In real life, I was a disaster; in fake life, I was awesome.
When a horrible relationship ended a few years ago, I did what I do best: got the hell out of dodge. I knew, from past experiences, that in running faraway from my home and the memories associated with it that I'd be able to heal. I also knew that I'd take so many amazing photos of my adventures that he'd see, he'd know, that I was more than capable of living without him. But the thing was we had blocked each other on Facebook and Twitter, so there was no guarantee he'd see any of this supposed gloriousness. I created a Flickr account, you know, just in case he came looking, but didn't really keep up with it.
Then I jumped on the Instagram bandwagon.
I knew he was on Instagram. I also knew that he wasn't following me, probably never would, but that if the mood struck, he could easily track me down. I imagined that he had to wonder about me, at least sometimes, and when he did, there I'd be: On the beaches of Barcelona drinking a mojito with some gorgeous man named Paulo. I was never really sure if he was watching, but liked to pretend he was, so kept up the façade.
Then, just a week after having returned from a three-month trip in Paris, I got a drunken email that acknowledged that he knew I was home from Europe. I took that as proof that, yes, he was watching sometimes, and yes, it was time to step up my game. So, I did, of course.
I went back to Paris, then on to Italy, and Instagramed the whole thing. When I went to Amsterdam it was all about pictures of gouda and great beer, then back home in the States it was all about the fancy social events in NYC (look at me with all my friends being sooo happy!), the ski trips to Colorado, and then that time I drove the entire length of the California coast.
I couldn't stop taking photos; I was near-obsessed with making him see, if he was still watching, how great my existence was, how better it was without him. Instagram became the reason I went anywhere, and it felt good to be winning, which is what you want in a weird way. He sat behind a desk 40 hours a week, I, on the other hand, being able to work from anywhere, was constantly on the move, creating a life that was happy and free. I never once let on, publically, that I was dying inside.
I left out the tears, all the days I couldn't get out of bed, and when things didn't go as I hoped, I buried it away. I didn't Instagram how the bathroom floor looked close up after having tried to drown my sorrow in a bottle of wine, but ending up with just a hangover instead or the rejection letter from a publisher. In real life, I was a disaster; in fake life, I was awesome.
Then, on one of those heavily Instagram trips abroad, I met a man, fell in love, and we eventually got married. Instagram became second, because I was too busy with my real life, the one that was genuinely so great, that I didn't have time to try to prove something to someone else. I was free.
Although I don't Instagram with the same intention as I did a couple years ago, I still Instagram with my past in mind. It's not just him, specifically, but my past, the fake one, in general. I like to post photos of myself having just gotten up, unflattering things that even Photoshop couldn't fix, and even those Saturday nights when I stay in eating bad food and watching even worse movies.
It's sort of my middle finger to the past, to the man who, more often than not, criticized my imperfections and kept me a box that didn't really fit. Granted, I let myself be boxed up, so that middle finger is to the person I was then, too.
It's important to put on a brave face when your heart is broken. It's important to "fake it, 'til you make it," as they say, and that's exactly what I did. Was it absurd? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Totally.
We're not under any obligation to be completely real on social media, and if we have the chance to manipulate it, to use it to our advantage so we can get through a bad time, then we should. You know, "smile, though your heart is aching, smile, even though it's breaking," or, as we do in this century, Instagram.