The Facebook Illusion

Ben and I were driving home after spending four successful days in the Philadelphia area.  He was sleeping in the back of the car and I was thinking about Facebook and my reservation to post pictures from this trip.

Twice I started a Facebook post and twice I hit cancel.

I have a love hate relationship with Facebook.

I love feeling connected to others, especially when our family situation prevents us from getting together with family and friends.  I love posting pictures of the boys, most of the time, and sharing our happier life moments.  And if I am honest, I love that Facebook provides me an outlet to feel “typical” and a part of a larger community.

I also hate Facebook.  At times I feel resentful of all the happy pictures being posted of family vacations, kid’s accomplishments, and get togethers with friends.  When we are in an exceptionally rough patch, I avoid Facebook for my own well being.  I hate being reminded of our very real limitations and all that the boys are missing out on.

I think the reason I did not post pictures from our Philly road trip was to avoid the comments.  Don’t get me wrong, I usually appreciate all the likes, hearts, and supportive comments.  I truly do.  However, so many of my pictures provide an illusion of the experience or moment, without telling the real story.  This is especially true when it comes to this trip.

The story behind the pictures is not about the historic landmark in the backdrop.  

Instead, the real story is the fact that we physically made it to each landmark without collateral damage.  This was the first time in 13 years that Ben kept his anxiety in the back seat, felt a sense of pride, and truly enjoyed himself.

No outbursts, no scenes on the streets, no quick exit out the side door before the food was served.

I have pictures of Ben standing on the grounds of Independence Hall, at the Valley Forge Welcome Center, and on the steps of the Franklin Institute.  They are beautiful pictures with Ben boasting a big smile in each.

What the pictures don’t tell is that we never made it in the building to see the Liberty Bell.  He got as far as the steps at the Franklin Institute and then we turned around and left.  And we only made it to the first stop on the ten-mile tour at Valley Forge.

I struggled with sharing these pictures on Facebook and giving the impression that we saw it all.  

I guess I did not want to post the pictures and have everyone think we experienced the sights like “typical” families do.  I did not want the comments to focus on how cool it was that we went to Valley Forge and assume we saw George Washington’s home or have people ask what Ben liked best at the Franklin Institute.

Most importantly, I did not want to minimize the significance of these pictures.

The pictures are not about what we did and what we saw.

The pictures are about a 13-year old boy learning to not let his anxiety prevent him from experiencing life.  The pictures are about Ben’s 10 academic placements, years of therapy, and 7 psychiatric hospitalizations.  

These pictures represent how far he has come and hope for his future.  They tell a story of a child who faced his fears, is feeling incredibly proud of himself, and for the first time ever is asking to go on another road trip.  

Something a Facebook picture can not capture.   

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