Before my son was born, I had always imagined sending out holiday/New Year photograph greeting cards—the analog version of Facebook, perhaps. When he came along, we managed to throw together his first year’s card with a couple of happy-seeming impromptu pictures in warm clothing on a cold day. Despite not really capturing his 5-month old toothless grin, and with much agony over whether drool was visible in print, I created a nice card that went out to the ends of the earth.
But this past winter, I was much more focused on coaxing that smile from my growing toddler. Gone was the gaping, gummy smile—he now had teeth and finally hair thank goodness, so it was time to show off the evidence. I wanted us to look perfect, too—I coerced my husband into a haircut before the photo shoot, picked out a new blouse to wear, and made sure the pint-sized hand-knit sweater for my son had been cleaned, dried, and de-pilled. My photographer friend captured some idyllic shots of my son, following him around as he freely explored the yard. Shortly after, she suggested we try some family poses.
This proved much more difficult. We realized that our window of time was short to capture a smile from all three of us, and so we clung to our squirmy toddler with superhuman strength until bam! With a strong whack, and a shutter click, the perfect family photo was taken:
Now forever cemented in time is the moment my son kicked my husband in the balls. Since it was too funny not to share, my husband agreed to let me unleash the picture on my Instagram account with the hashtag #holidayfail.
Not surprisingly, it garnered more likes than most of my other posts, not only because it’s hilarious, but also because it’s just real. The scene was a fitting representation of the life that happens in between efforts to orchestrate perfection. There’s no use trying to paint a pretty picture of life with a toddler: It is unkempt and tiring and literally sometimes, a big old kick in the groin. And instead of ending up with a set of banal pictures that look like everyone else’s, we have a great photographic story that we’ll cherish forever.
Like so many people, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love Facebook and Instagram because each allows me insight into the lives of the people I love who happen to live far away. Reading people’s posts and links or liking photos feels like interaction even when a phone call or extended text conversation isn’t in the cards for the day.
And most of all, the ability to watch friends find love, take great jobs, and raise children in locations I wish I had the time and resources to visit frequently is perhaps the greatest reward of being logged in. sBecause of the inescapability of social media, my conflict is an ever-present one. I’m constantly looking for balance between scrolling incessantly and throwing my phone across the room.
But, I hate the way social media becomes something to curate, acting as a medium for the portrayal of a “perfect” marriage, family, career, or social life. I also hate the fact that I feel compelled to contribute to it, even though I know, like everyone else, that the image I’m sending out into the universe is merely a snippet of time, one that may only last within the millisecond I’ve captured it.
Yet, the existence of this #holidayfail picture has changed my outlook regarding what I post. I’m not afraid to tweet about how I’d like to escape from a particularly trying day with my kiddo, or put up a picture of the toys still on the family room floor at the end of the day. I’ve found that other people resonate more with the mess, and I’m so glad, because I do, too.