselves that can guarantee a company a successful and productive employee? Because, let’s face it, it’s not the truth! The truth is, you’re going to screw up big time occasionally, you do not know everything, you can’t do everything, you will get sick, and when things we decide are better for us come along in life, we should take them! Only a fool would pass up the opportunity for positive development. Of course, that’s not what employers want to hear. I can understand both sides of the coin, but honestly, it all seems a bit contrived for my liking.
Once we can embrace ourselves, in real life, it has been my experience that we are more fully able to extend that realistic vision to others. We stop seeing the touched up and glamorous exterior that so many of us exhibit to the world, and we look at people for exactly what they are; nothing more and nothing less. More often than not, I bet that this evaluation of others’ true identity is not that far from what we know we are really like ourselves. We are not super-humans! We are just humans, and that’s enough! This is not a rant against apps, or social media, or our virtual selves. This is not a Luddite’s sermon against the machine. This is one human who couldn’t think of anything better to write about this week than how he’s not always on top of his game…and how he’s okay with that because usually, in real life, he is in control, he is productive, and he is creative. No filters. No editing.