We Don’t Know What We’re Doing

March 21, 2018
"We Don't Know What We're Doing"

I see a few “perfect” families pretty often. Dad has a great career and has struck out to develop his own firm. New clients await just off stage to join him. Mom runs several successful businesses. Her heels and hair are usually aligned faultlessly, much in the way of Olivia Pope from “Scandal.” Two-and-a-half kids are darling, beautiful, well-behaved, great eaters, charming intellectuals. The family dog just sits, unbothered, always groomed, always smizing. The picket fence is white; the grass is brilliant green. Their collection of public memories are vast and amazing: cruises and trips and weddings and backyard playdates and sunset walks. All stress-less. All exquisite.

Envy-inducing. Naturally.

Unfortunately, the exercise of social media usage exacerbates a film of instantaneous idealism through our individual selections of posts, videos, photos, and shares. Most users avoid heavier topics for a much lighter paragon of micro-blogging. In doing so, however, we inadvertently construct these “perfection” images…a whole themed bulletin board of frequent idyllic flawlessness under the supposition, of course, that what “I” choose to share is “my business only.”

I would imagine that my hubs and the kiddies appear this way, too. I am not exempt from the presentation of bliss. Posting a regular flow of photos of my children entertains my family members who see them, at bare minimum, once a year. My cheerful status updates indicate an opulent optimism that I encourage all around me. Yes, my hubs sticks fun messages and pictures of himself on my page. I return the favor and post an inside joke or poetic declaration of adoration on his. Yes, this is upchuck-triggering sap. As much as it harmonizes with my “real” self, my online personality does not make room for pessimism and sadness and the tougher moments, even though they occur privately. Every now and then, I will let loose a vent, but there are boundaries there.

I am “friends” with my boss. And his wife. It is what it is.

It is easy to conclude that art imitates life and that, because of this reason, we are enforced and moved to certain decisions. Imagery that we showcase is reflected back at us in circular cultural iconography. The “perfect” family manifestation is an example of this interplay. Television shows have dictated what a family “should” look like for decades—many people aspired to model their own after that utopian ultimatum. When society saw more of that perfection in reality as cloned copies, it pushed out more cultural tropes of the same type. We got stuck.

The cycle has run totally amok with the prevalence of social media.

There is now little difference between what’s “real” and what’s projection.

LiveScience, however, unveiled a fact about our version of the classic nuclear family, which they described as a seemingly “ancient, and therefore evolutionarily selected, ‘natural’ human grouping.” (Small, 2008) Author Meredith F. Small wrote, “There is also no real evidence that the nuclear family as we know it today has been around very long. Anthropologists have speculated that the original family of our long ago hominid past was probably groups of sisters and a few hangers-on males, and that cooperative childcare from female relatives was probably more important than love between a man and a woman.” (Small, 2008)

What has occurred, therefore, was an extrapolation of what someone deemed important enough to push onto everyone else. The premise of the comprehensive picture of “family” spread rapidly, unchallenged and unchanged. Someone’s creation has tended our expectations for most of humankind. We never deemed what we saw as “wrong,” even as the look of families around us transformed over time. Popular culture complemented our diversities quickly, but the nostalgia of that mom-dad-two-kid-of-opposite-gender standard remained the canonical touchstone.

How weird is that?

Essentially, our idea of the perfect family has finally hit a snag. It has been a long time coming. What society has always thought to be the absolute truth is no longer on that level of finality and is more completely inaccurate now than ever. Honestly, parents are busy adults and struggling to balance. Families are separated across states and countries. Getting along is difficult. Isolation and individualism, once only Western concepts, attract more followers daily. Food is quick and convenient. Values have been shuffled. Kids are raised by television. The “lucky” ones go to college. No one expresses how their day went anymore. We ebb and flow. We’re trapped with our faces to screens.

Taking selfies and whatnots.

Appropriately, we don’t know what we’re doing. But we’ll forever pretend to.

As a society, we don’t educate ourselves. We don’t look around and observe. We are seldom repentant. In time, we accept and evolve, but rarely admit to unacceptability. The “perfect” family scroll work will remain because no one of status will be willing to call it out on the BS that it is. The image will fade into the background of all the colorful, tangible, loving families that are what’s really happening, but it will not go away, susceptible to emerge again as primary criterion.

Work Cited

Small, Meredith F. “The Perfect Family is a Myth.” LiveScience, Dec. 5, 2008, Accessed Mar. 21, 2018.

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