“I know a girl whose one goal was to visit Rome, Then she finally got to Rome, and all she did was post pictures for people at home, ‘cause all that mattered was impressin‘ everybody she’s known.”
The power of Social Media as a tool for business growth is unquestionable. But somewhere along this path, I confused myself with a business, and got lost along the way. See, I don’t make any money from my social media, but I happen to have a lot of followers. I’m not an “influencer”, but I’m expected to post “interesting” content. Of course, I’ve put that expectation on myself; putting currency into follower count is probably where it started to go wrong. I would force myself to post daily updates to stay “current” – I’m not entirely sure what I mean by this, but I just remember reading articles that said you should post at least once a day. So, I did. I’d post anything. Uploading throwback after throwback of my travels, selfies of me with a full face of makeup on, and generally making my life look pretty damn great. And it is great, but not for the reasons my pages would lead you to believe.
My relationship with social media grew at the same time as its popularity.[Just as an FYI, I use Twitter and Instagram the most, and Facebook privately.]
My following grew organically thanks to S/O’s from Lads Mags *RIP TittyTuesday* and I was enjoying reaching so many people on different platforms, through my newfound *fame* (insert extremely big air quotes here, I use the word fame in as loose of a term as possible). Due to my job and my environment at the time, my feed was pretty much full of scantily-clad females, plus a few standard celeb accounts thrown in. You would think seeing beautiful women retweeted on my timeline constantly would have set me on my way to an early social media meltdown, but ironically, this “era” was the most comfortable I’ve ever felt online. Of course, there’s a wonderful irony in this, with the argument that glamour models are bad role models for women; but seeing the bodies of my fellow peers and strangers so freely shared on my timeline with such blasÃ© and no editing or filters, well, it was empowering. And so f***ing n o r m a l. I guess you could say these were my influencers. And I sure as hell was not worrying about how even my eyebrows looked or if my lips were plump in my selfies- and trust me, I know there are some dodgy photos out there to back these claims up! These platforms were a fun space where we all came together on a Wednesday afternoon to tweet #Humpday pictures, swap lighthearted comments and just have fun. I remember getting messages from up-and-coming brands: “Hey! We’d love to send you a t-shirt in exchange for a post!” FREE STUFF. This was mental. At one point I was paid £50 to upload a post holding a tub of protein powder. FIFTY QUID FOR A POST. This was the best job ever, or so I thought. Of course, now I know I was hugely undervaluing my “posting charge”. Do you know how much these f***ers are being paid these days? TO POST AN INSTAGRAM PIC? It’s mind-boggling. Anyway, Twitter and Instagram were exciting places; they were fresh and they were new and I was growing with them.
“I know a girl that saves pictures from places she’s flown, to post later, and make it look like she’s still on the go. Look at the way we live…”
So, what went wrong? I fell down the rabbit hole. The search for validation from strangers online, constantly checking my “likes” hoping my next post would be the most popular yet. And if it didn’t do well? F*ck. That sinking feeling. The confidence I felt five minutes ago when I posted it had turned into despair. Do I look shit? Do I look fat? My boobs are saggy. Should I delete it? Maybe I’ll wait ten minutes. No, I’ll just delete it, it must be shit if I’ve not hit 1000 likes. I’ll just try again and upload it later.
Yes, this really was my thought process. On every post. Every day. Then came the Dawn of the Influencers and you might as well have pitted me next to Naomi Campbell because from now on I wasn’t as good as anyone. “Why don’t I live in a house like that?”, “Why am I not in Bali?”, “Why don’t I have abs like that? A bum like that, teeth like that?”, “Why don’t I enjoy eating bowls of kale?”. The list goes on. I even started posting about my “weight loss journey”, when I was a Size 10 max.
Comparison became the thief of my happiness online.
Not only am I having to “Keep Up with the Joneses”; I’m trying to Keep Up with the Whole World. Which of course, you can’t. Hell, these girls can’t even keep up with themselves. I put so much value into the opinions of strangers, that I stopped taking notice of how social media was making me feel. I felt like I couldn’t share the everyday parts of my life, the parts that made me, me… Because they weren’t exciting enough, or glamorous enough, or worthy enough. This might all sound a little excessive, but I truly don’t think I’m alone in thinking like this.
Oh God, it goes on. Having a bad day? Then I’d post, and the mere validation via the form of likes from people I’ve never met would give me an instant feeling of gratification. This is a fact by the way. The instant “hit” from seeing a like roll in releases dopamine the same way as sex does, or a line of cocaine. So… Rock’ n roll.
I cannot go ten minutes without checking my accounts. I automatically reach for my phone when I’m working, and have to force myself to put it back down. Endless scrolling fills my days with mindless tweets and Instagram models that I will never look like, who live lives I will never lead. I post selfie after selfie, engaging in this constant cycle of comparison and validation, liking and posting, like I’m wired up to some automatic millennial mode. Some may even call it narcissism. Is it? I don’t think it is. I think it’s probably the opposite. A strange need to be liked by others. But I can’t stop. And do I even want to? We need to call out our social media usage for what it is; an addiction.
This light-hearted confession of my “addiction” to others is what made me take a long hard look at my relationship with social media. Instagram and Twitter have no real effect on my life, I know that, but I invest so much value in them anyway. Why do I care about what others think? Why can’t I just be happy being me?
But actually, I am happy being me. My comfortableness with who I am right now has allowed me to be so brazen and open about my feelings for the first time in a while. So perhaps the question is, why can’t I just be happy being me, online? I’m not sure if I’m pitching this as a rhetorical question, or an open-ended one. The answer could be obvious, but I can’t seem to grasp it.
I think in time – or at least, I hope – this idolisation of others online will come crashing down, and social media will become a collection of friendly, fun and light-hearted platforms again. We’re all aware of the exaggeration of reality across the ‘Gram, yet we feed into it nevertheless, desperate to be a part of this new-age movement of status and belonging, that faces our generation. But how about we go against the current? We are so much more than our follower count, our likes and our selfies. Let’s make that our millennial resolution.