While spending a few days in central Florida with some friends, we decided to make a day trip to “The Happiest Place on Earth,” a title Disney can finally say with confidence, now that they have finally lifted their 41-year ban on alcohol in the Magic Kingdom.
Anyway, as we drove through those magical golden arches that read “Where dreams come true,” each of us was instantly transported back to that golden era of our childhood.
Growing up in Miami, Disney World was always the road trip of choice, especially since the other options were South Beach, where getting your face eaten off by a man on bath salts was a real possibility, or Casey Anthony’s house—neither of which sounded incredibly appealing. Not to mention celebrating Fidel Castro’s death for the sixth time on Calle Ocho was no longer all that exciting. I guess nothing could really beat Disney.
As we made our way to Downtown Disney, one of my friends brought up how cool it would be to work at Disney and how jealous she was of a girl from our high school, Samantha, that decided to leave the University of New Hampshire to enroll in the Disney College Program—an internship that I later found out was a very glamourized title for an often minimum wage job at a Disney theme park. I quickly learned that my friends’ Facebook profiles aren’t the best place for research on the prestigiousness of certain programs.
Still, I’m pretty sure you can add the word “Disney” in front of anything, and it will automatically sound like the most amazing thing on the planet. It definitely seemed that way every time Samantha posted about watching fireworks, hanging out after hours at the Magic Kingdom or meeting Cinderella for the fifth time. (Although Jane is still my favorite, arguably the hottest, yet somehow most forgotten of all the Disney ladies.)
After we parked and began to make our way toward Downtown Disney, just moments after talking about Samantha, we spotted her. Walt Disney World has over 55,000 employees, and we somehow managed to run into the one that we knew.
She didn’t seem too excited to see us though, likely because it was just days after New Years, and she was dressed in a orange neon vest, spending her Saturday night directing visitors where to park. While we spent our holidays snuggled by the air vents trying to stay cold (Yes, I mean cold. Sorry, Midwesterners), she was greeting tourists from all over the world, plastered with a fake smile across her face.
Suddenly, all her Facebook posts on the “magical experience of working at Disney” didn’t seem so thrilling.
There go my plans to leave Duke for the magical land of $6 bottles of water and talking chipmunks. I would much rather spend my Saturdays dancing on the Shooter bar than showing people where to park until two in the morning.
What bothered me more, though, was just how wrong my perception of Samantha’s “magical Disney life” truly was. It bothered me that her Facebook profile was such a distorted sense of reality, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that we can’t expect people to post every boring or agonizing part of their day. We can’t treat someone’s Facebook timeline like a summary of their life. If we did, we’d literally feel like the only person on the planet who has ever had a bad day.
I think sometimes we forget just how much social media has transformed into such a manicured version of reality. Nobody has acne, it’s always sunny outside and the awkward stages never happened.
The brief moments of reality exist almost exclusively between the hours of 2:00 and 10:00 a.m. when everyone is either too drunk or asleep to efficiently monitor their Facebook persona.
All we can do is accept that social media is not reality. When you start comparing your life to someone else’s on social media, what you’re really doing is comparing your blooper reels to everyone else’s highlights.
We all have happy days, sad days, silly days, depressing days and every other type of day, but social media allows us to filter out those that we don’t care to share with the world.
Whether we consciously recognize it or not, each of us possesses an internal brand: an idealized image of morals, skills and a physical persona that we want others to see. Thus, social media gives us the perfect opportunity to display that “perfect brand.”
I have definitely done my fair share of “personal branding.” According to my 1,281 Facebook friends, I never had braces, I sit (make that stand) front row at every basketball game I attend and I never had that blonde phase in the sixth grade (yeah, that actually happened).
While I know that we can’t change what our friends are posting and obviously might not feel so inclined to start posting about the low points of our days, we can actively try to stop comparing our real lives with other’s idealized ones. I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school … I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.
Dillon Patel is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs every other Monday. Send Dillon message on Twitter @thecasualdevil.