31 Days On Instagram: I posted a photo of myself every day, my honest account:
One month, 3357 likes and 1077 new followers later and I’m sobbing uncontrollably in the kitchen, overcome with social media fatigue. For the past 31 days I’ve taken a picture of myself every single day in a bid to raise my digital profile. Four years in the digital media game as a journalist and editor is not enough, they tell me - ‘they’ being bloggers, vloggers, digital marketers and public relations specialists. I need followers. Fast.
“Followers! Who are you all? Jesus?!” says my mum, with a sharp kiss of the teeth. Mum is my only voice of reason lately, and the only person I know with a non-existent digital footprint. “You all NEED Jesus,” she laughs.
But of course, she won’t truly understand why I’m posing under her blossom tree, pouting sexily and throwing one of her oranges in the air. She’ll never empathise with common Instagram stuggles: the lack of photo-worthy clothing, finding friends with good photography skills, restaurant food photo composition and living up to your own digital façade.
So I’m crying. 31 days of analysing the way I look, how I’m being perceived, whether I’m actually good at what I do, whether I’ll ever measure up to my successful friends, has brought me to a mental standstill. I've taken a major hit to my self-esteem and it’s entirely self-inflicted.
This all sounds incredibly self-indulgent, doesn’t it? How emo of me. ‘Talk to someone with real problems, love’. I hear you. I shouldn’t be crying over Instagram. It’s laughable really. I’m a grown-ass 28-year-old woman with a career and a mortgage deposit. I get paid to write words on the Internet. I can still wear crop tops. I’m doing more than ok. And yet, when my friend posts photos of her handsome husband and child as they meditate in their leafy eco home I cry and cry some more.
We’re anxious, green-eyed and desperately insecure; and it’s about time we all admit it.
Millennial is as millennial does, I suppose. We live out our entire lives online – but only the best bits of course, culling anything that would make us look less than desirable. But here’s the entire truth: those £400 Gucci loathers are ugly, avocados rot, your Instagram husband resents you and there’s 10,000 discarded selfies on your phone. There. It’s okay to laugh about it.
It’s this lack of authenticity that doesn’t sit well with my spirit; we only have to take a look at various statistics to realise our generation’s social media compulsions are stripping away our ability to disassociate the real from the digital. We’re anxious, green-eyed and desperately insecure; and it’s about time we all admit it.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy Instagram a lot. Even now, after I’ve wiped the tears from my iPhone screen, I live for all the curated worlds, where everyone’s fashionable, on vacation, sepia filtered and having the times of their lives. I love it. And guess what? ASOS re-grammed a picture of me yesterday and I beamed with joy. I’m aware I’m contradicting myself.
Mostly I’ve realised I cannot live for likes.
My digital life is full of contradictions; one minute I’m a Twitter social justice warrior, the next I’m on Instagram arching my back and quoting Drake in the captions. Both instances are ‘me’ authentically - I’m just unsure whether I can effectively be both and raise my professional ranking.
“It’s not you though is it? All the ‘me’ pictures,” says mum again. “You like photography and poems, writing about social injustices, being daft – so maybe your soul’s crying out for something more meaningful?”
Maybe I am. Still, I can’t escape that the more photos of myself I post, the more opportunities have presented themselves. After all, Instagram has become a lucrative tool in the media business. The likes of Zoella are living proof. She is a mini media mogul now, living my dreams and I’m a massive hater - I feel it’s important I admit that ha.
Social sharing has its endless perks – I enjoy the freebies, the event invitations and the glamour that comes with being an online magazine writer but I’m no Zoella, who reportedly earns £50000 a month (hence why I’m a hater). Big follower numbers are a way of ‘social-proofing’ and as a fashion editor to have a big online profile should legitimise my role and influence in the industry. So, let’s face it, I’ll be back snapping pictures of my shoes come Monday.
Have I learned anything about myself?
For one, I take Instagram far too seriously. Mostly I’ve realised I cannot live for likes. I can’t. My life isn’t perfect. I don’t want people to think it is. Of course, Instagram and all other social platforms are unavoidable in my field of work – fine, I still enjoy them. I simply want to use it light-heartedly, creatively and most importantly healthily. I’m still trying to figure out how I can actively celebrate my creativity in fashion and photography without feeling guilty by all the obvious vanity. I’m working on it: my personal brand (whatever that means) and my self-esteem.
Overall, 31 days on Instagram taught me that as a writer I am not just an image: I am voice. I want to be heard more than I want to be seen.
I'll still be exploring my personal style on Instagram (with a little less tears), see here.