How to be yourself on social media

This year, I decided to become a blogger. Not just a person who has a blog and occasionally shares things, but someone who dedicates her time creating content and has an income due to blogging. I shut down my page, enrolled in some courses, reworked the entire blog and had a pretty successful launch.

The feedback has been great, and I feel that I am unto something! But, I've been struggling to get out of this one mental rut that I am in. When I wrote this post about sustainable fashion and how it turns people off because the image and package it comes wrapped in is very specific...I was feeling very disengaged and alienated with social media. I think that the detonator of that post was logging into my Instagram.

I opened Instagram when I was doing market research for my MBA thesis on ethical fashion. I was about to shut it down once I finished my degree but then I started my blog and I figured it made sense to keep it. The whole time I have used Instagram I have never felt comfortable with it. There is pressure to post the prettiest, most interesting visuals and compete for "airtime" in other people's feeds. I’d check out other bloggers’ feeds and feel some jealousy, and feel a bit depressed because I could not make my feed look like theirs. This emotion is not unique, scientists have reported that you are most likely to feel alone and depressed after spending time on Instagram than on any other platform.

As a brand, I totally get it. I love going on Instagram to discover unique brands, and yes, the photos have an influence on whether I will continue browsing through that brand's freed.

As a blogger, I never questioned the sanctity of "you must be on Instagram to be a fashion blogger", so I kept sharing, filtering, cropping, downloading all sorts of apps to make my life interesting yet cohesive under the same brightness and contrast settings (oh, but make sure those reflect your personality and style!)

I am a grown woman with three degrees and other accomplishments under my belt, and not getting enough engagement on my Instagram bums the shit out of me.

A low point in my struggle to be Instagram cool was when I took photos of myself doing a headstand at the beach. That unflattering photo of my cottage cheese ass is a reminder that reality and Instagram are not the same thing.

I promise that this millennial whiny blog post comes with some lessons...

As a human being who is also a blogger, Instagram exacerbates my self-doubt and negative thoughts about myself because creating that type of A+ content daily is exhausting. I kept looking at others for inspiration, but it had the opposite effect. I started feeling even more insecure when I took photos.

The biggest pile you will hear is that, because it is a personal blog, you are supposed to be “you”. No. You are supposed to be a mini Vogue editorial while still being you.

This month, as I was making more changes to the blog and thinking of my business plan, I started questioning, why am I even on Instagram? I knew that there was some truth to my feelings towards the app, but that part of this failure and frustration was also my fault.

I want to be clear on this: even though I feel that Instagram is narcissistic and potentially dangerous to your mental health, making Instagram about average, shoddy photography is not going to make it a better app. No. Instagram is and should be the place where you post amazing photos.

What I needed was a way to participate that didn’t kill me, while still gaining followers who are interested in the content I share.

After much thought, these were the things that were on me:

  • The feed started off with a theme, but it strayed from the original idea.
  • The original theme that I thought for the blog was contrived. Even though it reflected a part of me, it wasn’t the part of me that gets excited about fashion.
  • My images were okay, not magazine-worthy.
  • I wasn't being as authentic as I could be because I hated being on the platform.

And these were the thoughts that were blocking my brain from finding a solution:

  • I am no one to call myself an influencer
  • My day to day is not even that interesting, and I don't want to pretend that it is. Not for anyone, not for likes.
  • My resting bitch face is killing my blog. If my RBF face scares ME sometimes, what are YOU supposed to think?

Instead of telling myself that "Instagram is not my platform, I am not an influencer and using this daily makes me more depressed than excited about blogging"…

I decided to switch this statement to "I may not be an Instagram native, but it is a good platform for what I want to do, and instead of working my ass off to fit into Instagram, I am going to make Instagram work for me."

That was the lesson, folks! 

At some point, especially if you are a lifestyle will have to do things you absolutely hate or feel uncomfortable doing them. Instead of thinking that a) you won't do it (even though it IS a good strategy to do it or b) you can't do it...think about HOW you can do it and make it work for you with your current limitations (you are shy, you are not good with the camera, you lack equipment, etc). 

So here's what I am doing now: 

  • I figured, since I am not the type of blogger that takes photos in interesting locations every day, I can take good photographs in a simple background, and occasionally do a location shoot.
  • I am not going to interact or post on Instagram if I don't have content that is Insta-worthy.
  • I won't stress about posting every day because it's not a big deal. Why? The first reason is that RIGHT NOW, Instagram is not the biggest source of traffic. The second one is that I have tried posting at various times of the day, I have tried posting every day, more than once a day and I always reach about 1% of my audience, out of which 1% will engage with the content. So I'm taking a chill pill because Instagram is not my cash cow.  

I do try to comment and interact with other accounts every day because that’s what makes Instagram so amazing. Would you comment on a stranger’s photo on Facebook? On Instagram, it is okay to comment on stranger’s feed and you can even like 10 of their photos in a row if you want to! That would be creepy on Facebook, not even your mom does that.

The first advice I heard when I started blogging was to be myself. Otherwise, blogging was going to be another chore to add to my list. This is easier said than done. Finding your voice and niche and figuring out what is the combination that is "you" but also resonates with your readers is not done overnight. I felt that this was something worth sharing because many of us are out there stressing out about filters and hashtags and increasing engagement, and perhaps a better question is - does this make you happy, or excited, at all? 

Well, this is me, being me, using Instagram as a human being and not as an engagement-churning machine. Do you feel the same about Instagram, or another app? How will you make it work for you, instead of feeling burdened?