Jenny Block explores curating relationships on social media


I woke up to a friend’s Facebook status that made me wonder if he and his girlfriend had broken up. It wasn’t mean; it sounded heartfelt. And it was very revealing in terms of what had occurred. The comments confirmed that it was, indeed, a break-up.

Then another status popped up — the girlfriend’s, who is also my friend — saying that what had been posted was not the whole story. I thought, of course it isn’t. When it comes to social media, one side is never the whole story.

That’s when I started thinking about the curating of our lives on for all to see. On Facebook, I am almost always my best self. I’m sure I come off as a sassy bitch when I’m whining about the service at Starbucks or as incredibly privileged when I complain about waiting at my doctor’s office or my insurance company’s complete lack of humanity.

But for the most part, I post photos of my whirlwind travels. I post about my loving fiancé Robin spoiling me. I post about the sumptuous meals to which I am treated. I post about my incredible friends. And I post about the thrilling theater and parties and events I am so lucky to attend.

I don’t post about my sheer exhaustion after not sleeping on a trip because the people in the hotel room below me would not shut the fuck up. I do not post about how emotional it can be as Robin and I combine our households. I don’t post about how much time I waste fretting about my weight. And I don’t post about how sometimes I would rather be curled up in a ball on the sofa instead of in my LBD at the fantabulous show I should be thrilled to be seeing.

But maybe I should. At least occasionally.

I did post about how shocked and crushed I was during a past break-up. I wanted support, so I reached out into the abyss and I got it. I wasn’t looking to create drama or incite anyone or create sides and because I was raw in my post. I didn’t. I did however get the “We’re here for you” comments that I needed.

We all know that we all curate. And I am always hearing about how that’s why social media is terrible and we shouldn’t use it. All it really does is make other people jealous of the lives we don’t even really have. But I’m not going to stop using it. I would venture to say that most of us aren’t going to stop.

But when it comes to relationships, I have a few suggestions: Be honest. Be transparent. Be more balanced in our reporting.

I’m not saying I want to see you fight with your significant other on Facebook or see a video of your failed strap-on experiment on Twitter or be witness to a photo of the two of you fighting on Instagram. I’m just wondering what would happen if we posted not to incite envy, but instead to support the truth about healthy relationships and all of their ups and downs. We might all get the “Me too” and “Same here” and “Trust me, that’s normal” comments that are just as vital as the “We are so happy for you” and “You look gorgeous” and “OMG I want your life” comments.

The truth is, I don’t feel great when I get compliments on a lie. If a photo of me in no way resembles what I look like in real life, then being flattered actually makes me feel worse. The commenter is not saying I am beautiful or thin or young; she is saying those things about the image.

Over-curating our relationships has the same effect. It does them, and us, a disservice. In the end, it makes up feel badly that we don’t have the relationships we pretend to when in actuality no one has those relationships. Trust me — as someone who is in as fairytale of a situation as it gets, I have a secret for you that should come as no surprise: It’s not perfect. Nothing is.

And that’s good. I would be freaked out if it was perfect. That would mean it was all plastic and surface. It would mean she and I didn’t love each other enough or care enough about our relationship enough to dig deep and see the ugly and say, “Yup. That’s ugly, all right. Now let’s keep loving each other so hard that it just doesn’t matter.”

My friend who posted initially was looking for support. And he got it. But it also got drama, which he didn’t need and he didn’t deserve. He was punished for reaching out and sharing the truth.

My other friend, his ex, also got support. But she, too, got drama and now lines have been drawn and sides have been taken. I believe that happened because people misunderstood why they posted. It wasn’t something pretty, so it unnerved people. It hit too close to home. So they took the side that made them feel best about themselves and their relationships past and present.

My advice: Be kind, be real and share from a place of integrity. I want to see that beautiful photo of that insane trip you went on. I also want to know when you need me to remind you I’m here and that we all go through this, this life thing. I want to hear about the things that matter to you not the things that you think make you like you are living an imaginary life.

I don’t know. I guess it depends on what you think social media is. A photo album. A brag book. A tool for good. A tool for evil. A means to reach out. A means to withdraw. Maybe that’s what we need to figure out.

In the meantime remember: The perfect relationship is the one that’s imperfect in all the right ways… for you.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition MARCH 24, 2017.