I used to think that when it came to sharing my life online, I landed somewhere between Max and Grace. And if you asked me this question before April 3, 2013, I would have said I was pretty much an open book. After all, I’m one of those people who thinks by talking things out. With friends, with strangers, with new acquaintances, I’ll answer any question. I love to dig deep into the minute details of life. But then, The New York Times wrote a story about me. Something about not being in control of my own story knocked the wind out of me and made me panic – so much so, that the morning before the story was in the Times, I couldn’t stop crying. And this was a story that I wanted. A story and opportunity for which I was so excited. It was the first sign that maybe I wasn’t the open book that I thought I was.
The second sign, was actually in writing this post. My first draft was all about how open I was, but then I realized that there are plenty of things that I keep to myself. For me, it’s all about trying to live in the moment. I spent a lot of time living for the future or for the past, and not enough time just being OK where I was. So now, I try to keep some things to myself so that I can fully be there to experience them.
Sharing your life online does have the potential to make you grateful for the little things you have. After all, with an Instagram filter, anyone can make their morning cup of coffee look pretty awesome. However, I do try to take a little bit of time each day away from the computer and try to focus on just being in the moment. I take a yoga class about three or four times a week where my phone doesn’t even enter into the picture. For a while, I was obsessed with checking into yoga on foursquare but then I realized that I didn’t care if I was the mayor of my yoga studio and that I didn’t actually want to share my “me time” online.
Another way that I try to stay in the moment is to take a bit of time for a computer/phone/TV- free dinner. This has turned into one of my favorite times of the day. No matter how great of job I do at styling the table or how delicious, the meal looks, this is not something I share online. I think that by keeping technology away from dinner time, I actually take a lot of pressure off myself to make something that is “worthy for an online audience.” And give myself a little break.
More living online after the jump!
I don’t have any problem sharing images of my home. For me, it’s more the experiences that I like to keep to myself. Or at least decide how I want to present them. One of the most surprising things about sharing your life online is how much the comments have the ability to sting. There was the dresser makeover that I did about a year and half ago that was probably one of the most hated things I’ve posted. (In my defense, the dresser looked awesome in the outside light of the “before” photos but not so awesome in real-life). This was something in my home. Something that touch every single day. As much as I try to develop a thick skin, when it comes to comments, I don’t think I’ve quite mastered it yet. And the negative ones really have the ability to stick with you. When writing this, I went back and reread the comments in that post. There were plenty of good ones. It was just the negative feedback that stuck with me. At the time, I had to remind myself that this was my piece of rescued furniture. And no one has to like it except for me. It’s an important lesson – no one else knows what life is like inside. It’s also important to let the good comments carry the same weight as the negative ones. I’m trying to be better at this one. (And I’ll echo what Grace said. If you’re not ready for feedback, don’t put it online.)
I think one of the most important things about living online is to try to give yourself a break. Give yourself a break from trying to present the perfect facade, but also give yourself a break from feeling like you have to share every detail of your day. Recently as I was walking to my Spanish class in my neighborhood, I crossed the street and got a perfect view of the sun setting over the East River. I, almost instinctively, reached for my phone and snapped a photo. But when I looked at my phone and then looked back at the sunset, I realized that I didn’t need to share to share it with anyone. I was going to selfishly keep that moment just for me. And so I did. Because while my life is certainly not perfect, I’ve spent spent the last ten years or so figuring out how to enjoy the journey, and sometimes it’s easier to stay in the moment, if you’re not always trying to share it. -Amy