It is the ultimate irony that in this age that presents us with multiple means of communication we are in many respects no better at communicating with our friends than before the invention of the internet?
Author Holly Bourne has exposed this in a gut-wrenchingly, nail bitingly, brutally honest way in her new book ‘How do you like me now?‘. It follows successful self-help guru Tori who six years after her swear-tastic, sell-out self-help guide for twenty-somethings was released finds herself trapped in a miserable relationship with the ‘Rock Man’ who was the knight in shining armour at the end of her book. Not only is she telling all her adoring fans to be true to themselves while lying through gritted teeth about how happy she is with her boyfriend, her friend Dee, who she can normally count on to make herself feel better because Dee has a terrible track record with men has found ‘The One’ and is pregnant.
This book captures perfectly the lengths we go to to present the perfect lives to the social media world, as encapsulated by Tori, whose success is based on reaching out to this social media generation. The book draws repeated attention to our choices to visit places for the Instagram value rather than the experience, as well as the number of pictures it takes to put up even a ‘deliberately unflattering’ selfie in a bid to look self-deprecating but not too ugly, as well as the posts we put up saying what a great time we’re having at a wedding or some other event when in fact we’re not.
More profoundly for me though, it highlights the walls we put up around friends in a bid to fit into this perfect life we like to portray on social media. There’s a fantastic description in the book of the wall Tori builds up lie by lie to Dee about how fine she is, once she realises Dee is happier than her, not being the usual fuck-up and moving on to different life stages.
And who hasn’t been there? Who honestly hasn’t reassured themselves that when things go a bit shit that it’s ok because So and So is totally having a much worse time? But as we start getting older and having to make bigger choices (job, spouse, mortgage) you feel more defensive about those decisions because time is passing by and in your head at least, you have to own those decisions or the alternative is admitting you’re a crushing failure?
You’ve been in the workforce for a good few years now, it’s no longer ok to admit you hate your job because you should be going up that career ladder and being promoted and earning more money. You’re in your early thirties and that biological clock is ticking, you can’t date just anyone because you need to find someone who wants to have babies with you soon. You can’t just move from house share to house share forever because it’s miserable and shit and you just want a home of your own so yes you’re about to get out a hefty mortgage, probably jointly with someone who has to be The One now because oh my god, imagine the stress of separating after you’ve bought a house together.
So you tell little white lies to your friends because no one wants to be pitied for putting a foot wrong after those heady first few years out of uni. And when everyone is lying about how great everything is, aided by social media, we effectively alienate ourselves more. How can we truly rant and cry about something that’s gone wrong and let all the thoughts bubbling in your brain out if you’re more obsessed with looking perfect?
Also come on, we may be on the surface fooled by perfect social media posts. But we all probably suspect miserableness happens occasionally to other people. Yeah so what if X and Y had the most lavish wedding ever, you know on some level you’d rather poke your eyes out than be married to someone as boring as Y, and that X probably thinks that occasionally too.
So let’s do ourselves all a favour and break down those walls of white lies with friends. You’ll feel ultimately so much better.