Recently I had a bit of an Instagram cull.
I do it periodically to clear out dead accounts, spam accounts, people that only post memes or baby photos and people with whom it just turns out I don’t have that much in common.
This time I realised that I’d started unfollowing a few accounts because they were just too, well, perfect.
Immaculately staged photos of breakfast in bed, complete with sheets just rumpled enough to look picture perfect, glossy red lips, shiny curled hair and perfect flat lays. I literally have no idea how they get these photos. Sometimes it seems like everyone but me is living in a white washed, sunlit world of perfect latte art and porridge with lines of sliced strawberries and chia seeds on top.
It seems that the images we WANT to consume are almost indistinguishable from those we used to find in traditional media. Except now we also want to believe that these are real people just snapping a picture of them drinking coffee, rather than an edited photo shoot that took time to set up.
Blogging is my full-time job, and there’s a lot of pressure to improve numbers and keep up with the proverbial Joneses. I’ve thought about having an Instagram “theme” (though I’ve never quite got as far as actually having one) and the photos I share now are much more thought out than they used to be in the early days when I started using Instagram.
It’s one of the reasons I started writing my weekly “This Week I…” posts, often they use snaps that in the old days might have gone on Instagram. They’re bad photos, but they illustrate my life.
I want to grow my Instagram following as it’s important to brands looking for sponsored content, so I work hard, and I follow the Instagram “rules”, and this morning I looked at my stats and saw that 171 people followed me, and 167 unfollowed me, and I’m not sure why I bother.
When the social media blues hit I frequently feel like I can’t live up to the shiny, flat lay perfect lives of other bloggers. The ones that had mobile phones with cameras when they were teenagers and have consumed this stuff forever, the ones with photographer boyfriends or enough space in their homes for a permanent photo studio.
We all know that we should take it with a pinch of salt, and that those curated Instagram images are the “Highlights reel” of someones life. But there are times when it’s hard to believe.
I get just as annoyed by the self-righteous “social media is bad” rhetoric as I do by the instaperfect grids and relentless positivity.
Fact is that when you’re feeling good those beautiful images and uplifting posts can be inspirational. When you’re feeling bad they can make you feel worse.
Right now I am 11.5 weeks into my depo provera injection. I normally have it at 10 weeks because I can’t hack the hormonal angst, the clumsiness and the anxiety that I get near the end. But last time I went to the nurse she told me new rules meant I couldn’t have it early. Right now, I feel awful. I am sat in a house full of the detritus of two people who are terrible hoarders and now both work from home (help me clear it out!). My hair needs most importantly washing, but also my roots need doing and I desperately need a hair cut. I am wearing star print pyjama bottoms with a hole in the leg and a stripy jumper. On my desk is a coffee cup, a broken watch strap and a pile of paper so big I don’t even know what’s in it any more.
My desk. I might not insta it, but I’ll post it here. Everything looks better if you turn up the brightness. Right?
I’m not going to Instagram any of that, I’m not going to tweet about it either. I’m going to do what everyone does. I’ll clear away the coffee cups and piles of paper. I’ll brush my hair and put on some lipstick before I leave the house and present my best self to the world.
Maybe we should share more of our bad days, but does anyone really want to see it?
I don’t have the answer to the social media blues. But next time you feel like you can’t live up, just remember, we’re all human.
We’re messy, hormonal, greasy-haired, beautiful, stylish, imaginative, creative, sad, happy, amazing human-beings. We all exist outside the window of those 140 character snippets and Instagram grids and someone, somewhere, loves seeing you in all your messy glory.
Whatever Pinterest may tell you, no one is really living that “perfect” life.