Everyone’s been talking about Best Nine on Instagram, where you use this site to see how many likes you got in a year, how many times you posted, and your top 9 photos. I was SO excited to type in my username and see the results. I had ideas in my head of what my top nine would be — maybe the time I made it all the way to South Dakota and used a pic to check in and say I was actually alive (you’re welcome, mom and dad). Or maybe when I went to Windy Gap for Work Week and, with my heart so full of love and peace, I captured one of my favorite moments.
I plugged in @swraex, hit that big fancy “GET” button, and sat back.
What do you mean that’s my top 9?
I was immediately really, really annoyed and angry. All of these pictures in my top 9, admittedly, are so glamorized and so NOT me. All of the pictures of me holding a baby? Oh yeah, that’s me. All of the pictures of my travels that showcase my love for adventure? Yep! Savannah!
But 9 completely staged, edited, working-hard-for pictures…what does this say about the Instagram community? Furthermore, what does this say about society and what we deem important?
What you don’t see in those 9 pictures? Let’s talk about a few:
What you don’t see? The freezing, FREEZING cold river. My bare feet holding tight to a wet, cold, mossy rock and “Please don’t fall, please don’t fall, please don’t fall” running through my head on repeat, like a broken record. The hours it took to set up the shoot, and all of the hard work of some really amazing people.
What you don’t see? The goosebumps on my legs, my arms, and even my neck and my shoulders from the dropping temperature and the drizzling rain (why do I always take pictures when its cold outside??). The bright red mud on my boots that I still, months later, have not been able to get off. The music blaring in the background, a tool to help me relax since I was 100% out in wide open spaces, with cars and people going by and with my nerves completely shot.
What you don’t see? The 80 or so pictures I took before and after this one to try and get the perfect, “Look everyone, I’m in Hawaii” shot. The HOUR I took to edit the water to make sure it was the bluest of blue, the most tropical, and the most extreme. Let me tell you – my time above the clouds was not anywhere close to the beautiful quality of this picture. An 11 hour flight is absolutely no joke, and what you don’t see is the leg cramps I got from being almost 6′ and sitting in a small, compact seat. Or my rush to take Dramamine for motion sickness, because as the plane was parting clouds up ahead, I could feel every turn and every speed bump in the sky and I didn’t like it one bit. Or the drool on my mouth that I wiped off when I woke up from a hard sleep thanks to that medicine.
And this one? What you don’t see? This was Sunday, February 15th. The photographer looked at the camera after taking this exact picture and said, “Wow, you do sad so well.” Two days before that Sunday and one day before Valentine’s Day my boyfriend told me he needed space, I wasn’t good enough, and he would make sure I understood that we weren’t together “at least for a week” before he went to go sleep with someone else.
She’s blonde and she’s always had a crush on him, I think.
What you don’t see? Those earrings that I’m wearing and the necklace with two hearts around my neck were given to me by that same boyfriend, and I made sure they were displayed for all to see. When I posted on Instagram, you wouldn’t hear that I did sad so well, you wouldn’t hear the crack in his voice when he just needed time to think or even know at all about this trial in our relationship (which lasted for a long time after this). You wouldn’t feel my pillow soaked with tears and my head reeling as I cried on the couch across from my best friend, her holding the roses she got me, hearing me say over and over that I was convinced I couldn’t do all of this on my own.
Do you get it? Don’t you see? What we all share on social media is such a tangled web. The photos of mine that people were drawn to weren’t real or candid. They were staged, with either a team of hair and makeup standing by for me or an editing app on my phone screaming my name.
Lots of people I know have a word of the year. Lots of my blogging friends share these words in blog posts. There’s even a list of 100 if you’re having trouble choosing.
My word? Intentional. My hopes? To live out this year, and forever to come, intentionally. To pursue relationships and continue friendships intentionally: with love, respect, and a listening ear. To share, socially, the good, the bad, and most importantly, the ugly. Not for attention or assurance, but so my top 9 of 2016 aren’t staged moments that don’t show who I really am and what makes my heart soar. Do those photoshoots make me feel good? Yes. Did standing on top of that waterfall make me feel beautiful? HECK yes.
But you guys, there is so, SO much more than what’s on Instagram. There’s so much more behind a filter or a hashtag.
You may be wondering how to live intentionally. I wondered that too. Here are a few ways:
1. Set goals.
As a student taking 6 classes this semester, volunteering at a nearby hospital, and working part time, its easy to get stuck or get caught up in the schedule. Even if you aren’t in the same situation as I am, set goals for yourself. They can be big – like making straight A’s – or simple and small – like allowing 30 minutes every night to read your favorite book. Setting goals helps to keep you on track and keep you living a life with intention.
Listen to your friends, family, and partner. Hold their hand, make eye contact, and hear their story.
Accept others as they are and as they come to you. Understand that there are people from all walks of life. Offer up your story to everyone you meet and be intentional in understanding and learning about someone else’s path.
Like me, you can get caught up in the glamour and storytelling side of social media. When you find yourself dedicating a little too much time to editing that Instagram photo, or when you’re styling a picture simply to show off happy, reconsider and step back.
For more ways to live intentionally, check out this great resource I found from Becoming Minimalist.
What about you? What is your word for 2016? How will you live intentionally? I would love to hear from you!
Disclaimer: Talking about the styled shoots up above, please know that I am in no way bashing the modeling industry or anyone I worked with to create the images you see. I had SO much fun shooting with many gifted and talented vendors and I don’t wish to take away from that. I just want everyone to be aware of the behind the scenes!