Ingrid Goes West, Social Media, and Looking in the Mirror


Recently I watched a skin crawlingly uncomfortable yet amazing indie film called Ingrid Goes West starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen.  Plaza’s Ingrid is a lonely young woman most likely suffering from some sort of mental illness or break following the death of her mother.  She becomes obsessed with Olsen’s Insta-famous Taylor who seemingly lives a perfect California life full of avocado toast, shopping, and trips to Joshua Tree.  Watching this film could not have come at a more perfect time for me because it spoke to a lot of the thoughts I had been having about social media as of late – the way we project and interpret ourselves and others and how it warps our perception not just of ourselves but the world around us.

While I don’t post on Snapchat I LOVE the filters.  It’s just silly fun. The filters on Snapchat are much better than those on Instagram so I usually take photos or video in Snap and then post them to my Insta-story.  About a week or so ago I was about to take a video with no filter and I stopped dead in my tracks unhappy with my appearance.  My skin has always been a bit textured from my teenage years and I tend to have a more rosy than usual skin tone.  While I have maybe never loved these things about myself, they hadn’t really bothered me before. They’re who I am and I’ve lived with them everyday.  And yet, I was uncomfortable posting like this.  “Let me put a filter on,” I thought to myself.


Suddenly I had a problem.

Using Snapchat filters had somehow, without my conscious knowing, gone from silly fun with reindeer antlers and waffle ears to a newfound insecurity about my face. I was thinking about microdermabrasion and chiding myself for not drinking enough water to help the bloat in my face.  It was like Snapchat had snuck into my brain and rearranged the wires.  And since then, all I’ve been able to think about is what it must be like to be a tween, teen, or young woman in her 20s growing up with social media and these images. Sure these images are fantasy and often ridiculous but they’re also clearly instilling the idea that thinner, smoother, lighter faces are better.  Big eyes. Baby voices. What must it be like to be coming of age, navigating what it’s like to try to feel both comfortable and uncomfortable in your own body, and then have to contend with this wholly unobtainable look?

Watching Ingrid Goes West I was really struck by the way Plaza was able to externalize that feeling we all often experience when we look at someone’s picture perfect life on Instagram.  The way it can drag us down further when we’re already having a rough time or make us aspire to things that maybe we don’t even truly want. And conversely, the way it allows us to hide behind a virtual mask that like the Snapchat filters I love so much, hides our imperfections and makes our lives seem fun, breezy, and free of rough edges or bumps.  Since watching the film I find myself browsing social media wondering who’s telling the truth, if anyone.  I think daily about how honest I’m being not just with “the world,” but with myself.  Is this the life I want or the life I think I should want?


Disconnecting and Embracing the Quiet


Joshua Tree National Park

I feel like I often hear my friends and other people my age (thirtysomethings) talk about wanting to disconnect.  “I just want to delete my Facebook…but it makes it so easy to keep in touch.”  “I just need to take a little social media break.” Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, it’s all become so ever-present in our life that it can begin to take over.  That’s not shocking news. But I think it is a little shocking how hard it can be to really take that break or delete an app.  Despite growing up as kids without cellphones, let alone smart phones, we’ve become adults who are hopelessly tethered to our devices and our virtual connections to the people and world around us.

I have personally had the same struggles.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve defiantly deleted the Facebook app off my phone and then found myself “sneaking” onto the mobile page to do nothing but waste time.  Sometimes when I’m taking a break I find myself frustrated with my phone as if it’s a living thing, cursing it for having nothing for me to browse like a child whose parent did not bring anything to do on a long road trip. It’s a strange, first world, 21st century struggle.  Shouldn’t it be easier to do something you want to do?

Last month my husband and I took our first trip out to California.  The two major things we did were pretty much polar opposites – Disneyland and Joshua Tree National Park. We adored Disney but for me, the most remarkable, let’s do it again thing we did was spend an entire day driving through Joshua Tree. There was zero service almost immediately and it was, to be completely cliché for a moment, a tremendously freeing experience to be on a road surrounded by nature with no one to connect with but my husband.  At times we didn’t even bother trying to find an FM radio station to listen to and drove in complete quiet except our conversation.



Key’s View – 5000+ ft above Coachella Valley


We experienced so much within the 70+ mile trip.  We hiked, climbed rocks, saw the Coachella Valley from 5000 feet in the cold and very windy air.  We walked through a garden composed completely of cacti.  While I initially felt myself feeling withdrawal regarding my social media – feeling disappointed I couldn’t post something to my Insta Story as it was happening for example -or thinking crazier things like, “by the time I have service, it’ll be late on the east coast and no one will like my photo,” the whole lack of internet thing eventually drifted away.  We were in awe of seeing SO MUCH open space and so much varied terrain in one place.  We were humbled by the immensity of it all and found ourselves talking about the importance of preserving wide open natural spaces as we basked in the grandness and majesty of it all.



Cholla Cactus Garden

Being back to basics as it were; together with someone you care about with no distractions to speak of, was an experience I’m very grateful for. It gave us no choice but to evaluate our surroundings, our present, and our lives in general a bit.  It’s something that I’ve thought about a lot since when I’ve been overwhelmed with stress or anxiety – that feeling of vastness and the sensation that you could just disappear into the horizon if you wanted.  It’s hard to mimic that feeling exactly in suburbia.  But I would suggest that beyond just taking that break from the technological world, that quiet is highly underrated and often forgotten.  I’m not necessarily suggesting that you meditate – though that’s something that a lot of people benefit from – but something more like evaluating a need to fill every moment with sound.  When I’m doing anything from driving to working out to cooking dinner I have a podcast or music playing.  I want to keep reminding myself that sometimes it’s ok to complete tasks or tackle the everyday without aural companion. IMG_0932


We’re constantly stimulated, consistently distracted, and training ourselves to absorb life in short bursts instead of a long road.  Our lives often exist at a break neck, what’s next pace.  I’m looking to incorporate a little more Joshua Tree state of mind.



Grief. Grieving. Grieved.



Grief is sneaky, like a wave.  It ebbs away and for a period of time, distracted by work, life, whatever it may be, you forget that you’ve lost something precious.  And then it comes rushing back.  It always does.  Sometimes it’s shallow, lightly splashing around your ankles – a light malaise of sadness.  Other times it’s a rogue wave – knocking you to the ground, taking your breath away, sucking you under.  Unseen, unheard, you can’t time the rhythm of the waves – if there even is one.  You just have to roll with it even if it means some days you’re fighting just to keep your head above water.

I wrote in a previous post about losing one of my best friends this summer.  It was something, despite his illness, despite losing people in my life before that I was wholly unprepared for.  In the weeks following I was ragged and hollow, existing on superficiality and forced pleasantries.  I had half a day off work for his wake, a day for his funeral, and I was back at it.  We were short staffed and my attendance was essential.  I’m not sure what having time off would have done for me anyway – perhaps given me time to “process” his death.  Whatever that means.  Despite that it would have been nice to stay at home in bed, hiding under the covers, shutting myself off from the outside world for a bit I suppose.


Either way, the day after his death my husband and I closed on our first home.  “As one thing ends, another begins” people say.  “Life stops for nothing” others remark. People (myself included) are idiots. I was overwhelmed on a level I didn’t know was possible.  Emotionally I was fluctuating between completely shut down and totally raw.  It’s been just about four months now and grief has mellowed into more of a numb feeling, like a phantom limb I know was once there – mobile, efficient, powerful .  I have scattered photos of him and I, my husband, his wife, our friends, throughout our home as we decorate and when I pass them I do smile – weakly – because I know that’s what I’m supposed to do, what I will eventually be able to genuinely do.  But for now they remind me that grief is still ever present.  The next wave is building over the horizon.


Grief is…


Frustrating? Personal? Solitary? Communal? A bitch?

I really don’t know.  I know I’m not handling it in a rational step-by-step way.  I just try to weather it as it comes.  The weird guilt, for example. I was “just” his friend. I wasn’t his wife. His brother. His father.  Who am I to feel SO upset. To be talking about it still. The sharp anger. The week after his death people would catch me unsmiling and ask what was wrong. It was exhausting and painful to say even a clipped sentence of what seemed frustratingly obvious.  But they weren’t grieving.  For them life was business as usual. Yesterday was forgotten.

I don’t write any of this as a tale of a woman who is sad and looking for a hug. I write this because we all deal with these things to some degree at one time or another and it can often feel as though people are looking for us to get it together and move on.  Once some time has passed we’re expected to continue – and we do – but that doesn’t mean that we’re done grieving or the loss is unfelt.  The subject is not closed.  It can’t be. I’m in no place to tell anyone how to deal with anything in life, but for me, I’ve always felt better putting things out there & expressing my emotions.

So for better, for worse. Justified or not.  Frustrating, guilt ridden, sharp, numb, angry, sobbing, misunderstood, under-discussed – whatever it is, however it chooses to manifest itself, here is my grief four months later.


Cynicism, Negativity, and Self-Destructing Your Own Youth

Remember when there was a whole social media trend about seeing whether you could be positive on a consistent basis?!

Remember when there was a whole social media trend about seeing whether you could be positive on a consistent basis?!

Something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that I have less and less patience for cynicism.  5-10 years ago, when things weren’t going as well as I’d like them to, when I was out of shape, more insecure, and frustrated with my own life, it was easy to fall into the trap of negativity and cattiness.  We’re all guilty now and again of tearing someone else down – whether it be just in our own head or otherwise – to build ourselves up. It can be easier to look down our nose at things or criticize someone else to deflect attention away from our own fears or shortcomings.

However, the older I get, the more violently turned off by cattiness and cynicism I become.  I’m tired of hearing friends, acquaintances, internet trolls, and my own brain sometimes, being, for lack of a better term, just a big jerk.   Every single one of us has been the victim at least once in our life of hateful words. Someone has made us feel bad about ourselves or invalidated our thoughts or feelings.  It’s an empty, crushing feeling and it’s one that can be very hard to bounce back from.  Why, when we know how awful that feels, do we unleash that feeling on someone else? The boost you get from it is just as hollow – sugar for the soul that leaves you lazy and out of shape morally.


Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you think someone’s wedding invitation is stupid, a stranger on the internet is crazy for flaunting her heavier frame, or people using cutesy terms like babymoon or calling their significant other some pet name is maddening there’s no one who is going to stop you.  None of that is illegal or really even wrong so to speak.  But why? Why do we find ourselves wasting so much energy on these little things that have nothing to do with me or you.  Someone is living their life and enjoying themselves, they’re not attacking anyone, and yet we often feel the need to lash out passive aggressively or behind their back.  We are a society of eye rollers.

Life is good when you're just worrying about yourself.

Life can be really good when you concentrate on the sunshine.

I feel so much better when I’m around people who don’t engage in negativity – people whose currency is encouragement and positivity.  I am far from perfect.  I am just as guilty as the next person of engaging in gossip, general cattiness, and just big, fat, jerk-itude.  But I want it excised from my life completely, like a dark mass feeding on me, like a leech, I want it gone.   I really, truly feel in my gut that outward negativity is a reflection of personal insecurity or unhappiness.  I know it has been for me and so I’ll speak for myself only on that front.  And so, instead of turning my energy out when I have a negative, catty, or cynical thought, I’ve been trying lately to turn that energy back in.  Why did I just think that nasty thing about that person?  Why did I roll my eyes at that post? Why is this little insignificant thing bothering me SO MUCH.

I’ve noticed lately, maybe over the last year especially, that my best friend Meg and I often ask each other why someone would be so critical of someone else – we text the phrase “live and let live” way more often than you’d think.  And again, this is not holding myself or anyone else up as some bastion of moral strength.  It’s just something we both wonder about. Something we both notice a lot these days and something we’re both trying to be better at and avoid. For me, personally, cutting Facebook out of my day would go a long way to helping me live a more positive, productive life.  Social media and the internet in general, while immensely positive in many ways, also seem like a breeding ground for general nastiness – a place where you can forget that other people are human beings and revel in negativity.

This image I came across has stuck with me for a long time.

This image I came across has stuck with me for a long time.

I definitely don’t have all the answers but it’s something that I’m going to keep thinking on and I imagine I’ll only develop an even lower tolerance for it as time goes on. It’s not so much that turning 30 has made me a grumpy naysayer who doesn’t understand what’s wrong with kids these days, it’s just that as I figure out my own life more and more, I wonder why I was ever so critical of anyone else for trying to figure themselves out. As we share more of ourselves than ever via social media I wonder why it seems to have led to such an increase in criticism instead of high fives.  I wonder why, when we all struggle to “have it all” can’t we just be nicer to ourselves and our fellow wanderers?