“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” // Brene Brown

First, I line up the items to be photographed, I make small tweaks, occasionally adding in props — that photo of a page in my agenda (how busy and important I am!) will look better, for instance, with the addition of a colorful, expensive pen, slanted diagonally across the page. Then snap the shot, filter it, crop out the background, hit post.

And that’s just the lead-up to an Instagram. There are Facebook statuses, blog posts, and actual human communication to consider. In every case, I need to seem (and will, if we’re being honest, usually fail to seem) together. Together, and interesting, and smart, and successful, and carefree, and fun, and sweet, and best.

This is not a post about our manicured lives on social media, how it’s causing us to dumb or water things down, how it’s getting in the way of real, one-on-one communication. It’s not a post about people on their phones at dinner — at least, I hope it’s not.

The point — my point — is that, in the case of the manicured Instagram photo and in a million and one other cases I won’t describe, I have given absolutely no thought to whether I am feeling carefree, fun, interesting, smart, or successful. It’s not about whether I’m enjoying my life — and this applies to social media and “real” life as well. It’s about what people think. If I impress others, the train of thinking goes, I have done my job. It’s about how my life looks, versus how it feels.

How empty.

How useless.

I cannot come to the end of my life and know that all I accomplished was constructing some semblance of “together,” of “appealing,” for other people.

All I want are the basic things. I want to live wide and deep and tall. I want to relish. I want to make some kind of impact on the world. I want to learn from my mistakes and from the things I regret. I don’t want anything earth-shattering.

But I want to seek all those things for the sake of the things themselves — not because I’m trying to gin up some hollow Internet applause.