A Perfect Life Dispelled

I joined Facebook back in 2008, and with my loaded-up profile and a few pictures, I started populating my friend bank.  And I began unearthing people that I hadn’t seen or heard from in years, from old friends to old girlfriends to old colleagues.  But, after a while, the novelty of reconnecting wore off and I just really became an observer of other people’s posts. Being a social network voyeur, I found some patterns in certain Posters:

  1. The 300 Day a Year Vacationer – Most of my life is spent vacationing in truly exotic places and, as you can see from my photos, I am living my most pampered life.  Sorry you can’t be here (well, not really).
  2. The Gastro Shutterbug – Food is life and life is food.  I hope you enjoy candid, staged, landscaped, action and portrait pictures of my breakfast, brunch, snack time, lunch, teatime, supper and dinner. I bet you didn’t think Little Caesars pizza could look this good?  I am living my most delicious life.
  3. The Over-Beaming Parent – From my 7-year old’s athletic achievements (who will probably be going to the NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB, PGA, or some other professional league) to my 13-year old’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah extravaganza with Elton John and Billy Joel headlining to my 18-year old’s college reveal I can assure you, my kids are 1 in a billion! (By the way, when I post, this is me) I am living my perfect life through my kids.    
  4. The Pet Worshipper – My dog, cat, ferret, or miniature pig is more evolved than most of you and here are pictures of them waking up from a nap, being coy, chasing the mail man, using the toilet, driving, dining out, reading the Wall Street Journal, and getting a facial. I am living my life in perfect service to Fluffy. 
  5. The 1%er – On a scale of business acumen, it goes Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and then ME! I am living my richest life.

And, if Facebook isn’t your thing, today you can announce you, your kids, your pets, your food, and your career perfection to the world through Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn and 1000 other social networking platforms.   

It is hard not to get consumed by the idea that everyone, including those ferrets, are living “their best life” better than you are. Well, I am here to tell you that no one lives their best life all the time.  

Have you seen the movie Pleasantville? It is a movie about an idyllic, perfect 1950’s TV show community that quickly becomes less than perfect after the introduction of 2 teens from the 1990’s.  Robert McDaniel of Film & History described the town of Pleasantville as the perfect place, “It never rains, the highs and lows rest at 72 degrees, the fire department exists only to rescue cats from trees, and the basketball team never misses the hoop.” Everyone and everything behave perfectly. But, as the two teenagers from the 1990’s start to introduce contrast, in the form of pre-marital sex, art and the challenging of long-standing ideas to the town, things begin to change. The weather, the basketball team and the people begin to behave in a not so perfect manner. Out of this imperfection, chaos and conflict grows beauty, variation, and freedom.   

We own the power to create our experience, our life, and our existence based on our choices. But, without contrast “the state of being strikingly different from something else” like Yin/Yang or The Force/The Dark Side, The Detroit Lions/Super Bowl Champions, our perspective never evolves but remains trapped.

Your child begins college this year.  The messaging that every college student gets is “these are going to be the BEST four years of your life!” As a note, it’s sad to think that in 70+ years of life, the best four years are spent between the ages of 18-21. They are from Indiana, Kansas or Maryland and go to school halfway across the country, they don’t know many people, the weather resembles Hades, the academics are more stringent than their high school experience and 25% of the student body is from The Tri-State area!  And, they are expected to be living their best college life. I assume at some point they will, but now they are experiencing all the contrast that comes with a life transition. They are learning what they want and what they don’t want.  And, some moments are good, some moments are great, some moments are tough and others are really tough.  

The next time you start to think that those social network posters are “living their best lives” and you are not so much, remember that their lives are filled with as much contrast, conflict and chaos as yours. Or, as McDaniel goes on to say, “Pleasantville is a false hope… there is no ‘right’ life, no model for how things are ‘supposed to be.’

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