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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

Column: #NoMakeupSelfies abound, but where’s the barefaced truth on social media?

Social media has become our ‘happiness record’. Nobody wants to know about the bad stuff – the laundry piles, the messy house, the sticky kids – and we’re just adding to the pressure to be perfect, writes Sinéad Fox.

Sinéad Fox

THE ‘NO MAKEUP SELFIE’ trend that has raised much-needed funds for cancer charities across Ireland and the UK this week has social media in the spotlight again. Women posted self portraits of their makeup-free faces and donated to charity, then nominated other friends to do the same. The trend had its opponents who cited narcissism and queried the point of the movement, but cancer charities welcomed the unexpected rise in donations and all was well with the world.

It got me thinking, though, about the barefaced truth on social media, or more to the point, the lack of it.

Scroll through your Facebook timeline or your Instagram feed. What can you see? Lots of delicious looking food, happy couples, beautiful places, smiling children, stunning views, perfect interiors, coordinated outfits. All perfectly choreographed and styled.

Social media isn’t really about real life

Nothing sad, nothing unattractive. Nothing mundane nor pedestrian. Of course not, that’s not the point of social media. It’s our shop window, our way of showing the world how great life is, of escaping. We can show where we have been, and who we have been with. It documents our good times, our nights out, our daytrips with our kids, our holidays. It’s our happiness record. Nobody wants to know about the bad stuff.

Social media isn’t really about real life. It could be, but for the majority of users it’s simply not. Yes, there’s serious news there, and photos of atrocities, and tales of sadness and devastation, but not on a personal level. For most users Facebook is about showing off using pictures. Twitter is about showing off using punchy phrases. Instagram is about making the showing off pictures look old or bright or shiny. There’s nothing essentially wrong with this – after all, sharing happiness is a good thing – but it’s not the whole story.

Real life has tears and upsets, it’s messy and sticky and not that glossy at all. That’s what makes it real.
There seem to be things that exist only outside social media or, as I like to call it, in the real world; things like messy kitchens (and sitting rooms, and bedrooms and playrooms), snotty nosed kids, beige freezer dinners, dirty streets, ghost estates, negative emotions, unattractive people and – until this week – barefaced ladies.

More pressure to be perfect

When we use social media we put a gloss on things, it’s about displaying our personal brand, how we want to be perceived. Foodie, fashionista, hipster, supermum – with the right photos and the right filter we can build that image, almost unquestioned.

But who do we serve if we do that? These ideal worlds that we create only put more pressure on everyone to live up to false standards. They sell us an unattainable lifestyle that we cannot reach. We read books and magazines and envy celebrities’ lifestyles, then we go to Facebook and Twitter and envy the lifestyles that our peers represent.

We’re doing each other no favours, just adding to the pressure to be perfect.

So, inspired by the barefaced selfies I’m starting my own thing, a campaign for people to get more barefaced about life, not a moan but a reality check. Join me, we owe it to each other. It’s about being honest. You don’t have to Instagram your toast or post a Facebook status each time you put the bin out. Just don’t pretend all the time that everything is always exciting and wonderful and glossy.

Let me get the ball rolling …

Now, it’s not all new to me, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you’ll know that  I’ve been brave before, I’ve posted my real life dinners for a few weeks.  I’ve admitted to using stock cubes and tins of soup in my cooking. I’ve confessed about the mess of my kitchen floor and told the real story of bedtime in my house.  These should all make you feel better about yourself.

Here are some more of my real life facts from my barefaced life to get the ball rolling.

  1. My house is (very) messy and rather sticky too.
  2. My nails are usually unfiled and unpainted.
  3. We eat everyday food (rarely organic) bought from a discount supermarket off plates from IKEA. (not patterned pretty ones)
  4. My laundry pile is my nemesis and is slowly growing to take over my house.
  5. There are presses in my kitchen that I need a helmet to open for fear of being hit by falling debris.

What are you hiding? Share some facts about your barefaced life and spread the happiness as we realise that nobody’s perfect.

Sinéad Fox lives in Wexford with her three young and (often) well behaved children.
She spends her time commuting, cooking, wiping noses, mopping up spills and ‘adventuring’. Then, when they’re all asleep she writes about it on her blog Bumbles of Rice.
Find Sinéad on Twitter @Bumblesofrice and on Facebook.

Read: #NoMakeupSelfie craze causes flood of donations to Irish Cancer Society

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