Note from Carly: This post started as notes in my phone over the summer. Then I sat down to write the post over a month ago. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder, purely out of fear of posting. I straddle this line where I want to share what I’m feeling, but I’m also struggling with the fear of judgment right now. It can be frustrating when I’m accused of sharing too much fluff and then getting attacked when I say anything that’s actually on my mind. I like to share a mix of things (whether it’s something I wore, what I read, or something on my mind). I still have someone moderating my comments for me (which occurred after I had drafted this) and it’s honestly helping my mental health in a huge way, but there’s still the inkling of fear. But… it’s not how I want to live my life or run my blog, so I’m going to take a giant breath and click publish. Hopefully, the post sheds light on a perspective you find interesting or relatable or something you hadn’t yet considered.
I spend a lot of time on social media. It’s my job so I’m posting and creating a lot of my own content, but I am also a pretty heavy consumer of it as well. I am always trying to stay on top of what’s trending, what’s new, what people are enjoying… I take inventory of what I like watching/reading (and what I don’t) and how that can translate into my own content. It’s a mix between an art and a science. Sometimes it’s purely a gut choice.
But I think something B I G is happening right now on social media. And usually, I’d chalk it up as a “trend” (like Youtubers doing life hack or slime videos and bloggers wearing Valentino Rockstuds or carrying Cult Gaia bags), but I have a feeling it’s more than a trend or a strategic decision.
I feel it (and have been for a while) and, from what I’m seeing, others are feeling it too.
Bloggers, Youtubers, Instagrammers, Influencers. Whatever you want to call it… a rose by any other name. We all started in the same kind of way. One of my favorite things to do is to go back and watch someone’s oldest videos or read someone’s oldest posts. I can speak for myself and feel like it applies to a lot of people who started before 2010, but most of these influencers (myself included) started out on a platform for a purely creative outlet. A place where they could be themselves or, at least, show a side of themselves that might have been getting lost in the real world. It was escapism in a way. But also a way to carve out a little space where there was no judgment.
Then, as everything in life does, things started to shift. I can’t be mad about it, because it really is something that happens time and time again. Things are cyclical. Life is. Those overalls you were in middle school and cringed at in high school are somehow cool again. The books we put aside for e-readers and tablets are somehow back on our shelves. You name it, it’s probably been in and out and then back in.
So those spaces we carved out for ourselves grew… and …. grew… and grew. It was baby steps. 10,000 followers here, 100,000 there. Mirror selfies and Valencia filtered square images made way for DSLR cameras and Lightroom. The story, which had once been so unabashedly shared, was curated and crafted into inspirational aspirations for people to emulate, gawk at, or otherwise just escape to for a little bit. Hobbies turned into jobs that evolved into legitimate careers.
And the careers look so great. That’s one of the strangest parts of the whole thing. It’s all about how it appears from the outside. “If it looks easy, you’re doing your job right,” is something that we all have drilled into our heads. But again, like life, nothing is easy! I won’t even get into how difficult it is to run a business (any business, big or small), but all of that aside, it’s hard to share your life online with strangers. It seems innocent enough and you don’t even realize the magnitude of it until you’re too far down the hole, or at the very least, I didn’t.
When it’s your job, there are pressures that you didn’t anticipate when you created a Blogspot account while home on winter break (hi, that was me!) or uploaded your first Youtube video in the bubblegum pink-walled room you decorated in fifth grade. Then, it was fun. And while there are fun moments, you now have agents to please, employees to manage, taxes to pay. You have to make difficult decisions without having a lot, if any, outside guidance. What you did in your spare time is now what you do with all of your time. It’s a constant struggle to find the balance of what to share and how to maintain any semblance of privacy.
There are stadiums filled with virtual fans… with people sitting front row center watching every move with bated breath as they ready their tomatoes. There’s pressure from both sides. A nearly crushing desire to give the fans what they want and what they deserve. Plus a certain psychological crush that comes from “haters.” (Even mentioning this– the word “hater” or the content of this post– at all is like setting forth a feast for the trolls beneath the bridge. Where I’d usually re-edit the post to take out some of the fuel, I’m just publishing and bracing myself.)
It’s hard to explain the pressure if you’re not experiencing it first hand. “But you get to go on free trips!” “You get all these free clothes!” “You have a perfect life!” I’m unbelievably grateful for every opportunity, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy or carefree… so don’t believe the perfect Instagrams. I’ve been mulling over all these weird intricacies and talking with a lot of my friends who are in the same boat. The one thing I keep coming back to is that I feel a little bit like the (Disney) little mermaid who gains legs but gives up her voice. There’s a price you have to pay.
I’ve seen all kinds of changes since I started my blog ten years ago. The rise of Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, Instagram Stories. Websites underwent makeovers. Youtube channels added secondary vlog channels. Self-conscious teens turned into assured young adults.
But those filtered photos and dreamy videos only mask the insecurities that only grow with the increased pressures. Through friends and managers, I’ve heard it all. The Youtuber who pretty much never leaves her house. The blogger who can only get through events with medication. One blogger turning another blogger into the IRS because they’re competitors in the same city. LLCs to buy houses so people can’t Google where they live. Countless therapists to work through the anxieties. It’s not a normal way to live, marble countertops or not.
And here’s the tipping point.
Like the title of the post suggests, I don’t think there was any one thing that tipped the scale. I think it’s part of the cycle of what we’re doing. The public display of imperfect lives drew in an audience, which led to opportunities, which then became businesses, which then required a certain polished professionalism. At some point, the lines between professionalism and perfection blurred. But the whole perfection thing (the perfect images, the perfect house, the perfect skin, the perfect life) is not a facade anyone can keep up with for too long. At some point, you break.
I think there was a lot of cracking under the surface and once it started to spill out, there was a collective sigh of relief in, like, okay… we can breathe, we’re not alone. It’s happening on Youtube right now (you only have to watch a handful of videos of big channels right now to see it happening in real time) and I think Instagram is next and then blogs will catch on too.
Personally, I don’t know what that means for me and my blog. I think I can find the joy in it again, because I can feel, deep down, that it’s there. (I truly don’t believe I would have gotten through some of the hardest moments I’ve faced with it if I didn’t love it.) I have had fun with it for a decade and I know I can continue to, it’s just a matter of reconnecting with that and sorting through how I can make it work. I don’t have the answers and there isn’t going to be some huge overnight switch. But I know there has to be some kind of change, whether it’s the entire industry or just me. (For the record, I think the tipping point is an industry-wide thing right now and I’m just one tiny drop of it.)
Even if you’re not in the space as a creator, you’re reading this, which means you’re still in the space. Obviously, there are creators and consumers (and, like I said at the beginning), you can also be both. It’s important for everyone to figure out what you need from the space and what you want to contribute. No need for some big change right now, but keep an open mind.
I think this is just the beginning of the next “phase” of the cycle and I’m excited to see where it leads.