Recently I quit social media. I had been debating doing so for awhile, but there never seemed the right time to sign off. There was always a new collaboration to work on, another event to post about. Yet too frequently of late, I had found myself scrolling aimlessly through Instagram, looking mindlessly at picture after picture - mostly of people whom I barely knew...
I started to question why I was spending so much time on my phone – I don’t have a blog or own a business to promote, and while I do now work with a number of labels I love, the main reason I originally started posting to my personal social accounts is because I like taking photographs. Also living on the other side of the world from Australia, it’s an easy way for friends and family back home to see what the girls and I are up to. Yet after one particularly icy winter afternoon, with two irritable toddlers and an exasperated husband, trying (and failing) to get a shot in the quickly fading afternoon light of everyone looking happy for a post I had promised a brand, I wondered what was the purpose of it all? If I was posting for the sake of it, trying to create, rather than capture a moment, wasn’t that kind of forced… and maybe even disingenuous? I felt like I had overstepped a line. Added to this was the knowledge that soon I will start a new job where social will be omnipresent in my day-to-day work. I knew that I had to take time out now or I never would.
So after New Year’s Eve, I deleted all the social apps off my phone. Until then I didn’t realise how much time I was spending on social media per day. I found myself constantly picking up my phone, going to check Instagram out of habit, then feeling something akin to relief that I could put my mobile down and turn my attention elsewhere. Silencing the distraction of social media has meant I no longer have a valid excuse for procrastinating. I am actually ticking off the endless to-do list in my head, rather than just lying awake at night, running through tasks I never seem to complete.
Ironically, I thought that as I worked in social media and had an in-depth understanding of the process of creating an aspirational image, I was immune to the mirage of perfection that social media conjures. It turns out I wasn’t. Constantly looking into other people’s seemingly flawless lives left me feeling rather deflated in a year that was, personally, extremely difficult. A number of friends had recently mentioned to me about how the idealised version of life portrayed on Instagram gave them anxiety, and after signing off from social media I understood why. Continually consuming images that illustrate the apparent ease with which other women seem to navigate motherhood, work and relationships, can make you second guess your own ability or path. Comparison may be the thief of joy, but measuring yourself against others is human nature and something which is hard not to do when you feel that you are lacking. I’m not absolving my own guilt in this artifice. I have been complicit in portraying my life as a filtered version of what it really is. I have always argued this is because I didn’t want to post anything that might cause embarrassment to my children, as I have a profile that is public, I am highly aware that I am creating a digital profile for my daughters too. Yet while that is true, it is also because I am not keen to expose the low-points of my personal life to the world. I am not arguing that we should all start sharing our secrets on social but maybe a little veracity (and humour) would be a good thing.
Will I go back to social media? Yes. Primarily because of my career, I work in online content, so social is an integral part of my role, but also, despite all of the above, my experience of social media has been positive. I am lucky to have met incredibly inspirational women who have become friends, collaborated with businesses run by hard-working mothers I admire and been given truly helpful advice during particularly tough moments of motherhood. The community on social is an amazing source of inspiration, friendship and support. In terms of fashion and interiors, it is also a great medium for inspiration and discovering new labels. I love taking photos and Instagram, in particular, gives me a valid excuse. However, when I do return, I am going to be more mindful of how much time I spend on social media and what I am posting. How I will incorporate a dose of reality into my posts I haven’t quite figured out yet, but I will consciously try not to erase every experience that isn’t favourable. Because life isn’t perfect and pretending it is devalues the lessons you learn when it doesn’t go quite as you planned.