Start seeing more and being seen less

April 12, 2017

Life is full of ups and downs. Have you ever stopped to consider if either extreme is within your control?

I’ve lived long enough to know that I’ve lost some of my naiveness from younger years. I believe that life will naturally take its twists and turns and, the majority of the time, we are simply along for the ride.

Yes, we can choose to concentrate on development and eliminate distractions to put ourselves in the best position to learn and evolve. Yes, we can make time for and really listen to those around us in order to build better relationships. Yes, we can make daily choices in order to solidify better habitual patterns.

Yet life doesn’t always go according to one’s plan. You expect the fast ball. You get the curve.

So believing this to be true, I struggle sometimes with my conflicting desire to try to be in control of the uncontrollable.

I want to be seen as a top achiever, as having a firm grip on life, as being compassionate and present in the moment. I want to be seen as trustworthy and able to be relied upon. I hope by controlling “x” in my life, then “y” will naturally result.

The problem with wanting to be seen though is that you need to first answer the question, “Why do I want to be seen?”

There is a big difference between giving off the illusion of having what society deems is “it all” – prestige, power, influence, health, wealth, and happiness – versus what gives you a sense of purposefulness when you are alone with your thoughts. One is a facade, the other is truth.

Why do I want to be seen?

I want to be seen to know that I matter to others. To know that I am of value to them. To know that I make their life happier.

Fortunately for me, my scope of “others” is relatively small. My “others” are also generous in doling out their gratitude. My family in first place, friends and confidants second, creativity sharers third, and so on and so forth. Believing that God sees me in my truest form, I know I am trying to do right by Him too of course.

I believe I originally embraced blogging and other forms of social media sharing as a creative outlet. I love expressing myself through writing. Selfishly, it feels good to know that others find value in what I choose to write about.

However, the social media sharing world from when I first began back in 2009 has spiraled into what I can best describe as social sabotage in less than 10 years time.

I’ve seen people fight about posts and pictures. I’ve seen relationships I once thought were solid fall by the wayside. I’ve seen people needing to be right more than needing to be understood. I’ve seen people (young and old) not wanting to miss out online, while inadvertently ignoring what’s waiting for them to discover in real life.

And while I’ve been watching all of this unfold on screen, real life had a way of moving on in all of its inherent beauty. That’s the funny thing about life. It happens with or without you noticing sometimes.

I watched an episode of 60 Minutes recently that talked about people’s reliance on their smartphones and how Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps, and social media to get you hooked. Here’s a snip-it I highly encourage you to watch.

In this episode, Anderson Cooper interviewed former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris along with several other guests. Tristan left Google to lead a movement called Time Well Spent, with a mission of aligning technology with humanity.  I would also encourage you to read his most widely read essay How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds – from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist.

The information that Tristan shares in his interview as well as in his writing escalates that icky feeling I experience anytime I have my own nose buried in my phone or I see those whom I love doing the same.

My blog posts are fewer and farther between these days. And that is intentional.

I will continue to write. I still want to share (overshare?). I still want you to read what I have to say. I still want to hear from you.

But more important than any of those things, I want to start seeing more and being seen less.

Do you feel the same way?

What can we discover together, yet not feel compelled to share with each other?

Life is most breathtaking when it is unfiltered, with no clever captions, and uncontrolled.

Written by Heidi Woodard

8 responses to Start seeing more and being seen less


    So many thoughts on this. I saw the 60 Minutes interview, but called BS a few times. I’m not suggesting what he stated wasn’t true, and the other tech people who couldn’t get their ap on the iPhone store.

    I don’t see this as a device or technology issue, as much as I see it as a complexity issue. Social and technical complexity are increasing exponentially, and I question everyday whether or not our brains can keep up with the pace.

    I have moments on social media when I want to scream, but i also have those same moments when I’m in the coffee shop overhearing the very same nonsense. The bigger issue here isn’t manipulation of data and algorithms. Merchants have been influencing human behavior for 15,000 years. The bigger issue here is human processing speed. It is Pong vs. GTA at level 200.

    Perhaps you noticed my recent post that I am taking the month of May off of all technology — all 31 days. It’s to test where my brain really is in all of this.

    Perhaps I’ll blog about it as I did when I took May off in 2011. So much has changed. or perhaps you’ll never here from me again. Fade to black… maybe…


      Don’t ever fade completely. Yes, I saw you are taking May off. I think that’s an excellent way to reduce the noise of all the online distraction. I absolutely believe the tech programmers are building in “rewards” to hook younger and younger generations (my kids being no different….I let them look at their devices so I am as much to blame). Like Pavlov’s experiment, I get antsy anytime I hear that I have a new text or email waiting for me. It’s harder for me to concentrate for longer periods of time. I’m losing a race of trying to keep up (all the apps and gadgets are lapping my brain) and I don’t see myself shortening the gap anytime soon.


    I can relate to this post and I am sorry I didn’t read the whole thing. Like other millennials my age, we are skimmers. Our ADD is through the roof. We rely on one word text messages to get our point across. There more time I spend online, the lonelier and more depressed I become. It’s gotten to the point where I have no desire to broadcast my life to my “friends” and family. If they are important I will tell them in person. I left Facebook in February 2017 and have been inactive on Instagram. I feel like I’m starting to “grow up” and now realizing that being heard isn’t the most important thing. There is something nice about being mysterious and leaving out the Mondane details of everyday life. The virtual clutter and mind-numbing distractions is too much for me to handle. I liked it when I didn’t know a former acquaintance was getting married or having a baby. I liked being ignorant and going about my day without the mental images of everyone else’s fantastic lives. The day I found out my daughter was partially blind was the day I woke up from this virtual coma.


      I appreciate reading your thoughts so much. Your past feelings of emptiness are felt by so many. Have you missed any parts of the social sharing habit since you left? I always say I could easily take a long-term break from it all, but I say that about drinking pop too. Claiming and doing are two very different commitments. The best part of logging in today was reading your insights. Thanks for stopping by.


        Very much so maternal media! Every day I think about using social media again. It is only a password and click away! I miss feeling “connected” to people but ever since I left, I learned that I actually have no friends. Nobody bothers to check up on me. I left my email and phone number so they can reach me if they wanted to. They haven’t. It makes it that much easier to walk away the moment you realize that Facebook “friends” and Instagram followers are fake and that people don’t actually care. We’re all under one big umbrella of delusional thinking.


    To me, this is what it comes down to…

    Through the ages of man, we remember very few individuals. From the onset of the written word, to the current day, the people we remember, are most often kings, politicians, priests, and performers – anyone for whom there might have been a written record. Though the occasional commoner might have etched the words

    “Dear Diary…” onto a stone tablet or piece of parchment, but for most of the 100-billion people who have ever lived, we have no record of them as individuals.

    Today that’s a different story. Anyone with a social media account, whether they realize it or not, is writing Dear Diary… with every post or entry. I find that fascinating on one level. on another, I am building my life around it.

    Cyber-Archeologists 100, 500, or 10,000 years from now will (potentially) have an archived record, and at least some evidence of every individual who has ever logged onto a computer, made an entry, written a post, or published a blog. If this is the record i am leaving, i want it to be accurate, if not concise.

    Again, fascinating – that after 15,000 years of being upright, organized, and looking beyond the moment, most humans have been long forgotten. However, anyone alive today, and savvy enough to chain a few words together, has the potential to be remembered through the balance of the ages. Despite my May hiatus, I’ll probably be all-in, at least as far as the blog goes, but perhaps less Facebook.

    Though I do keep a personal journal on my computer, it is my blog as well as my Facebook posts which capture my essence – digitally. So, whether I share something each morning or each week, I try to remember what I’m sharing is less a statement of the moment, and more a legacy of my thought – to be remembered for what might just be all eternity….


    I loved reading your very well written thoughts, Heidi. I’ve been struggling with the same issues myself. I’ve been doing a lot more thinking than sharing in the last year. Still trying to find a balance between taking in the thoughts of the world and making time to have my own. I will pick out one idea from your post to comment on, “real life had a way of moving on in all of its inherent beauty”. I spent the afternoon going through my email I didn’t look at all week. I read lots of stuff…articles that frustrated me, made me roll my eyes, made me laugh, made me think, made my heart swell with joy, and ads for products that will supposedly change my life. But throughout my roller coaster internet ride this afternoon, outside my window, as the breeze rolls in, there has been a group of kids playing kickball. Six or seven kids gathered for the holiday playing in their backyard. Making up rules, disputing outs, getting hollered at by an adult to go take care of a chore they ignored in favor of the game. Some parts of life feel out of control in 2017, but so many things, the breeze, the grass, the dandelions, kids playing and laughing, remain the same, if, like you said, we just stop and look up and see them. Have a wonderful week, my friend.


      I purposely waited to reply back to your well thought-out comment until I had a night to relax and take it all in. Thanks for the description of nature and the kids playing. Two of life’s greatest gifts. And I’d say kids are at their best…when they ARE outside and lord knows there should be more of that happening these days. But I can’t wave my finger too self-righteously at those whipper snappers when I’m usually in my PJs and watching TV in my down time. Ha!