this is not a competition

We are often warned not to take social media too seriously. People often selectively share life events on the good to amazing scale, and leave out the mundane to disastrous. Looking at the social media of one’s friends might lead one to believe that everyone has the cutest, most well-behaved kids; or that they are always getting flowers and presents from people; or that they frequently go to the beach, where they enjoy picnics with elaborate charcuterie platters.

I’m sure this is all very obvious to my readership and to most of my friends, and there’s no need to warn any of you about this; but while I thought I was also above this petty social media envy, I realised the other day that I am, quite possibly, not totally immune.

I enjoy cooking all sorts of things — sweet, savoury, in between, mixed together, intricate recipes, or quickly thrown together ones. It’s only the thought of having to clean up afterwards that makes me drag my feet to the kitchen.

I’ve been told by people that I cook quite well, and I’m also generally pleased with the outcomes of my endeavours and experiments. However, things don’t always work out as hoped. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever had to discard something because it simply wasn’t edible at all, but I’ve had my share of underwhelming experiences with cooking.

And this is where the social media thing comes in.

I was feeling a bit despondent over a cheesy garlic bread that didn’t quite live up to expectation, and I was trying to tell myself that it’s a lesson learnt, and it’ll be better next time. But then I started wondering why all this wasn’t just self-evident, and why I even had to try to comfort myself. That’s when I made the connection: No one I know ever posts about their deflated cakes, burnt pies, or non-crunchy crackling attempts.

I’d been unknowingly affected by what I’ve been seeing on social media.

What’s interesting, however, is that I used to watch a lot of MasterChef, and there are cooking disasters in every episode (it makes for good television, I guess). But why aren’t cooking mishaps and unsuccessful culinary adventures more accepted? MasterChef is all about regular people who aren’t qualified chefs but can cook amazing things. Yet these people are constantly forgetting to check on pots on the stove, accidentally over-whipping or over-mixing creams and batters, and completely missing the mark on cooking proteins.

And when these unfortunate things happen, which cause much distress amongst the contestants, the judges (who are also the hosts) come over and try to console the woeful cook. In the end, they can usually salvage, fix or reattempt the misstep, and everything is ok in the end (maybe not great, but at least ok).

So here is this encouraging image of good cooks who still stuff up, but they carry on and move on. Why then, is my default not to shrug off any mistakes, and likewise move on? Perhaps it’s been too long since I’ve watched MasterChef. Maybe it’s got nothing to do with media — social or otherwise — and is more about the perfectionism that’s been instilled in me (but that’s a matter for another post, or maybe I’ve already written about it…? Can’t remember)

I wonder what the world would be like if people posted more about things that don’t work out — not just cooking, but in other areas of their life: This purchase was a waste of money. A bit of a dull holiday spot. Didn’t understand this book at all. Kid finger-painted the hallway, again. The food at this restaurant is bland but I guess I’ll eat it anyway since I’ve paid for it. Got sunburnt on the beach.

Actually, that’s a bit of a pessimistic Pandora’s box that I don’t think I want to open.

I guess the point here is that there must be balance. It’s good to laud each other’s successes, but we need to be able to take comfort in the fact that we are all human too.

7 thoughts on “this is not a competition

  1. I know what you mean about the pernicious effect of seeing all this perfection on social media. I’ve found myself pausing because I didn’t want to share a photo wherein our kitchen didn’t look perfect. Then I thought, get over yourself. 🙄

  2. OMG, I can tell you don’t read MY blog. 😀 I try to weigh on the side of cheer, but let’s be honest — Some unicorns poop rainbows and sometimes poop is just poop.

    • Haha well said!

      I thought I was following your blog, but I think that might’ve just been for Thursday Doors, and I’ve since dropped out of the TD circuit (oops). Your recent post about brownies makes me think you do better in the kitchen than me! But I suppose it’s good to learn from those who know more 😉

      • I’ve had 70 years of practice — Well, less than that, of course, since I didn’t start cooking until I was 13, but you know what I mean. I still make horrible messes sometimes.

  3. The counterpart to social media feeds are *reviews* – and blogs – of all stripes. That’s where people write all the (often hilarious) things gone wrong.😊 And– those of us with a penchant for being hard on ourselves don’t take self-made disasters well. For me & cooking, I can’t abide when I *waste.*😢

    • For some reason I don’t really think of blogs when I think of social media. Blogging always seems to be in its own category, but I guess it is another “social media”.

      I am the same, and I think I learnt it from my mum. If something didn’t turn out right, I have to try to salvage it somehow. It is painful watching contestants on cooking shows throw out food and start again.

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