Life Lessons from Adoption Part 2: Billboards and Diaries

As I wrote in Part 1, Julie and I have the unique experience, joy and challenge of entering the world of international adoption.  If life is a perpetual school, it feels like we have are in the PhD program.  Not in the sense that we’ve figured it out, but because of the rigor of the classroom.  Here is another lesson the boys, life and our Savior are teaching us:

Social media is a billboard, not a diary.

Now, I think we know that – at least on some level. What we see on Facebook, Instagram etc. doesn’t tell the whole story. Yeah, yeah of course … hang with me here for a moment before you check out though.

We’ve enjoyed posting pictures, videos and brief moments of the boy’s new life with us. We post what brings us joy and laughter because we think it might bring others the same joy and laughter.  After all, we can all use a break from the dark and foreboding political discourse that is so popular right now, right?

Yet, I’ve noticed a misconception about our lives as a result. Many friends have commented to Julie or myself and said something to this effect:

“The boys seem to be …”

“so well adjusted”
“figuring it all out pretty easily”
“learning English so fast”
“Happy”

              Or, “It looks like your house is nothing but fun these days …”

This perception is only partly true. They are adjusting, figuring out their new normal to some degree, picking up some language. They are happy.  And we do have some fun these days.

But, that’s only half of the story. That’s the billboard part of the story, not the diary. Those are the 30-60 second highlight reels of the day. There are some very messy and hard parts of the story that don’t make it to Instagram or Facebook.  I don’t believe that is hypocrisy. There are part of our lives that we share with anyone, and there are parts of our lives that we shared with trusted friends and family.  (That’s healthy by the way)

Social media is a gift and a curse. It can brighten our day, but it can also lure us into believing a myth. Let me demonstrate:

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You see that photo? The loving family all playing together in the bounce house? Here is what that photo doesn’t tell you:

In the weeks leading up to this moment we took the boys to a play area with a bounce house 4 or 5 times.  They watched numerous other kids jump around and play, but our boys wouldn’t walk within 10 feet of it. I tried everything. Julie too. We played in it. Jumped in it. Tricked the boys to walking into it.  Every time they would run away from it scared to death. Terrified. Can you blame them? They have spent most of their life behind a concrete wall in rural Africa. To the best of my knowledge they had never seen a washing machine, much less a giant, inflatable and noisy bounce house. “What happens when you go inside that thing?” their little minds must have been asking time after time.

But that’s not the story that photo tells.

And that’s OK.

Here’s my point: Social media is a billboard, not a diary. Stop comparing your worst moments with someone else’s best moments. Stop believing the myth that so and so is doing a better job at marriage, parenting, work/family balance, dating or life in general because of what you see online. It’s a trap.  It’s a comparison trap. It’s a myth. It’s a billboard.

Every time you’re tempted to judge someone OR judge yourself by what we see in your social media feed – stop and remember: this isn’t the whole story.

Laugh, like, heart and make pithy comments. Just don’t assume it paints the whole picture.

I think we all know that on some level, but need to be reminded occasionally.

(P.S. If you are considering adoption because of what you see on Facebook, please put the application down…seriously)

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