Blogging full time can be really weird. For the last year it has been my sole job to share my life with whoever wants to hear about it and I've found striking a balance between being utterly depressing and wildly upbeat to be a struggle at times. In part I want to do my best to remain positive, making a passing visit to my site or social media channels an enjoyable and uplifting experience for those who stumble across my work, but then in part I want what I portray to the world to be real, so as not to make the aforementioned visitors feel in anyway different or alone with their unhappiness or gloomy outlook on life.
Do I want to be cheering people up, a constant source of energy, sunshine and happiness for those on the hunt for a boost, or do I want to tell it how it really is; warts, overdue bills, snotty nose, anxiety and hairy legs galore? I'm only human, I don't only have good days, should I just remain silent on the bad ones or else feign joy so as not to depress anyone? Am I allowed to moan? Ultimately, do I have a responsibility to be happy?
Any regular readers of the blog will know that I was raised with the expression: "a bore is someone who, when asked how they are, tells you", with that in mind I suppose you could say I'm incredibly British: mustn't grumble, stiff upper lip, let's crack on. If a bore is someone who needs an invitation to moan, what would that make me if I did it uninvited? I dread to think... So I try and maintain an outwardly optimistic view in all areas of life. But that does become a little harder when you find yourself blogging for a living.
Of course it's no secret that for the majority of us, social media is nothing more than an excuse to show off and for many, not just a money maker but an entire job. Instagram is basically a CV these days and whilst I'm fairly okay with having spots visible in photos, I can understand why they're not regularly uploaded to Instagram (not least of all because I wouldn't put it passed the platform to deem images of that nature 'offensive' and ban them from the algorithm). So we portray our best bits on the grid, ensure the lighting is right and smiles are out in force; but as social media becomes more real, we begin to share every conceivable part of our lives, and with that, the misery comes.
I don't want to pop up on my Instagram stories every day moaning and grumbling about various ailments and annoyances, I'm all too aware that that would become incredibly tiresome after three days, equally I definitely do not what to produce a string of depressing blog posts which offer nothing to the reader beyond a depressing sense of irritation that I'm using my platform in such a self indulgent way. Whilst I do of course really enjoy serious, honest blog posts written by people who are going through something challenging (it's not all rainbows and unicorns in my search history,) that's usually because not only do these articles give me an amazing sense of perspective, but they also leave me feeling empowered and inspired. Although they may have appeared to be doom and gloom, more often than not both writer and reader walk away feeling healed in some way.
'Channeling misery', that's probably the expression I would use. Turning something negative into a positive, using your pain to help someone else. That's powerful, it's art and it's also happiness. What I find hard to justify is the idea of a relentless pity party on my Instagram story. I follow some wonderfully cheerful people on Instagram and the stories are arguably my favourite part; thanks to the hard work and sunny disposition of so many of my peers I have become quite accustomed to inspiration in that department, so when the same people pop up time and time again to moan about trivial things, I have to admit I find it pretty draining, not least of all because more often than not these girls have created an incredible life for themselves using a fanbase that they now cannot stop complaining to and about.
That's the thought that bumbles around my head most of the time: I have a ridiculously great job, I'm so so lucky and I would have nothing if not for the people following me; surely I owe it to them not to be ungrateful? If every time I went out for dinner with my friends I told them that I was working 'too hard', had a cold and was having a period resembling a shark attack, they would very quickly get bored of me, and I wouldn't blame them, not only should I be listening to other people rather than moaning about myself *again* but I probably ought to appreciate that I may well be being a bit of a party popper. It's harder on Instagram because ultimately, it is all about you, and yet at the same time I find myself wondering: does it have to be ALLALLALL about you?
If you share your whole life online is it unrealistic to hide the bad bits? No, YouTubers have been getting in trouble for that for forever and are applauded whole heartedly when they open up about various struggles. Why should you have to hide your sadness, be ashamed of it and preach a message of easy peasy lemon squeezy when you really feel like crying difficult difficult lemon difficult. Surely by glossing over the bad bits you are just setting unrealistic expectations for readers, viewers, even friends? Apart from anything, it's exhausting to feel like you're living a lie. But then it's also a bit shit to be professionally miserable, so you can see why I find myself confused quite a lot.
When I started Pretty Normal Me it was supposed to be something real and honest. When I wrote the book I thought the same thing. "Be real, be honest, say the things that no one said to you. But don't be negative." It was never supposed to be a negative environment full of moaning and misery. We have enough of that shit in our day to day lives; the last thing I want to do is give more worries to those people seeking out a bit of rest-bite online. Sure I'm going through the shit, they probably are too. We can either all go through it smiling or we can keep shouting complaints at each other until one of us loses our voice.
In truth, I think I do have a responsibility to be happy.... and if I'm honest, I kind of love it.
It's been a widely made observation that the news has long since been nothing more than shit. War, hate, crime, abuse, corruption, hate, stealing, hate, cancer and a bit more hate. The landscape over the last few years however, has begun to change, the media is more multi-dimensional and accessible than it has ever been before and that has been thanks to the growth of blogs. Normal girls and boys creating their own uncensored platforms from which they can empower, inspire and educate. Friendships and formed, mental health is discussed in a real and approachable manner, fashion is celebrated and bullshit is called out, there is self love in abundance and more impressively than any of that is the self-starter attitude that this shift has instilled in so many young people, never in history have so many been self-employed. Blogging makes people all over the world feel less alone and that is ultimately, the most important part. It's a huge community and one that I'm incredibly lucky to be a part of.
For me and my blog, I don't want to indulge negativity, whether that's from other people or from myself and I certainly don't want to inflict it on anyone else, not if I can help it. As an anxiety sufferer I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that my platform gives me to talk about it, but I really try to only address these issues in a positive light. What good will my blog post all about how shit anxiety is be for someone who is feeling anxious? About as useful as a chocolate tea pot. I do my best to talk about my woes when I have at least the outline of a solution at hand. It is not the responsibility of my readers to fix my problems and I suspect I know, deep down, that complaining on Instagram won't make me any happier, all it will probably do, is bum someone else out.
Ultimately, for me, I do feel there is a responsibility to be happy and I think it's important that I never let that go. Sure, I'm happy to share the spots and the cellulite and the bad days, we all have bad days and I want to keep as real as I can about that, but I owe it to my friends and my followers to at least look for the positives, to point them out, to try to cling onto them. As far as my blog is concerned, for the most part I will save my moaning for my Whatsaap groups, exhausted mother and various wine bottles and just pray that that keeps working.