Deborah Hill Cone: Life is not about living in a soft-drink ad

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Showing off on a certain social media site seems to be at its peak at this time of year, especially in New Zealand.

Why do we relate well to characters such as Kim Dotcom? Photo / Sarah Ivey
Why do we relate well to characters such as Kim Dotcom? Photo / Sarah Ivey

The highlights of my year according to Facebook bear very little resemblance to the reality of what 2012 has been like.

On Facebook there is a new feature where they compile a sort of "best of" for the year. I've had a pants of a year but you wouldn't know it.

Look, here is a picture of me in a helicopter! Here I am being parent of the year! And here is a picture that got 46 "likes".

"I brought home a cushion made of a picture of the Beatles circa Sergeant Peppers and said to Gussie as I got it out of the bag: do you know who this is?

"Yes! One Direction."

I'm not doing another boring "I'm resigning from Facebook" column: that only lasted a few weeks before I signed up again. But reading back over my year it does make me think how misleading our lives can be when we are presenting them for the eyes of other people, rather than just living them.

Showing off seems to be at its peak at this time of year.

Maybe it's worse in New Zealand because it all comes at once: our summer holidays as well as Christmas and New Year.

At this time of year there is extra "look at moi, look at moi" pressure to show you are having a sunny time; going to vineyard concerts, living the life of a Coca-Cola ad.

Reality has to be constructed, curated and presented with a flourish that makes us acceptable, or funny or interesting.

How about telling the truth about how our lives are? Most of life is just ordinary or sad or real or tough. It doesn't come with a pleasing symmetry or a meaningful narrative with a neat message.

Wednesday is just Wednesday, not "hump" day. Stuff just happens, on a random basis and sometimes it's not witty or cool.

My "real" year, not the Fakebook version, would be more like this: My mum died. My dad struggled on and had a third stroke.

My 4-year-old son finally learned to speak (Even though his idea of a conversation opener is "The Hot Wheels 69 Camarro is die cast and has a detachable spoiler.")

I dropped out of university. I dyed my hair red. I started guitar lessons. I began writing a column again.

Which is odd, since I'm probably the least sure about anything of any time in my life. As regular readers will know, conservative and liberal notions struggle continually for supremacy in my confused noggin. And I feel less inclined that anyone should do what I say. Why do I have any right to tell people what's what, any more than the skinny henna hair guy who looks like an old rocker and goes through the bins on our street?

I did learn some stuff this year, though. I learned there is no "just world". But if you take it slowly you can cope with reality rather than living in a fantasy world by adapting and changing your construct.

You don't need to escape like Tupac Shakur: "Reality is wrong, dreams are for real."

Instead, I prefer Soren Kierkegaard: "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced."

But how can we ever live in reality if we are so busy faking it in our personal lives? Does this explain why the public like Kim Dotcom so much?

No wonder so much of a therapist's work is simply "normalising", which is letting the client in on the joke: that everyone else may give the impression they have it all together and life is one long round of sunny vineyard concerts but this is a crock.

This year I am going to tell the truth.

So have a happy Christmas and New Year without expecting it to be perfect. Remember, the fabulous lives of other people on Facebook are all a flimsy construct.

But strangely, some of the cringeworthy twee stuff on Facebook is still worth listening to. Kurt Vonnegut had it right: "There's only one rule that I know of ... you've got to be kind."

Dialogue Contributions are welcome and should be 600-800 words. Send your submission to dialogue@nzherald.co.nz. Text may be edited and used in digital formats as well as on paper.

- NZ Herald

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