Hi, my name is Shireen Sandoval and I’m a social media junkie. At any given time of day or night, you can find me enjoying, exploring and expressing myself on the likes of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumbler. My phone is the first thing I connect with in the morning (even before my coffee, eek) and it’s the last thing I see before I turn the lights off at night.

On a daily basis (barring a natural disaster or a finger freezing illness,) I app onto SM with what I call ‘the fastest thumbs in South Florida,’ and type, tease and talk about my fashion blog, Shireen’s Favorite Things (the one you’re reading now.) I also share snippets of stories I’ll be featuring live on Deco Drive. I peruse the news, peer at all kinds of photos and post pictures I’m proud of.

At times, I share what’s going on with my friends and family. I show off fabulous dinners, fun work trips and fantastic purchases (most specifically, my shoes!) On SM, my behavior is called posting, sharing and living my “Highlight Reel.” You know, bragging and boasting about the best stuff in my life. After all, who wants to befriend a negative Nancy?

It’s not just about me, though. I have just as much gusto when it comes to gawking at other peoples great times, gorgeous pics and grateful comments. I get caught up in the not-so-great ones, too (ugh.) I’ve even written a couple of SM blogs; my favorite was #ThePerfectSophisticatedSelfie.

It was an up-close look on how to be an effective, politically correct, self conscientious and, most importantly, a fashionable social media participant. I interviewed my colleagues at Channel 7, especially the advanced SM users and got positive pointers on how to build and execute the perfect post. Matter-of-fact, it was, hands-down, one of my most popular blogs.  

So, while I fully admit that I’m an SM junkie and jest about the way I eat, breath and live my life on-line, another part of me isn’t joking. I’m actually genuinely worried, scared even, that society (including myself) has crossed some kind of self-indulgent, self-obsessed, “completely checked-out of real life and checked-in to well, wherever they are on Facebook kind of world.”

We’ve paced and conditioned ourselves to document, chronicle, update and fill the world in on every single experience, nuance and sometimes unnecessary parts of life at lightening speed. Which begs the question: when does one put the phone down, back away and stop “Living for the Upload”? Three things happened to me recently that made me ask that very question.

I was hanging out with my co-worker and good friend, Belkys Nerey, at Lippi restaurant, downtown Miami. She invited me to tag along with a group of her friends to have dinner. At the beginning of the night, one of her friends made this announcement: “Okay, everyone…get your phones out and get your SM-ing over with. After that, phones away! The first person to use their phone pays the bill.”

Everyone did exactly as instructed, we tweeted, IG’d and FB’d. Then, we piled our phones in the middle of the table and there they sat, for the entire, almost four-hour dinner. I was totally gobsmacked. Truth-be-told, I had never been around a group of grown-ups so conscious about enjoying one another’s company.

At one point, the urge to reach for my phone was overwhelming. After all, I treat my iPhone like an appendage, but I bit the bullet and focused on being in the moment. Turns out, my lack of technology made for a better connection. It was the first time in a long time that I had a lovely evening with ‘friends.’ Real, living, breathing, human being ones. I made a mental note.

A few weeks later, on the Fourth of July, I hosted a little get together at my apartment. I have an awesome view of my neighborhood fireworks and Iove sharing it. So, I invited the usual suspects a.k.a, my closest friends, over. We dined on festive platters, imbibed on froufrou drinks and rambunctiously reveled in the holiday spirit.

Just as the festivities started, we gathered on the balcony to watch the summer sky come alive. It was gorgeous, but apparently, not to one of my girlfriends. She was so busy “Living for the Upload” she missed it. All of it. She was so obsessed with posting the perfect picture, she completely checked-out of the real moment to check-in to the virtual one. I felt sorry for her. I remember the night well…  

The reflection of the lights against the ocean, the light breeze that gently carried floating embers off into the moon-kissed sand and most importantly, my friends. They were laughing, hugging and wishing one another well. After the grand finale, each of us (except the person on the phone,) claimed independence from one thing that had been holding us back recently. Can you guess what mine was? Staring at my friend, I blurted out: “Social Media”‘and made a mental note.

A few days later when I met an old friend for dinner, she insisted on posting pictures of us, despite my protest. It was a private moment that I just didn’t want to make public and as if the SM Gods were trying to drive home a point…the next day, at a hair salon, a woman I hardly know asked to take a picture of the back of my hair, but she was really aiming for my make-up less face. Yes, she posted it.

None of the aforementioned is completely shocking, but what is, is when I actually stopped to think about “Living for the Upload,” I realized, not only was this behavior all around me and acceptable, but I was just as guilty of it, too. Maybe not to the extent of the situations I’ve described, but believe me, I’ve had my checked-out moments. The realization freaked me out.

I talked to friends, colleagues, even my shrink about how to manage and balance my social media behavior both professionally and personally. The best advice, though, actually came from my mother. When I was growing up, she used to always tell me: “Shireen, a good man will compliment your life, not become your life.” So, when I called her up to tell her about my SM quandaries, she repeated that oh-so-familiar phrase, minus the man: “It should compliment your life, not become your life.” Mental note taken and behavior modified (or at least I started actively trying.)

Although I’m still a spirited SM enthusiast, I’ve learned to draw major boundaries, powerful parameters and steadfast rules for my own well-being and mental health. I tweet, IG and FB for work; after that, I PUT THE PHONE AWAY. Sure, yeah, I like to support my friends, fellow bloggers and people in the community whom I’m interested in, but that doesn’t mean giving them all of me. I prefer to give that to the people that I love face-to-face.

My new-found attitude and modified social media behavior has even changed the way I text. I used to be available 24 hours a day; after all, I’m a journalist and people knew it and took advantage of it. Now, I don’t react, I interact when its most appropriate and timely for me. Sometimes, I don’t respond at all, because frankly, if you’re texting me more than three times a day, you better be my mother, my man, my best friend or my News Director. Period.

One other important thing that I’ve learned and believe me, it takes practice; when something special or amazing is happening, I take a few pictures and PUT DOWN MY PHONE and enjoy the real moment, not the virtual one. I’ve also asked my close friends not to share where we are and what we are doing at any given time of the day. I’ve actually had strangers show up to dinner or a private party at a public place because someone had “checked me in,” therefore, I’ve had to check out; taking an early cab home.

When styling my blog, I wanted to show the tools that we use to access our SM lives are not just electronic devices anymore. They’re bonafide fashion accessories. My modern day must have’s: are my izak pretty-faced cell case (to protect my iPhone) and my sleek, shiny, silver MacBook Pro. It’s my constant companion that keeps me connected.

For the pictures, Tod (my blog fashion photographer) and I wanted a fun, clean, futuristic, fashion-forward look. The spirit of the blog is to show me capturing the moment of it all, instead of living in it. I chose a black pleather, mini Halo dress, pin-stripped black and white, Wolford tights and buckled up LAMB booties. You can never go wrong with a lil’ black dress, tights and boots. It’s a streamlined look that lengthens the legs and lets your accessories do the talking. Back to my modified SM behavior…

When I get on my phone now, I choose certain times of day, say, morning and night. I remember that my phone is a mechanical device; it doesn’t give love, receive love, hold me at night or make everything alright. I put my attention and focus on people, places and projects that I love. If I want to share parts of that world, I pick a particular moment (like a highlight,) post it and PUT MY PHONE AWAY. I try to taper the time I spend looking, snooping, friendly stalking or obsessing over strangers that are allegedly my “friends”.

At the same time, I love how SM has given me a window to the world. I’ve met people, seen places and learned about work opportunities that never would have been possible ten years ago. I enjoy documenting the important moments of life that sometimes a scrapbook can’t do justice to, because it’s not instantaneous. And my beloved blogging – writing and connecting creatively with an audience that cares  – will always make “Living for the Upload” one of my favorite things.

Blog Wardrobe:
iPhone case: www.shopizak.com
Computer: www.apple.com
Dress: www.blackhalo.com
Tights: www.wolfordshop.com
Boots: www.shoplamb.com
accessories: www.bcbg.com

Twitter @ShireenSandoval
IG @ShireenSandoval

photography by tod p/t4twophotography
Twitter @todp_t4twophoto
IG @Tod_p

Hair & Make-up by Odette Hernandez
Twitter @Odettehernandz
IG Odett_Herndz

Styling: Shireen & Tod

Editor: Matthew Auerbach