Inertia and indecision landed our Summer holiday in the last possible week before school was to begin. So we enjoyed (endured) nearly three months of other people's holiday exploits via social media until we set off on our adventure.
You know, we've all seen it... happy friends, neighbours, colleagues and family having way more fun than us. They look fresh and well slept; their kids well behaved; the sun is ALWAYS shining; and clothes are pressed and bags neatly packed. Nobody is drunk, angry, frustrated, hungry or disheveled. In other words, holiday nirvana compliments of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/and the like.
It's what we've come to expect in the new social media world order. Nothing is really what it seems but all the boasts and tall tales of old (you remember when your neighbour wove a web of deceit about their trip to the Algarve leaving out the drunken disagreement with the in-laws that left him sleeping outside) are shone in our faces via tablets, mobiles and desktop computers.
We headed out with our toddlers to Normandy in glorious France this past week. In just the first first 18 hours we endured (in no particular order) - severe vomiting, almost missing our ferry (because we played it so very cool and didn't want to be 'too early'), extreme heat with a straining car air conditioner, diarrhoea, a count (yes, a real count) that thought the children were too loud, and a restaurant that didn't seem to understand us when we said that we'd take the children's set menu - and brought us no food for the kids at the end of a 15-hour long travel day.
The funny thing is that we were mad, exhausted, hungry, and stricken with some stomach flu, yet, our photos looked happy, carefree, colourful and postcard perfect. Much of that was thanks to the glory of the French countryside - good lighting, colour in the cheeks, fake smiles - and voila perfect snaps.
That's when it hit me how social media has served to distort the reality of what families (and frankly) anyone goes through during Summer holidays. I'm sure some of those brave souls on ships hit with the norovirus had some good pics. Or anyone who, say, has been robbed, sunburnt to a shade of neon red, or majorly disappointed by their airline/cruise/hotel. With smiles easy to come by and camera phones have improved lighting, the resulting impression of that quick shot on social media (whether stated or not) is: 'look at us...we are having sooo much fun...roll on our perfect holiday.'
The result for the rest of us is total holiday anxiety. The sense that you couldn't actually plan something as great as your Facebook friends. Well, I'm here to tell you the truth...it's the best and the worst of times for EVERYONE. We all are human and as much as we value the adventure, fun and time out that holiday provides us, the truth is that sometimes it's hard, especially with children, in-laws, or husbands/wives that itch from a case of Blackberry separation anxiety.
No sooner do you arrive home, happy you made it through, with that shine of hindsight and ready to boast about your adventures...you faced with the largest pile of laundry known to mankind and realise you forgot to tell your neighbours to put your bins outside.
But, hey, bold and brave we will be! Just don't forget that everyone is having as much fun and as little fun as you. It's the truth and lies behind those smiling faces...