It’s been a long time coming that I talk about my life on social media. Not that I’ve never talked about it before, but condensing it in a place where I’ve tried to gather all of my thoughts on various topics that I’ve either been mulling over myself or have been criticized for in the past.
There are so many things to discuss and it feels very meta: blogging about blogging, social media-ing about social media. Instagram alone feels like a topic I could write a novel on because I spend a lot of my time on there. I’ve struggled with putting my thoughts together in general because there are so many facets and sub-topics I want to hit on and it’s hard to even know how to put it together cohesively. Additionally, it’s hard to have an opinion online. Most of the time when I share a comment or blog post that isn’t laced with smiley face emojis or apologies, I generally get critiqued for being a whiner, ungrateful, or a brat. Well, I should say that’s part of the feedback I get. The other 95% of the feedback is people telling me that I’m saying what they’ve never had the courage to say and they are so grateful that someone else has put it out there.
So where to begin. Maybe I’ll tackle this by topic. Maybe it will need to be more than one blog post? Let’s start with Instagram Expectations.
Recently I shared this on Instagram in a caption:
Hey friends! At the risk of pissing off loads of people, I wanted to share something I’ve been mulling over for months, so, here goes. I’ve been wanting to address the why behind when I do and do not respond to comments on here. Honestly, I could write a novel and there are a lot of complicated reasons, some involving time management (it’s kind of impossible for me at this point to thoughtfully respond to each one) and some principle. But essentially, I want to say that if you find me not responding to comments about sources on clothing or decor, it’s because honestly, it’s just not my goal here.
This isn’t a dig on those who do tag their content or those who ask. I am offended by neither. But, I’m trying to facilitate an ongoing conversation about womanhood, motherhood, careers, and identity. I’m sharing my life in small pieces when I feel inclined. And I really appreciate that you think I have good taste and want to know where I get my clothing and home decor from. Seriously it is very flattering! And sometimes, if it’s a special piece and I want to draw attention to the maker, I’ll tag them. But most of the time it’s just from all of the same places you also have available to you…target, IKEA, the thrift store, etc. And I just don’t want this space or the focus of my posts to be relegated to pure consumerism.
I’m not a lifestyle blogger and I never have been. If I’ve ever been compensated for a post, I’ve made/make it clear, but it’s not where I’m steering this figurative ship. I am very cognizant of how that makes me come off – snobby, bitchy, whatever. I hope it’s clear that’s not my intent, but instead that I just want to fuel the deeper conversations. Thanks for understanding (…or I guess, if not, for unfollowing, 😂) much much love, Jolie
Something I’ve been fascinated by in the past two years is the culture of Instagram. Instagram started off small and quickly became a platform for bloggers and businesses to promote themselves and their businesses. From there, the growth of “lifestyle bloggers” and even just “lifestyle Instagrammers” seemed to skyrocket. You can look around and within a few seconds find people whose entire homes are curated down to the throw on their couch, and their comment sections are almost exclusively full of people asking things like, “Where’d you get that picture frame from? I’m in love! DO share!” With this has come the simultaneous complaint that Instagram profiles are too curated, that people have set the bar too high, that people are not showing reality. As an aside, I’m guessing there is a least somewhat of a crossover between the people saying how bad Instagram makes them feel about themselves and the people that spend their time on Instagram roving around asking everyone where they can buy all of the things they see in photos. It’s what you make it, is how I feel. If you don’t want to compare, then stop comparing. Work that out in your own self. But I digress.
Many of the accounts who have comment sections like this are making money off of their feeds. They are doing sponsored material, which means, they are either being giving free merchandise for their homes/selves/children/etc. and in turn must promote it, or, they are flat out charging a fee to share photos. They’re called influencers, and honestly, of course they are acting happy and kind and excited to answer any and all questions all day. It is literally their job. It used to be that influencers didn’t even have to share if or when they were being paid to share photos of or share about products. Now things are getting more structured and, typically, if money or product are being exchanged, people must now include #ad or #sponsored so that you as a consumer know that you are being advertised to.
So – in the past few years, there started to become a culture on my personal Instagram account where everything I posted was followed up by several comments asking about God knows what in the photos. My laundry baskets were a big hit for awhile. My clothes. My daughter’s hair bows. My son’s outfits. How to cook what I was cooking. My duvet cover. I get it. My account is genuinely confusing for people. It’s a big account and my house is pretty, so everyone jumps in and assumes this lady is some lifestyle blogger. But I’m not. I don’t make money there.
It is not that I am against sponsored material – on the contrary, I think that it’s absolutely permissible and great for people to use their social media presence to garner income, eventually I’ll probably dip my toes in that water – but it’s not something I’ve chosen to do yet. Additionally, much of the time this type of stuff was happening, it felt that the sentiments I was communicating in captions were being completely ignored so that seven people in the comments could ask – and often demand without any sign of manners – to know where various things in the photo were from. It’s not that I feel angry whenever I get a question. I don’t mean to throw this post out there as an EVERYONE QUIT TALKING TO ME. It’s just that, if I answer, great. If I don’t answer, I don’t want to know that everyone is lurking behind their screens calling me a bitch because I don’t answer questions.
I think this situation stems from two misunderstandings. 1) People assume large following = this lady is making money and 2) People assume that because I offer such an “intimate” version of my life online, that they know me. People tell me all the time they feel like they’re my best friend. I’m not offended by this and I consider it a compliment, but I do think people seem to be forgetting how one-sided that is. You may feel cozy enough to ask me questions that require a lot of time and effort on my part, but I have no idea who you are. Sure, if my best friend comes over and she’s in love with my throw pillow, I’m happy to tell her where it’s from (but chances are she’s not bombarding me with those questions…) but do I really owe that to strangers all day long? Am I really never allowed to poke some light-hearted fun at how that has become the norm now?
With those things in mind (I’m not making money, ultimately I have no personal, two-way tie to most of my followers) you can begin to imagine how that become frustrating on a few levels. For one, I often wasn’t even talking about what I was wearing or the items in my home. Certainly I sometimes do, because thrifting and clothing and decor are interests of mine, but sometimes, it had nothing to do with what I was saying. Another aspect is that it just felt frustrating to feel like I simply existed to pass on all of my own styles and preferences onto people who were watching me. Again, it’s confusing to me because everyone’s like, “Instagram makes me hate myself!” but then every comment is, “I NEED THAT DRESS! WHERE IS IT FROM!” I just think people could stand to find themselves a little and expect less from social media “personalities”. This culture of Instagram being a mall to window shop is fine or whatever, but consumers are forgetting that not all large accounts exist for this purpose, and I feel I have every right to say, you know, I’m not engaging on that level here.
At one point I posted a photo of my mantle last year and several people asked where a large art piece I had was from. At that particular point in time, I had been tagging items left and right in my photos if there was an applicable tag for a few months. But I also had grown tied over the past year from feeling like, in order to be acceptable at my newfound “caliber” of Instagram personality, I needed to answer each one with a smile. That it was my job to do so. That bothered me, so at the encouragement of several friends, I just started to ignore those comments altogether. That made me feel bad, too, but I wasn’t sure what a better solution was. It was getting to a point where I just didn’t want to invest that much of my day telling 15 people where my rugs were from.
So ignoring it was. On that post, a few weeks after I began ignoring, someone I don’t know (which is a lot of my feed) stepped in to those who were asking. I don’t recall the comment verbatim, but it included things about how I was one of the meanest “semi famous” instagrammers she had ever seen and that I frequently ignored people asking for help on where to find my items – it was too bad people couldn’t be as nice as ___ (some other blogger she likes more than me, lol). I just kept reading it like, where did she get this idea that I owe everyone all this information?
This takes us to the natural place a lot of people go when this topic comes up – you asked for this. You wanted a big account and you take pictures when you look pretty and you show photos of your home and this is what comes with it.
I take issue with this on so many levels. For one, I’ll reiterate: my account is what it is pretty organically. There wasn’t a point where I was like, “I WANT MY NAME IN INSTAGRAM LIGHTS.” To date, I have never done sponsored material on my Instagram, outside of a few small shops sending me their goods and me sharing about it (and sharing openly that the items were gifted.) A few years ago I did a few “follow friday’s” when other bloggers asked me to participate until I was like, you know, I’m not into this. I’m not, like, trying to get somewhere. I’m sharing my own path and the way I’m seeing the world and motherhood and womanhood, and it’s cool people want to join in but I’m not going to like, actively pursue some sort of weird IG fame. I don’t share photos of my living room because wayfair.com is paying me to show my rug. I just enjoy decorating my house and looking at my living room.
Also, the entire notion that me posting a photo of my dinner, or a selfie, or my home is my asking for anything is like, really disturbing to me. Let’s not go down the, “Look what she’s wearing, she was asking for it” path. Again, what YOU take away from someone and your interaction with them typically says more about you than about them. And this is a lesson I’m learning for myself time and again – what do my feelings about this person not just say about them – what do they say about ME? Melissa Hartwig has been doing a lot of discussion about this topic on her Instagram and Snapchat lately, becuase she’s taken flack for choosing not to answer questions about her hair and makeup. People continually use the argument, “But you CLEARLY spend so much time on your hair and makeup, you OBVIOUSLY want people to notice and ask.”
No and no.
I’m posting a photo of my dinner, of my living room, of myself because it’s something that’s currently making me happy and I want to savor it, take a picture of it, remember it to some degree. IT IS MY ACCOUNT and I CAN DO THAT WITHOUT ANYTHING HAVING TO FOLLOW. Beginning, end. As Melissa has so often pointed out on her accounts, you are absolutely entitled to feel whatever feelings you feel upon consuming someone else’s content, but you don’t get to have a say on why someone is putting it up in the first place. And again, those feelings you are feeling say a lot more about you than they say about me. I get that Melissa is intimidating because of how she engages people. I get that *I* am intimidating. But in conjunction with my no bull-shit mentality, I think I have done a lot of work engaging with my following on a very positive, very kind-hearted level. At the end of the day, I think it’s really, really important to remember you are dealing with a human being. Please don’t expect that you are going to agree or like every thing I do and say. I don’t even agree with and like everything I do and say. I’m a human being. I mess shit up all the time.
It’s all just sometimes bewildering, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I joined Instagram three years ago and there were times that I tried out being one of “those accounts”, like some blogger, where I detailed every recipe I shared and gave information on every last item in my bedroom photo until I realized, I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS. THIS IS NOT WHO I AM. And I am entitled to decide that. I’m entitled to decide at any point what I want out of my life online and to change course and to stop catering to that audience. People who have accounts with 250 followers would be really confused and weirded out if, while making no compensation for it, they were suddenly expected to take the time to detail every item of their home just because they showed a photo of it. It’s different now that I have 10k followers? I owe everyone a smiley response with no complaining because….there are a lot of you? I’m sorry, but I call bull shit.
Just yesterday someone left a comment on my blog here that detailed why I seem to have a mean streak. It gave a lot of examples of how I could be more polite to people when they ask questions, or simply ignore them altogether.
I want to point out that no matter what I choose to do, there will always be a small group of people unhappy with me. That is literally the law of Existing. When my posts get too happy, people are pissed that I am too happy. I’m spoiled. I’m unrealistic. I’m a lucky gold digger with an elite life in a bubble and I’m making everyone else feel bad for having such a happy life. When my posts get too real, when I engage people like a real human being and suggest that instead of asking me to take the time to explain something that is very easily accessed through Google.com, when I ignore questions altogether, I’m a whiner, I’m a bitch with a mean streak.
This commenter asked that I consider how *I* would feel if accounts I followed responded the way I do, or poked fun of their followers in their comments. I think she’s spot on there. It is always necessary to think of those things — and a week or two ago during my Q+A on Instagram, someone asked why I let my friends poke fun in the comments (ie. commenting “recipe?” on every food photo or asking where my laundry baskets are from just to be funny) and why I engage with them. It occurred to me as it does sometimes that I’m being watched closely and yes, perhaps that wasn’t the kind route. So I talked with that person, publicly, I explained my point of view and acknowledged that she was right, perhaps it wasn’t the kindest behavior, and the next time a friend of mine did that sort of comment, I deleted it and told her privately I was moving away from that.
So yes, always evaluate. And to you Eliza, I would say yes. I am always needing to be challenged to evaluate and redirect and I will always strive to be kind and open to hearing people. But telling someone to google something is not being unkind. Feeling frustrated, as you brought up, that people out there are duplicating my products and talking about it? That’s not unkind. Having any emotion outside of Happy Blogger Here To Serve You is not unkind. And you know, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. So when I come across people irritating me online I ask myself the question: are they just being a human being who is annoying me in this moment like I annoy people sometimes, or do I just fundamentally not jive with this soul? If it’s the former, I try and have some grace and keep scrolling. If it’s the latter, I unfollow and move on with my life.
And I would ask my followers the same question you posed to me. How would YOU (or they) feel if on every post you put out onto Twitter/IG/FB you were demanded to give every detail of every item, a tutorial on your hair, a sample of your baby’s sleep schedule? An answer or description they could easily use a search engine for but instead they want you to stop your life, your parenting, your job, to sit down and give them your undivided attention. Often times, it’s asked impolitely, or as if there is no question I owe it to them. How would that make my followers feel? I’m guessing if that’s suddenly how their social media experience was, they’d feel pretty similarly to how I do. I’m a person sharing my life, and I honestly don’t owe anyone any of that. Am I in the mood sometimes to talk on those things? Absolutely, and when I am, I hop in kindly and try to help people and engage when I have the time.
Am I walking around constantly pissed when people ask me those things? No. Not at all. I generally feel pretty amiable to my followers and typically if I have the time for a personal question I like to answer them if I can help. Most of my interactions with them are very positive. You asked why I choose to keep my account public when it seems “so irksome” to me. I would say that me feeling frustrated by a very small minority of comments is not the general vibe of my account, but maybe my perception is off. I choose to keep it like it is because I don’t think the solution to a small minority of people behaving a certain way online is for me to depart when there is also a whole lot I enjoy about it.
This topic and this blog post aren’t static. I’m sure I’ll think of a lot more to add, or things I wish I had said differently (or not at all?) because, as I’m trying to illustrate, I AM A HUMAN BEING. I know you all are human beings too.
I would love to keep engaging on this topic and I would love to see some of the landscape change on Instagram so that it’s less consumer vs. content creator and just people with people.
Let’s keep talking about things that matter.