In a move so shocking it rivalled the Asda-Sainsburys merger announced last month, I decided a couple of weeks ago to combine my two Instagram accounts, making the bold decision to ultimately delete my Pretty Normal Me account.
No big deal you think, and I hear ya. It’s not really, and would be much more interesting if I were to ACTUALLY become one of these insane people that full on quits Instagram, goes native and lives a life of simply eating food rather than just taking pictures of it. Stepping back from it, morphing from an Insta-blogger to an Insta-person is not that big a deal. It has however opened my eyes to a whole manner of things, namely how fanatical my relationship with Instagram had become.
I said when I moved accounts that nothing would change, that all the content that had been on the Pretty Normal Me account would now be on the em_clarkson one; it just made sense to have it all in one place – this was just a bit of social media house keeping.
As it turns out, that was a lie.
A lie that I am absolutely thrilled about by the way.
The truth is, I was becoming obsessed with Instagram, and not in the adorable and endearing way that other bloggers seem to talk about it, the ‘urgh the algorithm sucks’ or the ‘noo there isn’t enough blossom in London to make my grid as pink as I’d hoped’, rather, it was becoming an unhealthy and boring obsession that was beginning to take it’s toll on my mental health in a way that I am only now beginning to appreciate as I take a big step back.
When I started blogging I didn’t foresee having to regularly use my face as a means of marketing, I had got into it solely for the writing. Perhaps this accounts for the fact it took me 18 months between starting this blog and even opening an Instagram account to go alongside it.
Even after I opened the account though I rarely used it, opting instead to put photos of my dog up on my ‘personal’ one and the occasional motivational quote on the ‘work’ one. It was only in the last six or seven months that I realised that if I wanted to make it in this industry, I was going to need to up my game.
Blogging began to change and if I wasn’t ready to change with it, I would be left behind.
Gradually as more and more people began to throw petrol on the ‘has blogging died?’ debate, we watched as ‘bloggers’, now trying the term ‘influencer’ on for size, spent more and more time curating beautiful Instagram feeds in the hope of being rewarded by followers.
Followers, in this industry, equals money.
I went with them, gleefully. Still writing with as much zest and zeal as ever but now spending more and more time (and money because actually creating the perfect feed can cost a lot of money; props, time, location, photographer), ensuring that my Instagram too was good enough.
Within a few weeks I was obsessed, refusing to publish a blog post if I didn’t have a satisfactory accompanying Insta photo, agreeing to get up at sparrow’s fart on a weekend to go to a flower market that I didn’t give a shit about to get that shot, fighting, badly, with Alex as he took another terrible photo of me even though I showed him a million times exactly how to do it.
And I convinced myself, and everyone around me (sniggering behind their hands as I pulled yet another ridiculously unhanded-candid pose), that I had to do this because THIS WAS MY JOB.
Somehow the pictures, the Instagram, had become just as important to me as the blog itself. The amount of likes I had on an image mattered more than the amount of readers I had on a post.
For the girl who doesn’t want to know how many books she sold, preferring to focus instead on how the books that were sold affected the people that bought it, this was weird.
Numbers were beginning to matter wayyyyy too much.
It was only recently, very recently, that I realised 5k Instagram followers did not make me an Instagrammer in this day and age and that, the very fact that I wasn’t making any money completely rendered my argument, the argument that ‘Instagram was my job and therefore a justifiable thing to stress over’ unusable.
More than any of that though I realised I didn’t want this to be my job. This was something that not only did I not apply for, but something that I am decidedly under-qualified for. This was not the plan.
I did not start Pretty Normal Me (a platform from which I would do my upmost to reassure women that what they are going through is, y’know, normal and one that consistently undermines the overwhelming and distressing nature of social media in today’s society) to then spend hour upon hour taking the most abnormal photos before uploading them at an appropriate time, giving a fuck load of shits about how many people liked them.
That was actually the complete opposite reason and yet here I was accepting new followers greedily, sharing my best photos in a bid to ensure I was sharing engaging content, showing off the best version off myself all the damn time.
It was only after I uploaded a photo of myself and my IBS stomach hanging out a few months ago, a thorn amongst the perfect rose photos I had paid my brilliantly talented sister to take of me, and it received hundreds of comments, I realised that THAT was what mattered to me. All the pretty photos and the panicking about the pretty photos was stopping me from doing what mattered.
And then there was my future to think about. The very fact that I was having to watch some of my favourite writers sell their soul in the name of furthering their careers, doing what I was doing and stretching themselves unbelievably thin, it was a bleak prospect. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, there’s no shade here, I am in no position to judge – it was just becoming depressing. The whole thing.
All the fun, all the joy and pride and spontaneity and creativity had just disappeared and I didn’t event notice it go.
I just looked up and realised I was working a job I didn’t love, I was worrying about things that didn’t matter to me, and losing sight of what I deemed to be important.
And so now I have deleted the Pretty Normal Me account and although the hangover of my Insta-anxiety still lingers from time to time (and I worry that a photo of me and Alex getting pissed in Amsterdam isn’t what people are there to see), for the most part the stress has gone and I’ve got my life back.
Dramatic, maybe, but true.
To those that don’t blog you will inevitably be picking your jaw up off the floor right now after reading what went into it, but that was how it was. That’s what blogging looks like.
And having taken a step back recently I feel about 10 million percent happier.
I’m not trying to hate on blogging, or the industry, or the amazing efforts made by a millions of people curating beautiful Instagram feeds. On the contrary, I tip my hat to those that manage to do it so well.
The truth is, it’s just not for me. I’m still an avid Insta user, seriously, do come find me @em_clarkson, I’ve just decided that I am not an avid Instagrammer – and there is a difference.
I’ve got to think about my mental health, my happiness and my career – all of those things seem to be soaring since I took a big ol’ chill pill, refocussed, and basically stopped giving nearly as many shits.
So that’s what’s going on and it’s great, I can’t recommend this particular means of chilling out highly enough.