The Horn Section

I overheard a conversation the other day where someone said that LinkedIn is a festival where you can "blow your own horn." The take's not exactly wrong: most posts on my feed fall into one of these categories:

  1. I made a huge difference at my job.

  2. I was generous and gave somebody a chance.

  3. We all have 24 hours in a day: what are you doing with it?

But if we're doing to condemn LinkedIn, shouldn't we include Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as well? We can say social media is a way to connect and share, and sure, that's part of it; as an expat, it's a great way to stay up to date on big life events for acquaintances. Connecting with people I'm close to, though, usually takes place with phone calls, audio messages, or text.

It's not a secret that we share pictures of our dinner, job promotion, and travel plans because we want to share our wins. We present the version of ourselves we want to be. And, yes, I include myself in this.

  • I'm happy to spend the night at home reading, but I worry that it will be interpreted as "she has nothing better to do."

  • I have about 6 close friends, and I feel content with that. I'm happy to have one or two social events a week. But seeing others post their latest gathering every day makes me question if my equilibrium is normal.

  • I'll post about how romantic Zagreb was, but not about the wasp sting, late bus, and crying baby on the flight.

Social media's not real, don't compare your raw footage to someone's highlight reel, comparison is the thief of joy, yeah, yeah, we know. Pick a cliché.

But I've recently noticed a shift in my perception: the blown horns don't bother me as much. I'm glad to see that people are getting better at their jobs, finding new hobbies, and exploring new ways to enjoy life. I'm not saying we should commend #humblebrags or smile every time someone posts a jealousy-inducing pic. But: life is hard right now for a lot of people. And it feels nice to know that some good things are still happening.

Friends in or from Ukraine will talk about a new Netflix show or a restaurant downtown. It doesn't mean they're not suffering; they're living life, and finding moments of joy, to survive. Same for my friends in the States: many are struggling with inflation and housing prices, divorces and overbearing parents, but they still upload a video of their dog.

Even outside of social media, I'm someone who thrives on positive reinforcement. I need encouragement for motivation. I'm more inclined to go to the gym again if I let myself feel good about going four times last week. There's a trend that likes to associate my generation with participation trophies, and there's some truth to it. I shouldn't need a medal for making basic good decisions. But, goodness, sometimes I need that recognition. #MillenialProblems? Maybe.

This post is really just a long introduction to a cliché of my own: an orchestra is incomplete without a horn section. Alone, a trumpet or trombone is grating and obnoxious, but within a symphony it provides some much-needed color. Let's not hate on them too much.

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