It’s 2018. By now we’ve all realized that there’s always a trending issue on social media. This month it’s been something a little more serious. I say more serious because it involves mental health, the well being of children and even adults. To give you an idea of what this will be about, check out this poll my Instagram followers were kind enough to take.
First and foremost, I have amazing followers. A HUGE thank you to everyone who was transparent and answered these tough questions. As one of my followers put it, “being honest about the effect social media has on us is hard but important.”
I was inspired to write this piece for several reasons. I’ve been reading comments influencers have posted on their stories where it shows a follower accusing said influencers of being inauthentic because of their curated feed. I also listened to an incredibly interesting podcast by Munchin’ with Moguls on the effects of social media and how we can make it a better place. Listen to it here. Now I will say that although I did not agree with everyone’s perspective, it was very eye-opening and it brought to light a lot of issues I didn’t think were a thing.
We’ve all heard the saying “comparison is the thief of joy.” It very well is. I know that for a fact. When I first started my photography career I found myself constantly comparing my work to others. It resulted in me trying to create art that wasn’t making me happy because it wasn’t mine. The comparison just led me to seek after what I thought was amazing, when in reality it was just amazing for the person initially creating it.
It’s so easy to hold a small screen in your hand, scroll through for hours and think about how much you wish your life was like this person, or how much you wish you could afford the thing that this person can afford. After DM’ng back and forth with so many of you, I heard several stories of people getting into major debt because of trying to be like someone else. I heard stories of bloggers making terrible financial decisions to stay relevant and trendy. The list goes on and on, but here’s what I have concluded: You are 100% in control of what you take in on social media and who you follow.
This whole “I’m going to attack a social media personality for showing off their vacations and their luxury items because it makes me feel lesser about myself” shit needs to stop. No one can make you feel inferior without your permission. So if someone’s life is making you feel like shit then your best bet is to unfollow them. A stranger on the internet is not responsible for your mental health or your self-esteem.
Now before you get all defensive… As a “public personality” or influencer myself, I CHOOSE TO be transparent to an extent that I am comfortable with. It is not anyone’s responsibility to share the bad parts of their lives with you to appear “real” or “relatable.” The beautiful thing about platforms like Instagram is that you get to choose what you share and you get to choose who you follow. That’s not to say there aren’t people who use their “internet fame” to belittle others and make others feel terrible about their lives. If you follow someone like that, unfollow them.
See, here’s the thing about social media influencers that you should know. For many, and that even includes me, some of these posts, opportunities, vacations, and products are sponsored. I personally choose to work with brands that I am curious about, interested in or already love. I don’t post anything I don’t actually believe in, but again, that’s MY CHOICE. I get paid though. Because this is now part of my job as an influencer, I do try to make sure that my feed is just as pretty and curated so that brands will want to work with me when I pitch myself. There’s nothing wrong with that.
One of the things that someone said on that podcast I mentioned was that each person on insta is like a storefront or store window. I thought this was brilliant because when you think about it you go into a store to check out the clothes. You aren’t obligated to try anything on. You’re not obligated to buy anything. You can walk out and never return, or that can be your new favorite store. It’s all up to you! The same with people on Instagram. You’re not obligated to follow anyone. You’re not obligated to see anyone’s posts. If their vibe isn’t on the same frequency as yours then again, unfollow them.
We need to let go of this lack of self-awareness and supreme entitlement that says “everything is about me and my feelings,” because quite frankly baby, it’s not. Chase and I were talking about a blogger couple who I’m really into. They re-did their kitchen and made it super Pinterest, subway tiles, and marble counters. The works. We saw the before of their kitchen and we were like WTF? Why would you downgrade a kitchen that was in my opinon so beautiful to begin with? It still looks gorgeous, and I especially think so because it’s just my style. But for us and our personal taste, it was a downgrade. NOW, that does not mean I’m going to be angry about it. It also doesn’t mean I’m going to comment something hateful on their Instagram or blog post. If that’s your style then go for it boo. Live your best life. It’s not my house, it’s yours. It’s not my kitchen, it’s your kitchen. YOUR POST ABOUT YOUR LIFE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.
Remind yourself that just like you choose the photo you want to put up and the caption you want to pair it with, these people do the same. The internet is full of misrepresentation, but we can’t hold people responsible for how that makes us feel. One of the things that I’ve always been honest about is the fact that I am still a nanny. My nanny job has helped me financially in ways I can’t even explain. Because I specialize in outdoor photography, the winter is always really slow for me. I have a nanny job to supplement my needs. I’m not going to be out here hiding the fact that my bills need to get paid. But I’m also not going to hide my amazing Parisian / Spaniard vacation and the purchases that I worked really hard for.
Whether a post is sponsored or not it still involves work. I have had companies do the MOST when it comes to instructions for sponsored posts. Like pages and pages of detailed hashtags, picture descriptions and more. That takes time, investment and hard work. It’s not all free Gucci’s and boxes of free lotion. But if that’s all someone chooses to share, then that’s their prerogative.
I find that I sometimes need to step away from Instagram just for my own mental health. Here are some signs you need to unfollow some people, or just turn your phone off and do some self-reflecting.
If seeing someone’s achievements, vacations, possessions, and life makes you feel inferior or affects your self-image in a negative way then you need to unfollow them. It’s not their fault. Don’t comment hateful things. Just unfollow them and keep it moving.
If you’re going broke or getting into debt to be ‘cool’ then put your phone down bb. No one is forcing you to make these decisions so you cannot blame anyone else. Do some self-reflecting. Ask yourself why you are behaving this way and maybe even get therapy. Therapy changed my life for different reasons, but I love it!
Finding out that people are self-harming because of social media was extremely heartbreaking for me. If you feel that being on social media I making you want to harm yourself please seek help. There are organizations you can reach out to that can honor your choice to be anonymous and will do their best to help you get to a place of safety and self-love. At the end of the day the honest truth as that if reacting this way is your go to, then it’s much bigger than social media.
I’ll end with this. I saw this on twitter and it broke my freakin’ heart because what in the actual fuck?
I don’t think this is the impression we should be making on children. I don’t think this is healthy and it creates unrealistic expectations which can cause so many other issues. I don’t have children, but I do know that as a nanny, a sister, a cousin, and friend I would hate for anyone to think that all they have to do is post pretty photos on Instagram and make Youtube videos to be happy and rich. It’s just not true.
As influencers and public personas, let’s try to empower and encourage people to live their best lives, always and all ways. Even when posting, for me personally it is important that I don’t sound like an asshole putting people down for not having what I have. Let’s absolutely make sure that we aren’t giving people, especially children, and young adults this awful misconception. Making money online is not easy. It’s no quick fix to actual problems and it requires years of hard work. Most of these bloggers and influencers that you see have been online for FOREVER. Blogging since live journal and Angelfire. Do y’all even remember that?!
The people who just showed up yesterday and have made it have worked really hard. No matter what way they chose to grow their social media presence. Whether they bought followers or organically gained them doesn’t matter. It’s still an investment and it’s not an investment that everyone can make.
We don’t know how people really feel because we aren’t them. I can go days without posting sometimes because I feel really terrible mentally. I can feel really terrible and post an old photo with an awesome caption, or an empowering quote. You don’t know I stayed in bed all day with the blinds shut and ate m&m’s for all three meals. You only know what I share and what I share isn’t always going to be an exact reflection of my reality because my reality is MY reality and I can choose whether or not I want to share it.
Let’s be better humans to ourselves and to others. If you can’t handle following certain people on social media then I encourage you to unfollow them and then do some reflecting. Remember that you are enough. You are beautiful and there are things that make you who you are that no one else possesses. One of the greatest privileges in life is the opportunity to be who you want to be and to be able to work towards doing what you want to do.
If you want the vacation but can’t afford it, that’s okay. You can save towards it no matter how long it takes. Follow influencers who show you how to do things you want to on a budget. Follow influencers who reflect the things that you believe. Follow people in general who’s truths you accept without feeling lesser. If it doesn’t help you grow, then it needs to go. It says nothing about the other person but more about you. Here’s a message from one of my followers that I really resonated with me. I hope it encourages you to do the same, and I hope that we can all make a commitment to be self-aware and kinder to ourselves.
ps. if you find that you are in need of help, here is a hotline full of people that can point you in the right direction: 1-800-273-TALK. It is a 24-hour crisis hotline for self-harm prevention or any other emergent situation you may find yourself in. Please talk to someone (I know it’s way easier said than done), and remember you are the most magical!