What Happens When You Filter Out Reality?

So Maxie and I are really great friends. For me, she’s the kind of friend whom I can tell anything to. I can call her on the phone when there’s a situation I have no idea how to handle. I can vent to her on Skype when I just need to get something off my chest. I can ask her for an honest opinion and expect her to give me the truth whether or not it’s what I want to hear. And vice versa. I also follow Maxie on social and she follows me as well. She might see an Instagram of me at my desk working right after we’ve hashed out a serious dilemma. (And I followed her Euro-trip along on Instagram and then it took a couple of hours over dinner to unload a few pounds worth of “baggage” when she was back stateside.)
This is something we’ve both been talking about between the two of us… and I’m so happy she’s sharing a bit more on my blog today:

What Happens When You Filter Out Reality?
I’m living a double life.
This was probably the last line I ever expected to write, especially publicly, but it’s true. There’s my real life, which is colored with all the things your life has, maybe just with a different set of markers. There’s joy and heartbreak, success and stress, love and pain, anxiety and strength, anger and empathy, gratitude and envy. If it’s an emotion, I’ve experienced it to some level. Just like you. This is what it means to be human. And just like anyone’s life, it will only ever fully be understood by me. I’m the only one living it.
But then, there’s this second self. It’s a digital version, displayed one picture and status update at a time. By the looks of any one of my many well-kept social media streams, things look pretty damn good. And to be fair (and very grateful) they are. But in between the pictures and tweets and updates, I have a real life. One that can be gritty, and imperfect, and emotional.
We’re all doing this. We’re all projecting out our highlight reel. One of my first ever blog posts (and one that got some of the best feedback I’ve experienced) was when I took my Instagram pictures and told the REAL story happening behind the picture. Funny how you can make any situation look insta-worthy….
Here’s the thing, many people are talking about this. You’ve definitely thought about it. I’ve already written about it. I don’t think the problem is that we’re DOING it. It’s that we’re BELIEVING  it. We’re believing ours, and others, false projection of life.
I read an article in Elle called “Cropping Out the Sadness” that rocked my world. She questioned what would happen when the double lives were creating come face to face with each other. So I began thinking about that. And the solution would naturally be to start posting more “real” pictures and updates. But that’s a shitty solution. I hate reading emo Facebook updates or rants, whether they’re honest or not. I get skeeved out by pictures of gross or unpleasant scenes. I’m annoyed by pessimistic or bad- energy tweets. Is this ringing a bell for you too?
I like seeing the good of people’s lives. I enjoy seeing the beautiful travel pictures. It makes me happy to see my friends and family happy and smiling and doing cool shit. But if that’s the case, we’re back to where we started aren’t we??? The double life thing.
I’ve been toying with this conundrum because I know that people are not going to stop projecting the beautiful images of their lives. Nor will I. So  the solution then becomes the acknowledgment of what we’re doing. And what others are doing. In leadership, well-timed and appropriate self deprecation can get one incredibly far. It’s emotionally intelligent to share your insecurities from time to time. The same can be true of our digital presence.
The honesty we find in this tale of two selves will likely not happen with lo-fi filtered images of sick family members, snapshots of student debt statements put through Mayfair, or the “hashtag no filter” mascara stained pillowcases of heartbreak.
However, honesty can find it’s way back into our Instagram feeds by commenting on what’s really going on. 
I haven’t totally figured out how to solve this across the board, but I know that finding a bit of honesty somewhere in our highlight reels that are social media, will close the gap between what’s going on in our two lives.  However we choose to do that. I want to honor the unsaid rule of optimistic digital channels, while still being the honest and open person I am. That way, one day when we come face to face with our other life, we’ll at least be able to recognize it.

Maxie is now blogging as and you can get her straight to your inbox here.

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Vanessa Rose Lang

This is all so true. I recently went through a horrible break up and my sister made a comment about how everything on my Instagram and twitter feed has been so happy and pretty and polished looking – which was the exact opposite of how my life had been going. It makes you feel sort of fake, because people only see the days you put on make up or are in an upbeat mood. Same with clothes and #ootd posts. I'm not decked out in Lilly Pulitzer and J Crew every day, but I happen to post pictures on the days I am and never show the sweatpants days (which are way more common). I had the same problem when I wanted to start writing about women's rights and my own experiences with sexual assault – people aren't always expecting those heavier or realistic topics. People aren't the shiny social media versions of themselves. I think it's a great idea to try and find some balance and show your "real" side as well as the polished internet side.

Vanessa Lang Design


This is so true. I cannot tell you how many times I have to tell my friends and myself to not compare yourself to people's social media feeds. Those are not the real person but the person they decide to show you. Just like me, I only show the world the days when I see a beautiful sunset or a delicious meal but not the day I lay in bed binge watching Netflix and eating chocolate chip cookies because I just had a small break down. Social media is a major component in teen depresseion because young teens forget that just because someone is posting hundreds of pictures of them having a blast at a party doesn't mean they actually are that happy. Thank you for sharing the Elle article, loved it!

Annie Belle

Claire Salinas

I think everyone struggles with this. Like you say, it's so easy to only share the good in our lives. How would we feel if we knew the perfect blogger/celebrity we look up to actually had negative emotions? For me not too shocked.
It's fun to pretend like everything is prefect, but everyone has something they're dealing with.
Sharing this doesn't shatter any images, it makes me feel like your a real person dealing with real emotions and being honest about that is the first step to peeling back the film your talking about.

Fiona Heath

What an honestly true article!
When I started blogging, my Dad commented on how my blog seemed superficial, so I explained to him how people only want to read the good things.
Equally my most popular post, was on coping with failure and the results of failing my masters.
Thanks for the honesty Maxie.
Fie x Coffee & Confetti


Maxie, I love how you write, the way you phrase things, and dress your thoughts in words! As far as the topic, I don't have an Instagram, I don't have a Twitter, and I very rarely post anything on Facebook. None of my close friends have accounts on those social media sites either. Staying away from social media helps me stay away from all of what you mention. Although I do know these days most people are engaged with different social media platforms, and I'm kinda the odd one out. However, I don't feel like I am missing out.


I think it's hard because as much as we wish we didn't have to filter, we want to show the good stuff and people want to see the good stuff too! I think there's definitely a trend now about making the highlight reel a little more transparent, which is good. While seeing the good is fun, it's the hardships and struggles that bring people together.


This is spot on. It is so true how sometimes we just forget to include what's really going on because we want people to see how 'happy' we are…when maybe things don't look as great as the photo portrays. I think its important to have a balance and not hide from reality as much as people are nowadays!



Fantastic post.
I'm just getting into the social media way of life, and there is an enormous pressure – much in the way that models and movie stars do for body image – to have beautiful "highlights". However, on seeing this conversation happening, and seeing the acknowledgment that all is not as it seems, behind the scenes – I am feeling more encouraged by these beautiful highlights. Because they show us that despite the shit behind the scenes, our lives can still be beautiful. There can be balance with the acknowledgment of our humanity.


I just gave similar advice to my younger brother. He's going to be a freshman in college and already some of his friends are posting about their amazing new "friends" and how much they just love college! I reminded him, it's all an act, at least it is within your first few weeks. Don't get fooled by what other people post. No one's life is perfect and everyone has emotions they don't want to share with the world. Like you said, Maxie, it's important to keep those things in mind so you don't get too down on yourself.

– Kelsey

Aimee Carmichael

This is so true and I do it myself aswell. What it takes to achieve a good picture wither that be off yourself or objects. The lighting has to be right, or the position of the photo or the many different images you have to take or the many different filters or edits you use to get a perfect photo and in really life it's more of a stage than reality


This is such a good topic. It's hard not to compare yourself to the beautiful images that fill up an IG feed. One gal who is great at sharing the hard stuff (but with a pretty picture) is Lara Casey: It's nice to know that other people go through tough times too but see hope in it all.