Reality Check: A Rallying Cry Against Faux-Perfection on Social Media

  • Kristin van Ogtrop

I woke up feeling sick from a stupid cold that I can’t shake, and things frankly just got worse from there.

During the night the puppy, who at the age of 13 months should really know better, got into the cabinet under the kitchen sink and ate the expensive-looking tube of mystery cream my husband gave me in my Christmas stocking. It is a product I’d never heard of and never knew I needed; apparently you use it to condition cutting boards. Instead it might kill the dog by sundown.

And did I mention exactly how the dog was able to get into the cabinet? Because the temperature was forecast to drop below zero last night, and some chirpy Facebook post told me I should leave the under-sink cabinets open so my pipes wouldn’t freeze.

Well, the pipes indeed did not freeze, so thanks for that, Facebook. But I have a maybe-soon-to-be-dead dog and, even worse, cutting boards that now will never be conditioned. And as I was cleaning up what remained of the cutting board product packaging, I snapped at my 15-year-old because he wanted a ride to school (a reasonable request, as it was, uh, 6 degrees Fahrenheit), and of course he responded by yelling at me, because that is the dynamic when you combine a hormonal 15-year-old boy who isn’t a morning person with a sick working mom who used to be a morning person until dogs and children ruined her life.

Do I sound cranky and irritated and like an altogether unappealing human being because I can’t just 1) count my blessings, 2) put it all in perspective, 3) go Zen, or 4) put on a happy face? No doubt. But, hello, that is real life, no matter what all your friends and frenemies are telling you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and 27 other social media platforms that haven’t even been invented yet. And once those new platforms arrive, they will just be new instruments of torture for those of us who like to think there is a shred of honesty left in the world and actually take social media posts from friends/frenemies at face value, because a naïve belief in honesty just leads to the soul-crushing sense that everyone has a perfect life but you, that no one else’s dog ever eats the cutting board conditioning product before you’ve even had a chance to try it, that no one but you snaps at one of her children for making a completely reasonable (in fact, frostbite-preventative) request, and that you therefore are an inferior person with an inferior life. And so you might as well just throw your iPhone onto the tracks of a speeding train, or go live in a cave.

A few months ago a handful of us were sitting around in the Real Simple editorial offices and complaining about faux-perfection on social media when Deputy Editor Danielle Claro remarked that once, just once, she wanted to see someone she knew post a photo of a demolished bag of Oreo cookies with the message “Just ate the whole thing, and now I hate myself even more.”  We all laughed, and then we thought: How about we take this idea and start a revolution? Isn't a revolution about breaking things? How about breaking faux-perfection?

Enter Instagram, and #WomenIRL. This month Real Simple launched an Instagram account called @WomenIRL (women in real life), and we are inviting users everywhere to tag the photos of their messy, funny, interesting lives with #WomenIRL. Why? Because so much of what we see (and show) on Instagram has been filtered (literally!), and we think it’s time women started sharing the real moments—the burnt pie, the pile of laundry, the screaming toddler.

So join our revolution! Tag your unedited photos #WomenIRL, and we’ll post our favorites to our social accounts. Plus, don’t forget to follow @womenIRL on Instagram, where we’ll feature a steady stream of our real, unfiltered lives.

In case you’re wondering, the 15-year-old and I are on speaking terms again, and, per the vet, the most lubricated dog in America will live to see another day. But there’s a full package of Oreos in my pantry, and it’s just calling my name. If I eat the whole thing, I promise to post a photo with #WomenIRL. Unless my puppy gets to it first.