For the last two weeks I have been largely inactive on social media. I tend to go through cycles in regards to my online presence. Some weeks I am excited and eager to share my life online, and others I struggle. While I agree that social media has improved our abilities to reach and impact others, it can also be hard to separate our online lives with our real ones. At one point do we draw the line and stop living our lives through our screens?
When I first started my Instagram account, the app had literally just come out. I was still in college, and originally thought the idea was strange. Sharing pictures with your friends? That’s what having a Facebook was for! Pretty soon everyone I knew had an account, sharing pictures from weekend parties and family get togethers. We all used it to share our moments, or things we thought were pretty. It could be weeks between posts, sometimes months.
My senior year is when my account began to blow up. I had shared my #BBG transformation photo on what was my personal account, and to my surprise Kayla shared it on her account. I remember sitting at my kitchen table with my friend Haley and watching my phone light up. In a matter of hours I went from 200-something followers to over one thousand. I still remember that we went and got ice cream to celebrate, and I went to bed with hundreds of comments and questions in my inbox. I realized that I could help people, and I decided then that I would use my account to do that.
Flash forward to now, and my personal account has become what I call my “fitness account,” although now I try to share more than just pictures in my activewear. I’ve been out of college nearly three years now, and Instagram has drastically changed. Social media in general has changed, and I still struggle to keep up. People can build careers and make millions of dollars off of the app now. Gone are the days where success coincides with working 9-5. How amazing is that?
I know how much work goes into running a blog. I understand how much work goes into curating and maintaining an Instagram profile. Social media influencers that have built a brand and following of thousands or millions of followers are innovators, and I could never bash or insult them for that. Personally, however, I have fallen into a love/hate relationship with Instagram, which is in large part due to the algorithm and the categorization between business/influencer accounts, and personal ones. It is hard to scroll through the app and not be bombarded with promos and sales pitches.
As someone with 17k followers, I have been dubbed a “micro-influencer” by brands looking to advertise on Instagram. I have enough followers to establish influence, but not enough to be categorized as a true influencer. This means lower pay rates, less partnership opportunities, and constant pressure to grow my following. That’s where my issue falls, the pressure.
I can’t tell you how many emails I get on a daily basis asking me to pay for more followers, pay for social media management, or offering quick fixes to grow my audience. Isn’t social media about genuine connection? When did we get so far away from that?
It is this disingenuousness that makes me take frequent breaks from the app. As a naturally introverted person I already struggle to put myself out there, but when most Instagram “success” is marked by a constant online presence, I have to put my foot down. The constant pressure to be “on” all the time and share my every move with strangers is something I have a hard time wrapping my head around. Experiences and moments can easily become tainted when you’re watching them through a phone, and too many are.
So where do we draw the line? I don’t think that there is an easy answer to that question. I have spent hours thinking about my online presence and what I want it to be. My introversion does play a large roll in my eagerness (or lack there of) to share my life with others. But I also think that we all need to find our own balance. Some influencers love being active on social media, and documenting their day to day life is their job. But for a majority of us like myself, social media is a hobby, a side hustle. When it comes to myself, I know that I would rather be happy and lose followers than conform and be stressed out and miserable!
We have created an environment where young people base their value on their online presence. Popularity is determined by likes and follows. Online profiles serve as first impressions instead of face to face conversations. Our dating lives live largely online and through texting. At a certain point we all need to cut through the noise and figure out what is important to us.
Ask yourself if you would still be the same person without social media. Who are you without the followers? Who are you without your phone? If you find that there is a disconnect, then make a conscious effort to fix it. Life is not a constant status update. Fill your life with moments and experiences that fill your soul. Live life for you, not your followers.
As for me, I have chosen to not put so much pressure on myself to 1.) beat the algorithm because we all know it’s impossible, and 2.) focusing on what makes me happy. After all, isn’t that what matters most? I think so :).
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