It always amazing to me, as a person who loves “real” things, how easily I slip into being inauthentic. I don’t do it in big ways generally, but the sum doesn’t change no matter how you add it up. In other words, it doesn’t matter if my actions are big or small if I’m still knowingly making them. I’m sure that throughout the blogosphere and Instagram I am not the only person who feels as though they are struggling with this. There are a lot of pressures that contribute to these feelings.
First, there’s the instant need for likes. No matter how big or small your account is when you post a picture you hoping to get to likes. Even those who post just for their family and friends are expecting some sort of return when they put an image out there. Same goes for blogs. It’s really nice if you are getting a lot of views, but are they clicking on things and liking things. This an instant pressure that looms in the back of our minds, whether we admit it or not, every time we throw up an image or an article.
The second pressure is that of the audience. Followers are important in any sort of online platform. The amount of meaning we assign to this particular number is astronomical. There are people all over the world doing amazing work that maybe don’t have the followers a sleek marketing campaign has garnered for others. This is a double fold misery. There are accounts without much substance or quality grabbing up huge shares of certain demographics which means the people who actually create real content have to work twice as hard. They have to constantly pump out new exciting things. If you don’t fall into the category of having a lot of followers it feels discouraging and as if what you’re doing isn’t good enough.
Thirdly, there is the pressure of maintaining an image. Especially when you brand or page is built around images it can be rather difficult to step around this. There are so many absolutely beautiful perfectly curated feeds that inspire us and makes feel happy and we forget the amount of work it takes to create those feeds. We also fall into the trap of comparing our feeds to those and wondering why they aren’t perfect. There’s also the people who seem to have endless cute bloopers and screw-ups to display that seem to still fit into their perfect lives.
So while there as lots of little pressures these are the big ones that tend to lead us into doing things that may be inauthentic. They drive us to post an overly edited, photoshopped photo of an eighth of the real scene. They drive our interactions with people to maintain or develop connections born out of a want for more rather than true comradery. They cause to contort our bodies and faces to the point of being almost unrecognizable so that we can tag it #fitspo. I feel myself fall into these little traps all the time. Making my friends wait to eat while I stand on a chair to grab a picture or tossing out a day of work because I don’t like the way my hands look in that photo. The list goes on and on too, I’m afraid.
I have in the recent weeks buckled down and set some rules for myself, not only to keep my sanity but to help me stay real. The most important thing to me when I started this was to make real recipes with real ingredients for real people. If I drift too far away from that I not even performing the perfunctory function of this blog. I never realized how much of a challenge it would be. So here is my quick guide to getting back to grounded (at least for me!)
I don’t take 100 pictures of the same thing anymore. I take maybe 10 and then I walk away. If there’s a good picture in there great. If there’s okay picture in there still great. As long as I’ve captured the essence of the image that’s good enough. If you’re like me and don’t have many followers it really won’t matter and even if you have a ton, one okay post won’t make everyone run for the hills.
I edit minimally. Mostly just lighting. I like to brighten things up so you can see it, but I’m done making my avocado look super green or my strawberries look crazy red. I buy the same food and products as everyone else. Mine don’t come in super glow or absolutely perfect and there’s no point in making it seem that way.
I post and then I turn my phone over and do something else. I keep my notifications on for messages my I realized watching like pop up or not pop up was literally causing my heart to race. So I put it on silent and walk away. I have a snack, walk my dog, answer some emails, finish some reading, whatever I can get absorbed in.
I check my followers every other day. I started doing because during the day my followers would be all over the place. I had myself convinced that it was because of something I was doing or wasn’t doing, but now I realize that isn’t the case at all. There is a natural ebb and flow to followers throughout the day. There are those accounts that follow you just to get to follow them back or follow you to sell you something. These will unfollow and follow again throughout the week. If it were possible I would say not to look, but I know that’s impossible so by not focusing on it every day I have given myself so much relief.
If you don’t have something you want to post, don’t. It is not the end of the world if you miss a post. Literally not even close. Instead of stressing to make something work or finding something new to post just forget about it. If you feel that tight necked, breathless thing creeping up at the thought of this then repost something from someone else. People love reposts and will never hate as long as you give them credit. Remember to give yourself some time off. Generating new content constantly at any level is hard!
Completely unplug. Just do it. Get away from all of it and give your brain a break. I set 9:30pm as my no more social media time. This doesn’t mean I don’t take pictures and it doesn’t mean that I don’t post if I’m at an event or it’s the weekend. It’s a general time when I stop fully interacting with the platforms. You can post the photos tomorrow and answer the messages then too. If you are constantly on social media it’s like being at a mixer or a happy hour that you never leave. No one would do that in real life. Not only are you at a nonstop party but you’re also missing the real-life party!
(Here’s what the rest of picture looked like. Bag lady status 100, haha!)
This is what I’ve learned so far that works for me. I would love to know if anyone else has any tips or tricks on finding that balance. If you do feel free to let me know! I’d really love to come up with a real survivor’s guide for those of us who really want balance.