You may have heard about Essena O’Neil – the young “Instagram famous” model who decided to quit social media last week. Her words and bravery struck me… but then I read Zack James’ rebuttal and that really struck me, too. I know I rarely write long pieces here on Lake Shore Lady, but I felt compelled to share my thoughts on this topic…
Yes, social media can be tricky and weird and dangerous… but it can also be completely awesome. Obviously, as I continue to build a career around it, I’m going to be an advocate for it – but that’s because, beyond counting likes and follows or comparing yourself to others, it can be a place to find inspiration and community. That inspiration and community can even become real life connections, too.
I encounter a lot of people who either don’t understand blogging/social media or who, frankly, think it’s really stupid. Even one of the Progressive commercials on TV makes fun of a “fashion blogger” who just takes selfies in front of the mirror. I understand why people would generalize that way… because there are a lot of people out there who use it that way! I mean, we live in a world where popularity is trackable. But as I read through Essena’s captions, as well as other reactions, I realized that my experience running a blog has given me a unique perspective on social media that goes beyond likes for validation or Facebook feeds full of wedding announcements.
I tend to tell people who roll their eyes (or look like they’re trying not to roll their eyes) at blogging that it’s actually a lot of work. I usually speak up and explain that a lot goes into it, and most of the people who are really successful at it work really really hard, are skilled in so many areas that you might not realize, and always push themselves to learn more and get better. Yes, I point all of this out to shut those people up and make myself feel better (haha I won’t lie about that), but I also do it because people should remember that with these kinds of accounts, effort has been put into everything they see. Each outfit, each post, each picture is curated. Each location, each photoshoot, each final recipe shot – it’s all carefully thought out. Even our social strategies (especially Instagram feeds) are plotted out ahead of time and posted at strategic hours in the day. Yes, we all want it to seem effortless – mostly because even if it’s work, it’s fun work.
Here is my answer: Ask yourself why you post what you post. Is it to share content and connect with people? Or is it to feel popular and get compliments? Really ask yourself these questions, because I’ve met some of the best ladies through blogging/social media who are just as wonderful (if not moreso) in real life as they are on social media. I think this is because it doesn’t have to be toxic, as long as you know who you are. Even if you only show you on your best days, be sure to still show you. Let your personality and your truths shine through both in your real life and in a shot under flattering lighting by a good DSLR lens! Especially because no matter what you do, not everyone is going to like you! Not everyone is going to like your photography, not everyone is going to want to emulate your style and not everyone is going to connect with your personality. You could be upset about that, or you could celebrate how that is exactly why the blogging/social media world can be so intriguing. There’s literally something for everyone; and what makes you different or flawed or goofy, might be exactly what resonates with people out there… the same people who would never have found you if it weren’t for social media.
Believe me, I’m not immune to the comparison game, either. It can be so tempting to think ‘I’d have more followers if I could afford all (or even one!) of the coveted designer pieces this season’; ‘people would like this picture more if I had longer legs’; or even ‘I’d get more likes if I just post a picture of a damn donut’!!! (Seriously, people love pictures of donuts/burgers/etc, but I don’t eat them! Stick to your guns, Lauren.) But all of that worry won’t do you any good. What if people are following you because they like exactly who you are?! Maybe a 5’2” girl with no thigh gap trying out a new trend or posting pictures in a bikini could inspire someone to get over their insecurities, too. I definitely could have used that kind of inspiration back when I was younger – the popular girls in a midwest town, pop stars and actors were really all we had! (And low rise jeans did me NO favors! Haha)
So, what’s my point? Especially if you’re just using social media regularly? Well, I think you should take a breath and remind yourself that no one is perfect, no matter how much they might want you to think that they are on social. No. One. Not bloggers, not newlyweds, not new parents, not humble braggers – no one. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings and celebrate your successes. Follow the people who inspire you, who encourage you to feel good about yourself and who enable you to create a life that you love. Anyone who makes you feel like less than you are? Unfollow that shit. Ain’t nobody got time for that 🙂