The Lifelong Emptiness of Living For Appearances

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
— Kurt Vonnegut

Jennie here.

I have a friend whom I’ve known for a few years and she is constantly posting amazing mouth-watering photos of food on her Instagram and Facebook. And everytime she visits me, we always end up eating out at 3 to 5 different restaurants in a single day because she “loves” food.

Source: Instagram

Source: Instagram

The strange thing is, I’ve been with her for several of the “Instagram worthy” moments but she always seems to enjoy taking share-worthy photos more than the actual food or experience itself. I even recall her being disappointed or unimpressed with the food on several occasions, but oftentimes the very next day -- I’d see some fantastic photos on social media with commentary (and a million hashtags) about how satisfying and mind-blowing the food/experience was.

So it got me thinking: why the facade? If the food was mediocre -- why not just say, “It looked fantastic but the food was mediocre. Don’t waste your time here”.

But then I realized, the more likes she got, the happier she seemed about that shared moment/experience.

Three Observations
On Living For Appearances And Approval

I noticed these types of incidents more so in the last few years. And I’m not talking about just social media but this general lack of authenticity and contrived appearances are weaved into various parts of our lives. 

And it’s led me to the following observations about how living for appearances and approval can ruin our lives:

1. Some people use social media to feel validated. They live their lives through the eyes of others and not themselves.

Social media has turned us into performers. Every moment is carefully curated, filtered, captioned, and tagged to enhance their personal brand. But in reality these “moments” are simply being captured for how they’ll be perceived by their peers or community. Instead of living your life the way you want, you end up caring more about the attention and love derived from those so-called “shared moments”.

Moments should be shared, but likes and the number of comments should not validate you as a person or be the highlight of your experience. Living your life through the eyes of others will only make you unhappy because your happiness is dependent on other people's approval.

2. People are "sharing moments" but end up missing out on the actual moments.

Real Simple did a survey on Instagram users and found that 65% of users say their feeds only focus on the good, Instagram-worthy aspects of their lives—not the real-life moments. It seems like a lot of people are spending a huge chunk of their time curating their online social identities instead of enjoying a moment for what it is (e.g. great food, conversation with friends, new experiences, a gorgeous sunset, etc).

In the end, while searching for the right angles and emojis, they end up missing the actual moment -- where happiness should be found.

3. People are afraid to say what they mean.

The reality is we live in a culture where online personas/perceptions and stories are valued and most people only want to share the best highlights -- the superficial portion of their lives. People are often scared to put out into the universe what they mean to say or what they really want to share. It’s likely because if you say what you really mean, you won’t necessarily get the response you want or expect. In the end, what some people create is contrived perfection made to get attention and pander to a general audience. Isn’t that exhausting?

And look, I’m not hating on the idea of posting/sharing happy moments and thoughts, but are you: (1) sharing what’s real, (2) saying what you mean, and (3) doing what you preach? Life is also about the in-between moments -- the struggles, the mundane, and the crazy.

We're Doing Our Best To Live Authentically

These observations bring me back to a fundamental question that Ivan and I try and center ourselves on every single day: are we being authentic to who we are?

This post isn’t meant to be an I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong post but I wanted to share some thoughts around what we see online and how we want to present ourselves. Whenever we’re with other people, with each other, or putting any new content out into the world, we try to live by the following motto: Live simply and authentically.

So what does that look like for us? We tell ourselves the following constantly:

  1. State who you are and what you stand for.

  2. Understand why you're doing what you're doing.

  3. Never falter, pander, or apologize.

In Haruki Murakami’s case, when he opened a jazz bar -- he realized that if he only got 1 out of 10 customers liking and coming back to the bar, he’d be okay. And that’s the type of attitude that we want to approach this blog, our life together, and what we share with you.

For us, we want to be true to who we are and what we’re trying to share -- crafting our lives authentically and achieving that simple life. This blog isn’t about gaining millions of readers, it’s really about reaching out to the 1 or 1,000 loyal readers and finding our type of people. We know The Origami Life isn’t for everyone and that’s okay.