The complexity of our present times has offered us the chance to view our own realities from a veritable smorgasbord of lenses, if my patient reader will forgive the awkward synesthesia. It is possible to live an event and examine it immediately in flashback without troubling one’s memory cells.
The other day, we attended a wedding reception. The first hour of the festivities was devoted to what the hosts referred to as Recall Reels. We were treated to witty observations about the life-thus-far of first the bride, and then the groom, as various relatives of the couple took the mike to accompany the film-collage with underlying movie songs played in tandem with the pictures and live commentary. We enjoyed the first few minutes immensely. However, as the hour wore on, the pictures began to take on a monotone, not of the subject matter but of mood. These were, obviously, supposed to depict lives spent in sheer joy. Images caught people in mid-laughter, eyes sparkling at something behind or above, just out the range of our vision, hair afloat in becoming abandon. Then there were pictures of immaculately groomed children, eyes scrunched shut in concentration as they blew out birthday cake candles, flames steady, ribbons and bow ties standing to attention, adoring, clapping people surrounding the cake. Always, always, the focus of all present in the photograph seemed to be the young bride and groom. It seemed as though all through their childhood and youth, these two people’s families and friends had deliberately hoarded up a trousseau of pictures they could exhibit on their wedding day, so we would know how carefree and abundant their lives had been.
Such exhibits of perfected lives have expanded from an hour during a wedding reception, to everyday chronicles on social media sites, like Facebook. I see only exquisite views of mountains, rivers, oceans beneath a colorful sky seen through window frames; the camera always misses the sink of dirty dishes just beyond the breathtaking view. I imagine the owners of such windows as gazing out, sipping some tall, cool citrus-y drink, no dishes, floors, or counter-tops ever to be cleaned. These owners are usually accompanied in my imagination with the most perfect of friends or spouses or pets.
Most people I know, who take lots of pictures, screen their imaginary lives very carefully. Of the thousands of images they capture, only a few are deemed “Facebook-worthy.” These images do not necessarily depict a reality hitherto unsuspected by the viewer, nor do they offer an insight into the personality of the subject. On the contrary, it would seem that these images are carefully chosen to display a perfection of an imagined self, which often renders the subject unrecognizable. These people glow with satisfaction every time I exclaim at their profile picture, “Is that you? I did not even recognize you!” Apparently, this is the most appropriate reaction sought for.
I suppose it is human nature to wish to garner as much envy from one’s world as one could manage. This envy is synonymous with admiration, a trophy of some sort that assures the subjects they have arrived, worked hard and achieved the glint of I-Wish in the eyes of beholders. If, indeed, this is the aim, then it is attained. I must confess to wishing for your perfect Facebook life. I covet your excellent health, to bite a pie of the warm laughter of your gatherings, discover the exotic worlds you are always globe-trotting to; I want the top 95% you earn in all Facebook quizzes that gauge you to be among the smartest of all, hunger for all those delicious, easy-peasy recipes you share, and of course, I crave most ardently that window you gaze out of.
Beware, Perfection! As that vignette of a flawless life gets uploaded for all to see, make sure of a dot of kajal on its back (where it will not be seen) to ward off the evil eye.