A couple months ago I called my friend from university. She had recently scored a new brand deal and I was feeling down on my luck. Her platform felt bigger than mine, her TikTok’s were performing better, and I felt like I was drowning in a sea of inadequacy. We talked on the phone for a couple minutes before she revealed to me that she felt like she didn’t know what she was doing. Social media was fast and changing everyday. Trends were created as quickly as they ended. Some of her content flopped and some took off, and she couldn’t find a pattern.
And I laughed.
Not at her, that would be rude. I have my character flaws but I’m not a bitch. I laughed because I had been working in social media for four years, and I got conned by the oldest trick in the book: Fake it ‘til you make it. And it truly is faking it. It’s not “trying your hardest” or “putting in the effort”, it’s all about lies and facades and masquerades. Even though I work in the field, I got tricked by someone I know. I forgot the cardinal rule of the internet: Everything you see is a lie.
And I am the same.
This is not to say that it isn’t based in reality. My name is Victoria, I am from Toronto, I have a myriad of mental illnesses, and I am a musician. The framework that you see and the stories that I tell are true. But I have painted all the details of my life from one point of view. I have spun a web and shown you only my side of the story. I have timed my relay of information for my benefit and that is because you are living in my fantasy. You are witnessing my life in the way I choose to play it out in front of you.
I edit my photos so the sky looks bluer and the lighting looks flawless. I tell you I’m spending my rainy day at a coffee shop in downtown Toronto, when in reality I was there three days ago. Currently, I’m sitting hair awry, trying to understand the intricacies of Google Analytics for work. Everything I’m telling you is a lie.
I tell you about my mental illnesses, but you don’t get to know all the details. All the dirty secrets and the diagnoses. You don’t get to watch the panic attacks and hear the thoughts that rattle around in my head. You don’t get to watch the self-destructive behaviour or get invites to the pity party because those are my secrets, and you only get to see slightly behind the curtain because that is all I want you to see.
You hear my songs, but you don’t get to see all the dates and the quiet moments. You don’t get to hear all the salacious details I share over cocktails with my friends as we play out a Sex in the City knockoff. You don’t get to watch me smile and laugh over texts and bad jokes and you don’t get to watch me cry when it ends. Because I don’t want you to see all that, I just want you to see the shiny, funny, and public moments.
And maybe this wrecks the magic for you. Maybe it’s like a child learning Santa Claus isn’t real, but I think in your heart of hearts you knew this. You knew that social media was one large con created by Mark Zuckerberg and his lizard-people-friends. You knew that for every good photo I take there were 200 of me looking weird and stupid. You knew all these things, but you let yourself believe that it was all true. You forgot that everything I’m telling you is a lie.
You knew all these things, but you let yourself believe that is was all true. You forgot that everything I'm telling you is a lie.
If you find yourself screaming at me or the sky or some other individual, thinking “why, why have you done this?” the answer you’re looking for is not simple. First and foremost, it’s the market. People want to seem flawed but not too flawed. They want to know you’re relatable and a human, but they don’t want to know all the dirty details. They don’t want to see messy or unkept. They only want to colour slightly outside the lines. I’m simply meeting the demands of a market. All in all, social media is a business and I’m the product.
Secondly, to maintain some sanity. If I create this divide between my real life and the life you see online, then I can’t get caught up in the part that might destroy my self-esteem. If the person you saw on your Instagram was truly me, then I could get personally offended by hateful comments or messages. I could be scared when men say the terrible things in my dm’s. But the separation of church and state provides a buffer between my well-being and my work.
Finally, it’s because frankly, it’s my life. My life is truly in technicolour. It is full of laughs and people I love and adventure. And I get to choose what gets shared. Yes, I take lots of photos and share lots of moments. But there are private moments that are mine. There are moments I keep memorialised, the stain-glass windows to the church that is my brain. I think sometimes there are moments that don’t need to be shared.
So yes, I’ve been lying to you. I’ve been showing you a single side of reality, which the truth is that my life is a 20-sided die. I’m telling you this because it means the next time you’re scrolling through Instagram or TikTok you might remember: Everything everyone is telling you is a lie. But then again why would you believe me? I’m a liar.
From me, with love, to you,