I was listening to Afford Anything – What’s the Point of Happiness, Anyway?, with Dr. Bill Von Hippel.
He proposed that as alternative to accumulating stuff, a better strategy would be to buy experiences instead. He suggested:
Do stuff with your money that allows you to be more of the person you want to be, go to places you want to go, have leisure time that you want to have. to buy freedom, to truly enjoy the experience for what they are.
And then he added the part that I want to talk about more here: to not post these experiences on social media because it’s a neverending status game that’s impossible to win. He warned that this is a slippery slope for us to fall onto the “hedonic treadmill of experience” while avoiding being on the original hedonic treadmill of “stuff” that he advised against in the first place.
My first thought was: I disagree. I’ve been doing exactly that but not sharing on social media doesn’t make me feel any better. I don’t think sharing is taking anything away from the experience as long as I am sufficiently present during those moments. I find that sharing about it afterwards will actually help me feel even better about the experience because now I have it documented and now trying to celebrate it with others. Sharing amplifies the experience.
But after giving it a bit more thought, I can see where he’s coming from. His advice is not entirely unbased. It’s easy to fall into the state of wanting to be able to share about the experience more than wanting the experience itself.
There’s a sweet spot between oversharing and undersharing. And that balance is what I’m trying to find out in this post.
The three guilts
Let’s start from listing three things I often feel guilty about now:
- I feel guilty for wanting to have a digital footprint of almost every experience,
- I feel guilty of how much time I spend in front of screens, and
- I feel guilty to have the urge to share and get a nod of “yay I’m happy for you” on social media.
On #1 and #2, I feel like it’s wrong to be documenting and living through lenses so much. I’ve heard all these truisms about how we should go back to “living in the moment” instead of being glued to our screens — aka experiencing the world through lenses vs through senses. There’s a huge part of this is me operating in scarcity mindset. Want to maximise each and every moment and not take any second of it for granted. As if I will never get a second chance at this.
On #3, sharing is actually one thing I wish I can do more of. At this point I am afraid to share!
I take pics of most things I cherish and celebrate, yet I share perhaps 0.01% of it. I’m constipated with thoughts, memories, and plans that I keep to myself, in my personal stash of storages, for fear of contributing to this “status rat race” or “TMI”.
I wish I had the courage to self-censor less and share more freely. I try hard to not let it be perceived as flexing, bragging or one upping others — I’d hate to make people think “idgaf”, “cringe”, “why is she telling this, posting this”, “I don’t need to know this”).
I’m being unnecessarily self conscious I know. No one gives a rat’s ass about these. I only show up for 0.45 seconds on their screen, if the algorithm dropped me in their feed AT ALL. They’re not judging or even thinking about me beyond that. I know I know I know, yet still!
This is next level arrogance and self centeredness, lol.
What I enjoy and don’t enjoy sharing
I notice that the things that I am very comfortable sharing are things that reflect well on my “brand”. I try to only share useful and positive things. Of things that make people think, things I am curious about, and things I’m proud about (but to be framed in a self deprecating, humble, down-to-earth way — yes overthinking sicko).
I am uncomfortable posting the same thought / words for fear of repeating myself. I’m aware this is extremely silly because
- I often don’t even remember what I have posted and what I haven’t, let alone others, and
- if there’s something you said that struck a chord, then that topic or message is exactly what other people want to hear more from you about.
But I don’t hesitate posting (and reposting) anything that’s not about me. When I’m asking for recommendation / help, the polls I’m running, when I’m genuinely want to hear about others’ experience or knowledge. I feel less selfish and intrusive when I’m out there my metaphorical billboard / shoving my microphone in front of people, being interested in their opinion, giving others space, putting the spotlight on the other person.
Other things I share proudly are things like how lucky I am to have my precious family and friends. I also like sharing some silly and quirky shots of the mundane, non flashy, or simple moments.
This is also silly because I genuinely love seeing majority of what my friends shared on my feed. I celebrate my friends’ vacations, happy moments. I thought I am just reacting to and rejecting my own envy, but I don’t think so.
What’s so scary about sharing?
When you put some parts of yourself out there, you’re risking one of these things. You’re vunerable. Your life, your experience, your work, your thoughts, your voice, your beliefs, your vision. You expose them to the risk of being judged and crushed.
The three fears:
- Sharing and not being seen / heard (invisibility).
- Sharing and not getting response / feedback (irrelevance).
- Sharing and getting negative feedback (rejection).
I have less of these fears when I share random moments in my personal life. While these fears are more real when I’m thinking and working in public.
The first is like: “this is my experience, I went here, I ate that, these are the people I hung out with”. Sure parts of it reflect my taste and life choices, but I think I feel more secure about my taste than I am of my opinion.
While there’s more at stake when I’m producing creative work. I put higher expectation and work towards a real standards. There are more ways my ego could be crushed through these intellectual activities.
But what if they are praised, welcomed, and embraced? Why kill and smother them myrself before I even tried?
When did I become like this?
I used to create and share more freely than this. I built stuff, shipped stupid stuff (even though ever since back then I’m still so shy to not want to self promote what I’ve created. even sharing this post on social media).
- One possible explanation is I built up this elaborate path to approval ever since I (felt like I) had some sort of brand or reputation to manage.
- Another explanation is because most of the time I am not even clear on why this matters to me, how this idea / thought / experience made me feel. If I’m not clear on the “so what?”, let alone other people.
- If I cannot answer “Why should you care about this? Why does this matter to you?” then I won’t be sharing it for sure. If I genuinely believe that there are people who’d be grateful to know / hear / see / learn / get this, I would go up the mountain and shout about it through megaphone (or whatever better way to get a message out.. buy the billboard on Tmes Square?). But why can’t I figure that out together with you? I can give you something and you can let me know how it resonates with / matter to you?
My current conclusions
- It’s OK to share and post cool stuff I think / I find / I experience on social media. Who cares. I’m not bothering anyone. I have the right to exist and take up some time and space.
- It helps to challenge my reflex to self censor if I remember I can share with the intention of letting you celebrate the experience together with me.
- How to identify less with the outcome of intellectual work, and treat it as a practice. I write what I want to know, start building what I want to see in the world. Express, not impress.
- I tell you why I care about it, why it matters to me, and you can help me develop it further if it matters to you too.
- Based on what I observe in my own life, this is true. After some point, buying more stuff only gives diminishing return on my life satisfaction. There’s only so much you could want (well, I don’t collect any luxury items so perhaps that helps). And once you’re at that stage, buying experiences do give higher ROI — up to certain point as well. The next stage would be spending money on other people. I don’t think this is a linear journey btw…. it’s like a three huge scoops of ice cream on a cone. You gotta eat them interchangeably.