It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You’ve trimmed the tree, started to wrap your presents, stocked up on mince pies and warmed up the mulled wine; you’ve highlighted all the shows you want to watch over the holidays in your annual copy of the Radio Times, you’ve googled how to stuff a turkey and you’ve picked out your most sparkly outfit. Christmas is coming! My memories of the festive season as a child involve sitting around in pyjamas and eating my body weight in leftovers, but in recent years the introduction and proliferation of social media has given us a whole new layer of expectation. You can’t open Instagram without seeing endless photos posed outside perfectly decorated landmarks, or smiling families picking out their tree – our focus has shifted from having a great time, to documenting and sharing the fact that we’re supposedly having a great time. And is that problematic?
We all live our life online, permanently attached to our phones. We snap and share every element of our day for the enjoyment of others, making decisions of where to go and what to eat based on how ‘sharable’ it will be; the trend for Instagramable coffee shops and cafes is huge, as brands understand the power of driving customers to pink cafes that offer flower adorned lattes. (See my full list of the most Instagramable coffee shops and blogger friendly cafes here!) It seems the Christmas season is no different.
Covent Garden have nailed the festive look this year with their present-adorned car that’s been shared more times than a tweet from Chrissy Teigen. If you’d never heard of Annabel’s in Mayfair before they put their giant tree on the front of their building, you certainly have now. Dalloway Terrace books out weeks in advance and even random fragrance shops with giant bauble displays have had more coverage in the last few weeks than they’ve seen all year, so is the power of social media sharing. We’re under increasing pressure to make our holiday season be the best it can be, visit all of the festive locations and take all the right pictures – rather than actually wrapping up warm, drinking all the cups of tea and fighting our way down the high street armed with more bags than we can carry.
It seems we’re collectively getting swept up in what we *think* Christmas should be, rather than enjoying the realities. It’s so easy to feel like you’re a festive failure if you’re not constantly sharing how great a time you’re having visiting all those Instagram hotspots (and spending a ridiculous amount of money in the process,) or that you haven’t bought all the flashy gifts for your loved ones from the expensive gift guides that suggest a Mulberry purse is a perfectly normal present for your best friend. Is it even Christmas if you haven’t posed by an ice rink or photographed putting the star on top of the tree? Are you doing the season ‘right’ if you’re not wearing your best PJs and holding a hot chocolate with just the right amount of marshmallows on top? It’s utterly exhausting, and to be honest, I’m over it.
Christmas is about spending time with your loved ones and having the opportunity to show how much you care; it’s about having a few days away from the daily grind and wrapping up on the sofa with a box of chocolates and a cold turkey sandwich; it’s about putting on a rubbish Christmas jumper and enjoying every minute, and making sprouts out to be a delicacy rather than a vegetable that nobody gives the time of day any other month of the year. It’s about goodwill to all men, being thankful for what we have and taking some time out from the madness that precedes it. When was it ever about showing the world how you’re nailing the holiday vibes and having the ‘Best. Time. Ever!’?
Admittedly I’ve felt the pressure to keep my content festive and visit those Instagram hotspots, but to be honest my need to hibernate and spend the majority of December with friends and family away from the capital has far outweighed that. We’ve visited Christmas markets, we’ve popped by the garden centre to check out the trees, we’ve been shopping and to enjoy the lights, but if there’s a photo it’s very much a bi-product – not the focus. I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to get the snap or enjoy those ‘cliched’ activities, but if you’re looking in from outside the influencer bubble please don’t feel the pressure to replicate this ridiculous lifestyle… It’s just unrealistic.
There’s enough pressure on us to have the perfect Christmas already, when realistically it’s a hard time for many. Whether you don’t get on with your family, are dealing with the loss of a loved one or simply know the inevitable arguments about who needs to clear up after dinner are yet to come, it’s rarely the picture-perfect time we’re lead to believe it should be. Once we take a step back and come to terms with the fact that the festive season shouldn’t be a cookie-cutter experience, instead being shaped into what works for each and every one of us, then trying to fit into that Instagram bubble becomes even more ridiculous.
I’m totally here for pretty lights, beautifully decorated trees and drinking hot chocolate, but when push comes to shove we all know that Winter Wonderland is always better in our heads than in reality – so why do we try to pretend otherwise?
What do you think? Is social media giving us unrealistic festive expectations and ruining the Christmas season?
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