For any of you that regularly follow or engage with me on social media (thank you to every last one of you!) you may have noticed that Ive been very quiet during the last month.
Being MIA (Missing in Action) when you’re trying to place yourself in the already over-saturated online market is quite scary. However, in reality, trying to carve out a name for yourself online has never been more accessible. It’s also never been tougher. As quickly as you gain new followers, being absent and lacking new content can kill any progress you’ve made. This is particularly the case when we consider the workings behind Instagram’s new algorithm.
Yet, when big life changes happen, we all need time to re-adjust to the new direction our life is taking. This could be work, relationships or otherwise yet irrespective of the cause, creating content becomes less of a priority somehow leaving motivation and self-esteem in tatters.
At first, I felt quite panicked at not creating.
I envisaged the hours of work Id put into my social media channels over the recent months and I won’t lie, felt a bit sick at the thoughts of risking it all by taking time out.
I was tempted to half-ass some Insta photos and scrabble together a pretty pointless blog post simply to be present. Yet, would this really be consistent with the standard of my usual posts? And most importantly, would this encourage readers to return?
In my anxiety-stricken state I was about to hit the publish button on my pretty pointless post and it dawned on me, I wasn’t happy.
Id never really experienced this sensation when publishing my work.
I wasn’t happy with my post content, wasn’t keen with the photography and felt very little desire to re-do this or start again.
Something had shifted.
I just wanted to forget the lot. In reality, I had a lot going on….
New opportunities for dreams on the back burner had surfaced and I suddenly remembered the reason for starting my blog: an interim project whilst my career felt in limbo. What I hadn’t considered was falling passionately for the opportunity to express myself creatively in a space where I created the rules. Something I still adore and enjoy.
Yet, my big opportunity was here and realistically, I had to grab it.
How much is too much?
We’ve all heard the saying “if it’s not on instagram; did it really happen?” but this constant need to post the ins and outs of our everyday lives can not only become addictive but without the stream of never-ending “feedback” from our peers, can make it all seem irrelevant somehow and a pretty dangerous head space to inhibit.
I can certainly say it felt strange. My activities didn’t really feel complete without the obligatory check in, status or story capturing the moment. In fact, I probably did much less during this offline time than I would normally, raising the question of whether after a decade of using social media is it not in fact affecting the quality time I have offline but also influencing what I do “online”?
Then the regret phase began. “That would have made such a cute post” or “if only Id taken a photograph of that” whirred in my mind. Looking down at my empty instastories (anyone else feel they haven’t done a proper job when there’s no pink circle around your profile pick?) and realising the date I last posted was “over a week ago” I started to think nostalgically about the simple pre-instagram days.
Irrespective of nostalgia, they were much simpler days especially when you consider that simply creating the insta-stories for our less glamorous, behind the scenes footage can feel like a full-time job in itself. So it’s no surprise that a complete hiatus can leave us feeling a little cold and pointless. It’s no wonder that those of us who put out content regularly worry about a sudden lack of presence not only for our followers but also for us too.
The blogging industry has undergone a big change over the last few years. With more and more people presenting lives that contain not only financially unattainable situations – “I bought 5 things from Hermes” (it didn’t include the carrier bags btw) or picturesque shots of a weeks stay in the Maldives followed by “Huge Net-a-Porter haul!” and “I bought ANOTHER Chanel bag” but this can also make many individuals consider whether there is really any point in pursing this path. Even now where the term “micro-influencer” requires a whopping 10k followers (minimum) and many of us barely touch 5k.So..the gap between super-bloggers living an overtly luxurious lifestyle, making a very comfortable living and doing their Friday big-shop in Harrods food hall and those who are barely managing to save for their future whilst working full-time, blogging in their spare time and just about manage to scrabble together a new outfit from H&M a month, has never been greater.
So where is all this going?
Well, for me, it meant going underground for a while. I work full-time (in a psychiatric unit), I was studying part-time until recently, graduating from my degree in December 2016. Since January 2017 I’ve been creating content that I hope someday will reach the right people and move them in some way.
I’d recently had an opportunity to apply for the position of Assistant Psychologist. This has an important goal since starting my degree so naturally, I jumped at the chance. Having been successful and now officially an Assistant Psychologist, my priorities have changed a little. (For any of you interested in Clinical Psychology pathways I’m planning a whole new blog surrounding this experience).
Sure. I enjoy filling this little space that I’ve created over the last 6 months. Yes, Id love to continue to write and photograph the things I’m passionate about but am I going to stress anymore about whether I’ve reached 5K or whether I’ve got any collaborations lined up? No way.
This break has taught me several things:
- Fretting over being successful in a role that doesn’t pay the bills and probably never will, is a waste of energy.
- Placing my attention and focus on the role that will ultimately give me financial security is a wiser move.
- My follower numbers are not a reflection of my self-worth (something Id worried about becoming ensnared in)
- I didn’t actually lose that many followers over a 3 week hiatus – easily under 100 which for my already small following is about 8%.
- I started this blog as a hobby yet having taken it so very seriously recently has caused negative emotions – even at this early point where my blog is not even a year old.
- As an 80’s child, I know what its like to lead a life without social media and enjoy myself: something I feel I’ve not done for a long time. Having these social media breaks is a good reminder of the negative impact it can have on our wellbeing, happiness and home life.
The Guilty Party
Despite these rational thoughts the amount of guilt that accompanied this was terrifying. The feeling of owing something to those who like and engage, especially to companies who gift. I felt Id cheated people. Completely irrational of course. Yet this raised more worrying ideas about the effects of social media on our self-esteem, self-worth and ultimately our happiness.
Expectation can be worse.
Possibly the worst feeling was upon re-igniting my social media presence, my engagement appeared at an all time low. Again, blame the algorithm yet the expectation of having that engagement and never seeing it can be soul destroying. A bit like secondary school all over again: that rejection stings. Obviously, this isn’t reality. Reality is that due to my lack of presence, less people are seeing my posts leading to reduced engagement. Thanks algorithm.
So how does a career-driven, determined, mid-thirties woman feel rejected through lack of engagement on social media? How does that state of mind come about simply through being MIA? Ultimately it draws on the question: “Is it really worth it?” yet without that break could we really continue?
How to carry on
There are so many things we should show gratitude for. Sure, I’m not Lydia Elise Millen and I may never shop in Hermes or own more than one Chanel bag. However, I’m healthy, have a wonderful family, a home and friends so life aint so shabby.
Granted at first showing gratitude for “not making it” felt hard. I’m not sure why I expected to “make it” in a mere 6 months either? Realistically with the volume of new faces on this scene most of us will never reach the dizzy heights 500k yet that doesn’t mean we can’t succeed. Practising gratitude is a great way to lift yourself after a knock – check out an earlier post I’ve written on happiness and gratitude.
Being specific about things you’re grateful for means reflecting on yesterday and what was good, no matter how small. Having time to paint my nails, indulge in a face mask, a traffic-less journey to work or eating something tasty. Whatever it may be, this practise will allow us to take more pleasure in everyday things, increasing our overall enjoyment.
Where we go from here..
If you enjoyed reading about my experience I hope you take something away from this, as have I. Comparison is the root of unhappiness, everyone’s journey to the same destination is unique and we should never expect, assume or take for granted our own journey or how it will happen. The influencer landscape looks very different to how it once did. Whilst the prospect of making it big seems unlikely, we no longer need thousands of followers to be seen. Businesses are noticing the value of smaller followings. Engagement is higher and content more honest. Less sponsorship or adverts means a better insight in the genuine life and opinions of those we follow. Something which appeals a great deal to me.
No matter the reason for using social media, I urge everyone to factor in a break. Its one of the best thing I’ve done. Its allowed me to reassess my priorities and understand what’s important in life. Using social media daily, it’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of posting, likes, comments and followers. It’s easy to become more focused on the lives of people we’ve never met instead of enjoying our own. Take back some control over your own happiness and give it a go – you won’t regret it!