Photos by Bryant Lee.
I've never considered myself as a photographer but I love taking photos and have been doing so for a long time. A small number of them make it to Instagram and more here, on the blog. To say that I 'curate' what I put out there is not untrue. My life looks fantastic. But it's definitely not all fun and games. To look at it differently, it is also a more positive way of documenting. You don't want me to be writing about how I spent my day wallowing in self-pity because I had a bad day. Or posting sad, depressing photos, right?
This week I hit 20,000 followers on Instagram. I've actually been wanting to write this post for a long time but it's been a real struggle putting out accurately what I really feel. Then of course, Henry, had to write about it here and I feel like, maybe I understand how I feel better. Then the big 2-0 happened and so now, I'm writing this.
Henry and I have spent hours over Skype face to face talking about how social media has both made us, and ruined us. It's been my life for many years simply because...I enjoy it. He wanted to quit, but I encouraged him not to. Because I've seen how it's brought me opportunities and connected me with people and how it CAN be a great platform for creativity and self-expression. Henry definitely lives up to this, the content he posts are thought-provoking, hilarious and so original, it's time he got his own hashtag and copyrighted everything.
Because I've been on social media for SO long (7 years is no joke), when 'fame' very slowly creeps up on me, it sometimes feels like a milestone I've reached. That was how I felt a couple of months ago when I hit 10k followers, I did a little fist pump and screamed from my hotel room. So yes! Instant gratification. I was enjoying it too much. It is the perfect hobby. Before I knew it, I was concerned about time differences, when I was posting in real-time...and I needed my ten minutes before I sleep and when I wake up to look through my feed, to make sure it looks nice. It was also time for me to see what everyone else was up to and I slowly found myself needing more and more 'likes' to validate myself and it affected me. Every special moment in life now needed to be summed up in a photo. I was taking ages to think of a caption that would represent my feelings or the entire experience. Photos my friends were posting made me feel awful and jealous and it made me strive to take better photos, to gain more likes, to get more followers. But in a very silent, discreet way. It wasn't something I have ever admitted to because I never realised how subconsciously I was being driven to everything bigger and better. Sometimes, the kind of photos I wanted to take would come with a template for instant success. Natural light, maybe a white background? Some personal touches.. It was becoming too much.
I had a fight about this with my good friend Hazel awhile ago. She felt that I was obsessed with curating my 'fake' life on Instagram. I only knew how to make it look good. I already said my point in the beginning of this post and still believe in every bit of what I meant. I don't believe in making my life look better than it really is because what you see is what you get from me. I don't fake it. I just...make it look nice! Is that a crime? I've met people where even the word 'obsessed' feels like an understatement. It scares me till this day. I still wonder if they have ever lived in the moment or if they were too busy documenting it. I've been guilty of this several times but thankfully realised quickly enough to look forward and start appreciating what's in front of me. I'm not saying I'm great but when Hazel said what she said, I felt like she was accusing me for being one of those people even though she really wasn't. That was a wake up call. I've sworn never to be like that because I feel it really can take life away from you. It's not only exhausting but so unfulfilling. Think about it. You caption a photo saying this was the best day of your life when everyone else who were with you knows it really wasn't. So really??? Are likes EVERYTHING?? Is what people perceive of you everything?
I've been through the time where I was so obsessed with social media, mainly blogging that I had to bring my DSLR literally everywhere and take a gazillion photos so I could blog. If I had to photograph myself, I had to make sure I was wearing something I had never worn before, and that we were going to a nice place to shoot it. It was an exhausting time in my life and I really wasn't happy with anything I posted. But I kept posting, until slowly I took a break and went away from it all. Then came the power of Instagram. I wasn't blogging so much anymore but I still has to make sure I took the best photos to post on-the-go. Forget my iPhone, I needed my DSLR once again for the best picture quality. It was a never ending cycle. All of this is a never-ending cycle. Lets face it.
One thing I appreciate about the London Underground is that there is no service. It has allowed me to actually 'think' or take a breather before going about my day. I even read books on the tube now! It's also made me a lot less active on Instagram recently, especially with the time difference. Social media does not define us. It is competitive. But who really are we competing with? Ourselves. It wrecks self esteem, causes us to covet what others have, makes us completely judgemental human beings.. And at the end of the day, different people are going to perceive us differently. You will never please everyone. As Henry puts it, we all need some kind of balance in our lives. I am extremely flattered by 20,000 followers and the comments. I still love documenting, I still love taking photos with my big ass camera. I LOVE sharing about my life. But life requires balance. And this has been a timely reminder to do that. Take a break. Breathe. Enjoy what's being presented in front of you.
We're gonna get insecure all the time but don't let it get to you and never let it affect what your credibility online. It's not about going to a certain cafe to Instagram the shit out of it because it's cute. It's not about who you're hanging out with and how many followers he or she has. It's about the fact that you probably had a really nice brunch with someone you now call a friend, maybe in a cute place, and you guys had a great conversation over some really yummy food. I no longer believe in real-time posting, I enjoy every bit of the moment and honestly, it simply feels great to just not care that much anymore.
"When our entire well-being is subject to the success of one area in life, we're entering turbulent waters. Let's make it a little easier to be in control and steer our lives. Maintain that #balance. "
Love you, Henry, thank you.