On My Social Media Time Out
Excuse the dramatic title but sometimes you just have to go with the lead. I realise it makes me sound like a freak, an anomaly in my industry. I mean, some of my friends said as much. They said my Instagram, in particular, was too essential to my working life to get rid of. It was as though I’d said I was done using a resumé as my professional calling card. Like, I was sending potential clients letters from my mother informing them that I might be a little moody at times but I am a good girl, really. Heart of gold. It is unthinkable for anyone in the creative industries to exist - and expect to work - without social media. That’s what we all believed because, well - Instagram is just sooooo pretty. And, hey, it worked for me.
I started blogging aged seventeen, when it was still a refreshingly quirky past-time. Naturally, social media was a part of that process; namely Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. Thanks to my experience as a fashion writer for one of London’s meteoric magazines (RIP), I garnered interest from industry insiders, which gave my little blog a boost. Soon, I was partnering up with brands to create editorials to be shared across my social channels. To simplify the collaborative process between brands and influencers, companies (like ForhCard, for example) set themselves up as the go-between, providing stats and visuals of influencers for brand directors to consider in exchange for access to said influential beings. That’s what the cover image represents: my popularity in digits. It got to a point where vision became secondary to the numbers game we were all hurtling towards. I, doe-eyed and full-skirted, merrily played along.
Until I’d had enough and passed on the 14,000+ Instagram followers when I quit blogging professionally. A short while later, however, another account was set up to supplement my career in journalism. Growing to a little over 1,000 followers in four months or so, it was a respectively dignified extension of my literary world. So why did I still view it as a burden? After all, it perfectly reflected the coquettishly balanced narrative of my glistening universe. Sometimes I’d treat my followers to a whirl of travel-fuelled architecture ‘inspo’ — to show, I guess, how we can still be fab while on ‘on-the-job.’ I’d also go for moments of total spontaneity fuelled with candid stylishness, because being on-the-go (basically, looking busier than you have ever truly been) was finally back ‘in’. Behold: the life of a millennial fashion writer.
I think my objective was to show that I was fairly successful at booking work because I was endlessly inspired by the small things in life. (Not birds or daisies or the occasional West Country fresh air, but espressos and nail art.) Ah yes, the narratives woven through my Socials were just extensions of my dubiously aspirational, go-getting professional-gal life. Style? Never mind that I was suffocating. Because, oddly, although every shared experience was true enough, I still felt like a total fake. But the aforementioned reasons were not the culprits. If that had been the case, I would have done away with the lot years ago. No, I knew something (preferably all of it) had to give when social media started to get in the way of my professional work. The irony would not be lost on anyone, so you’re in good company.
Let’s just say, I began writing for the Times Literary Supplement (one of the world’s foremost publications in the Lit Crit genre) soon after I jumped off Twitter. Facebook went down next, after which I was picked up for corporate work and was lucky enough to be flown to Istanbul for one of the biggest fashion events of the year. Nothing beats the peace of mind that results from not being bogged down by information overload - or the feeling of genuine inspiration that comes with the ability to consume, digest and divulge alternative information. Spurred by the positive effects of deleting the other accounts, Instagram was next. Now, that was degradingly hard. Took three Temporarily Disable Your Accounts for me to pluck up the courage to press that button. I was awash with relief when I did. And I was rewarded for it: I worked harder and better, which brought on twice the number of commissions, turning my slower clients into mainstays.
So what’s my beef, anyway? Mental health, productivity, procrastination — pick one. Try all of the above relentlessly working away at my time, potential and ability to heal myself. Am I giving social media too much power? Probably. But, if you have too many social handles, so are you. There’s this beautiful concept of deep work, touting focus as the new IQ, coined by Dr. Cal Newport. In his TED talk, he explains the positive effects of abstaining from The Socials in a friendly, yet thought-provoking manner. If you’re short on time then just consider this takeaway: “If you treat your attention with respect — so you don’t fragment it, you allow it to stay whole, you preserve your ability to concentrate — when it comes time to work…you can do it with intensity, and intensity can be traded for time.” I found this to be true in my case. (For more receipts on the darker side of social media, check out this debate between Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Silicon Valley ‘Computer Philosopher’ Jaron Lanier.)
So, social media for personal use is a no-go for the time being but what does this mean for me professionally? Would I still utilise it in that capacity? Of course. I’m sentimental, not silly. Clients like Visual and I have to eat. And, admittedly, I love creating visual stories that can capture a moment in a well-choreographed shot. There’s nothing quite like representing an idea, or an entire brand’s ethos, through imagery that can speak volumes in a short amount of time. But, for now, using social media in that invasively personal fashion — a way that infringes on my mental health, productivity and joy in life — is not the one. Of course, I’m no anti-Social crusader: if you can make it work for you, then more power.
And, no, the irony of using social media (blogging) to explain why I’ve quit social media (apps) is not lost on me, either, but we do what we can. Now, if only I could send this nudge to the 17-year-old me who loved the free shoes and friendly photographers, but secretly dreamed of becoming a serious writer.
For old times’ sake, here is the “highlight reel to my working life.” Yeah right.