Living Online: Stay in the Moment

by Amy Azzarito

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


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  • Love this, Amy, especially the part about letting the positive comments carry the same weight as the negative. Online and in real life, this is a really tough concept to apply. I have a creative business and am constantly battling the negative, though well-intentioned, remarks. “Oh, what a nice hobby! What is your real job?” is my favorite. I beat myself up because I’m not quite making a full living yet (I’m making maybe a third of a living?) when I should really be focused on the positive: I’m making some money doing what I love, and sales have jumped 3000% since this time last year. I’m still an unknown, but I’m more known that I was a year ago!! Long story short- don’t let the naysayers get you down and keep doing what you love. :) :) :)

  • Something that isn’t often talked about with online comments: you have no reference or context for the other person’s actual tone of voice. There is nothing…all you have is your own internal voice to go by. There have been numerous times that I thought a person that emailed me was completely furious about something. They were usually not “but” that’s how I “heard” it. It would be interesting to do a post on our inner voices that we use to read online comments

  • I really love this post and it’s given me much food for thought. For me, it’s not as straight forward as me thinking ‘how much am I happy to share online?’. I’m a professional blogger and feel I have to share some of my life on line as in so doing my readers get a feel for me and this results in them feeling more connect with my brand and more trusting of my voice – yet my husband is intensely uncomfortable with the idea of sharing too much online – especially photographs of our children (he really dislikes this very much).

    “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.”
    This truly resonates with me too and I too have had to learn that not everyone will dig my passion for weddings or bridal fashion. I also have learned to overcome my rather unhelpful habit of being able to pick out the 1 negative comment in a field of many positives. Why do we beat ourselves up over that 1 negative comment? I still don’t understand.

    I really love the idea that you held off sharing that perfect sunset with the world – choosing only to keep it for yourself. I believe we can all overshare at times and there are moments that are incredibly precious that we should try to keep/relish just for ourselves. It’s healthy to pause every once in a while and halt the instinct to take that instagram photograph, I really believe that.

    But overall, this feature really connects with me as it reminds me of the need and importance of being mindful/in the moment. I work as a full time professional blogger. I’ve also written a book and have a healthy social media following – my brain is so often tuned in to ‘social media zone’, ie, ‘must pin this, tweet that, share the other thing, oh wait, it’s been 5 minutes already since I facebooked something, etc etc etc’. This social media environment we work in makes us feel we have to be connected 24/7 -it’s like being on the go all the time even when you’re sat still at your desk. Ironically, my husband doesn’t even have a Twitter or Facebook account and his approach to it all keeps me very grounded – he has also taught me the importance of being mindful and in the moment every day. This social media blogging world we live in is fantastic and has opened up amazing opportunities, but it’s important every day to remind ourselves of what’s happening around us, right now, in this moment, and enjoy that moment just for us.

  • You are so right, Amy! And by keeping yourselves real, it keeps us real as well.
    Readers and commenters need to remember that you are not icons and puppets, that you have a real life, and deserve to be treated with the respect and caring that we would grant our own dear flesh-and-blood friends.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  • You guys are killing it with these personal posts.

    As a blogger, I’ve had a harder and harder time distinguishing what to share and what to keep to myself. In some alternate universe, it starts to feel like you “owe” your followers your daily perspective. It all gets tangled up in my head and I have to go analog for a few days to remember reality.

  • Yes, we all deserve our own moments. Some are better shared with others in person, too! Hope that doesn’t make me sound selfish :)

    Love your perspective, Amy.

  • Your approach to living online seems to be the perfect balance. You are open and genuine but you are able to disconnect as well. I think this is something that a lot of people struggle with. Great article.

  • I always struggle with “what to share” versus what to keep to myself. It’s hard when you know you have “an audience” – especially an audience that may have an ex or two in it. I want to make sure I am putting out a positive image, but at the same time, I know that if someone is constantly posting online, they aren’t exactly living, now are they?

  • Funny…that dresser is why I started following your blog. I loved it then and I still do!

  • Good for you Amy! Sounds like you’re achieving a nice balance in your life, which is hard to do. I try to put as little as possible about myself online so I was really torn when I landed in the local paper here a while back. The story was great (and I got good feedback) but I felt embarrassed, exposed, and undeserving. Still trying to work on that.

    Keep up the good work! (And your dresser is fine.) :-D

  • This article is exactly what the Internet needs. We have become so obsessed with capturing the perfect (insert any experience here) that is takes away from the experience – rather than making it better. Thank you Amy for being so honest and open.

  • Wonderful post!!!! For one…I really needed to read/hear this. Thanks so much for posting. ((hugs)) ~Tricia

  • Whoops….lost my comment. I loved your post Amy….specifically, I really need to read/hear this. Natalie and Lizabeth posted really excellent responses…Kudos Ladies ~Tricia

  • Love this move back to authenticity. Very brave and actually a hard thing to do. Perfect is boring.
    You are amazing, Amy!

  • Please post a link to the NY Times story.really look forward to design Sponge appear ing in my inbox.

  • I’m really enjoying these essays. As a new blogger it’s hard to know where to draw the line. I also find it hard to balance between how often I share (which brings more people into what I’m writing about). If I spend my life on the computer I’m not out finding original content. If I’m not online, I feel I’m not keeping the momentum up. And I’m juggling a new blog ( my passion) with a more-than-full time job. Any tips? Thanks!

  • Your apartment is so beautiful! I read the whole NYT piece after clicking on the link. You have such an interesting background, between having worked for the NYPL and studied the history of decorative arts and design! What a cool combination of things. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hi Amy, Isabella here from Australia. I cannot believe how rude people can be, especially over an inanimate object. I just read the dresser post, and I personally thought you had done a great job, despite what the original may or may not have been worth. Get a life I say to all the glass half empty people out there! DIY is such a personal thing, and while I know that negativity can overshadow the positive, I for one, applaud you!

  • Hope you feel better now. At times the disappointment following a heightened expectation of satisfaction and joy can give you opportunities simply for YOU that otherwise you perhaps would never have experienced. Look closely and be gently critical. Then do something.
    I love your blog.

  • Great post, Amy. It really resonates with me. You bring up several good points. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m too open with people–I’m definitely the most open of my friends and don’t have a single secret. But we all express ourselves differently, and that’s great. I appreciate you taking a break from sharing on technology. Bloggers live off of their ability to share, but sharing too much decreases living, I think.

  • Thank you for such a wonderful post. I am not a blogger but in the past months I have focused on living in the present. Rethinking my interaction w the online world has been a huge part of it all. So I can definitely connect w all you said here. I loved the NYT story. You have a great story! Thank you for sharing!

  • Love everything about this piece, especially the part about keeping the image of the setting sun to yourself. Good for you. Also, just for the record, I love how you transformed that dresser :).

  • Terrific, thoughtful post, resonates on several levels I think!

    I missed your NY Times article at the time (am rationed to the 10 a month) so belated congratulations and I hope your book is selling off the shelves, too.

  • Thanks you so much for this post. I have struggled the last couple years between regularly blogging and being completely freaked out because I’m sharing so much online. I haven’t reconciled it yet but this sure has helped me by knowing others struggle with it too. Thanks!

  • Great article, very relevant – we need to remember to switch off once in a while and not everything has to be shared, it’s ok to leave stuff just for ourselves!

  • I wish we were friends, Amy. I think you are interesting, grounded, real and talented. Oh yeah, and inspiring! At least that’s what I gather from all that I see and read from you. Keep on living in the moment and sharing your heart. I’m listening intently!

  • Such a funny game of balance, isn’t it?! I had a similar moment to your sunset example this weekend visiting Santa Cruz and realized there was no way (or need?) to fully communicate my experience in its entirety; its nostalgia, serendipity, etc. Some experiences are heightened by sharing and some of our truest moments are best left untouched.

    Great post Amy!

  • I love these living online posts! So great to hear. I sometimes find that not sharing everything makes me feel like the beautiful moments never happened. That’s ridiculous isn’t it?! I know it’s ridiculous, but with the way everyone shares EVERYTHING good and beautiful online, it can often make it feel like your own life isn’t as good or beautiful because you just experience those moments instead of sharing them. I found this post really insightful and really great to read!
    And for what it’s worth, though I know very little about furniture, I LOVED your furniture redo. My parents own a lot of older dressers with the same missing chunks of veneer that haven’t been taken good care of at all. They’re currently the “storage” dressers, shoved away into the nooks and crannies of the room and hoping not to be noticed. Now I’m feeling very tempted to convince them to gift them to me and to do a little DIY paint job of my own!

  • You know, I love the NYT article…but I’m glad you followed it up with this piece, which makes it more interesting.

    One thing I do to stay grounded is listen to the wind when I’m walking. When it blows in my ears, it reminds me to stop what I’m thinking about and listen to the bigger world, and also, to feel it on my skin, in my lungs…

    Sounds very new age, but it’s free, easy, and it works. : )