Truth be told I’m as much of a blogger as I am a WAG, influencer or writer. I’m simply someone who likes to write; albeit good, bad or average. I sometimes write poems, I sometimes write about current affairs, but usually I write about parenting and our life as volleyball expats. I write because I love the human experience, stories and other perspectives. I write because I like to think that my experiences are similar to others, or completely polar opposite of, or that what I write provokes a thought or an opinion in someone else, pushing them to think about an issue or subject they hadn’t before. But truthfully, I write because, as a SAHM, I like to use my brain for something other than mummying. (and please note, I’m not trying to take anything away from the women out there who choose to mum* full time, [even though times are a’changing it’s still predominantly women who stay home with the kids – bring on FLEX APPEAL!!!] I’ve been you for years and I see you – I just don’t want to be you anymore.)
*The Verb – TO MUM – To juggle, clean and sooth a (several) vomit covered infant(s) for 24 hours a day whilst cooking three different meals, preparing clothes for various school aged children, picking up, washing, hanging up, and putting away the 7 loads of laundry, crafting, and explaining to your husband that his gym shoes are in his gym-bag in the cupboard next to the chair under the stairs beside yesterdays unwashed protein shaker, all at the same time.
I started blogging in 2010 when I was, again, a SAHM in a smallish town in the south of France. I wanted to connect with other people at a time when I didn’t have anyone to talk to other than my husband and a few expat friends. (who saved my life unknowingly at the time.) I didn’t know what the hell I was doing as a new mum and I certainly didn’t have anyone to ask, so online seemed as good a place as any to start. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the answers I was looking for, I didn’t relate to many of the other mums who were blogging their experiences, and I found a distinct lack of honesty and transparency in the blogging world, so I got a bit bored, focused on my real life and stopped blogging after 2 years. (I wish the Unmumsy Mum and Mother Pukka were around in 2010!)
Now, with the growth of social media, specifically the evolution of Instagram over the past 3 or so years, we now live in a world where people can make significant amounts of money from telling their stories through photos and blogging. It has become a full time job for a lot of people, with completely different niches; fashion, parenting, social justice, lifestyle, travel, fitness…the list is endless. I obviously stopped at the wrong bloody time.
The Instagram Influencer is a marketing company’s dream. You give your product to someone with 5k, 50k to 1M followers, they wear your cute t-shirt, their followers have a spare £20, they buy the cute tee; you sell more tees, make your company some money, the consumer gets a new tee, the IG Influencer gets paid, a couple more likes/tags, and everyone wins. Right? Well, it gets complicated when the person viewing the cute t-shirt doesn’t have a spare 20 quid. See, they want the t-shirt but they need to pay the electricity bill or charge the meter, or go to the supermarket and buy a weeks worth of groceries with that £20, they’re on IG for an escape from their reality. They don’t want to see all the new stuff they can’t afford and everyone else can. (As far as IG would let them believe.) But, what if the cute t-shirt is an all expenses trip for their whole family to Barbados, or a new car? (That really happens!!!) It’s complicated, right, because Instagram isn’t real life?!! But, sometimes when you’re in a difficult place financially or emotionally, you can’t distinguish between that pretty floral square on your phone and what’s right in front of you. You have FOMO, you might feel depressed or anxious looking at those square and the sad reality is for some people it affects them deeply.
Now, of course, I’m grossly over simplifying things here. I know people have agency, a choice in whether to follow someone or not. Do you know I have friends who just use IG to share photos of their family with no agenda at all??! Some people, like my IG stories of late, use Instagram as a platform to highlight social justice issues like; politics, war, politics, poverty, politics, inequality….which undoubtedly bore some of you who just want to see smiley faces on your screen, but I think it’s important to give space to people who don’t have a voice, or need their voice lifted. It’s my personal choice what I share, but then, I also share smiley happy faces too, when sometimes that’s not how I’m feeling at all. I try to be all #honestmotherhood but some days it’s just a bit too depressing to be.
My point here is that not everyone uses IG the same way, for some it’s a business, for others it’s an escape, unhealthy or otherwise. So with this evolution I think that we have to consider the possibility that the people behind influencer brands have a level of responsibility to their followers. At the moment there’s no code of conduct in place, no policing (other than including hashtag AD, GIFT, or of course if you show your boobs to breastfeed!) and there’s no real control over content. It’s a free for all, people can write what they want, comment what they want and share what they want. And whilst I know there are a lot of sincere influencers out there who stay true to who they are and use their platform positively, they cannot control completely what other people write and how they write; tone, gaslighting, silencing, name calling, etc in their comments, they can overlook a negative comment and claim they didn’t see it if it suits their agenda, or they can turn off comments completely. Sadly, there are some influencers out there who are being very deceitful, dishonest and downright dirty at times.
I’m not an influencer but I can’t say that I wouldn’t welcome the extra cash if someone were to offer it to me, (no-one ever will!) as long as I didn’t have to compromise myself in any way. See, this is again where it gets even more complicated. If you choose to put your life online you will inevitably set yourself up for some criticism. This is of course ridiculously unfair. (**Now, I’m not talking bullying, it’s never ok to bully someone, period. Keyboard warriors with an agenda are the scum of the earth, they set out to bring people down with no regard for peoples feelings, or basic human decency. There are ways to criticise people; but some of the behaviours/comments I’ve witnessed online would never be acceptable on the street. They’re outright slanderous, defaming and dangerous and should be controlled.**) But, equally, if your name is a brand and you’re promoting something and getting reward by means of free stuff, money, or fame, you have to be aware that once you accept this role, negative feedback might come, and you have to be ready to defend your position, rightly or wrongly so. It’s business, and in business you have to be thick-skinned; sometimes you have to filter what you say or what opinion you have, sometimes you have to stay in your lane, because as much as you would like to tell your boss what you really think, you’d risk losing your job, so you stay quiet, bite your tongue…and that’s where you will lose people.
It’s also a case of different strokes for different folks on social media. If you live in a rainbow castle with unicorns, sloths and leprechauns in your garden, with 5 perfectly behaved home-schooled kids, and you’re trying to sell me a bottle of fake coca-cola from Lidl then I’m probably going to question your authenticity. (I’m also probably not following you, cos you’d irritate the life out of me.)
Now, I try to do online what I do in my own life; be honest – what you see is what you get with me – but there’s only so much of yourself you can share on a blog or SM platform. We have to remember that just because you share parts of your life with people doesn’t mean they know you, even if they think they do. They don’t see your son’s snotty faced tantrum because you only gave him 8 Haribo cola-bottles instead of 12 like he asked for, or see your 9 year old daughter crying in her bedroom because you want her to read a book instead of play on her iPad for the 4th hour of the day, or see you lying in bed with a sweat rag whilst shivering from a sinus infection you thought was a stroke that you should have gone to the doctors about a weeks ago but didn’t. I digress…Only people in your REAL LIFE can get to know that stuff…and even then…
I’ve “met” some wonderful women on various social media platforms, mostly IG, but I wouldn’t for a second claim to know them personally or know their lives, regardless of how much we’ve written each other back and forth or bantered until the sun goes down, because as I said before we only share in public what we want people to see. Now, if you’ve spoken on the phone or privately in dm’s then thats a different story, of course you can share privately and get to know a person from a text message, but nuance and tone are lost in text more often than not. I’ve even had misunderstanding by text with some of my best friends, so for me unless you meet face to face, you won’t know the real heart of a person. You also have to remember that some accounts/influencers chat with you in their dm’s but don’t know you from Adam…they’re just really nice people who are trying so hard to stay true to who they are in this world where people sometimes lose themselves. Some accounts you follow don’t reply to you at all, ever.
Now, like I said, I’m not a blogger, an influencer, writer or a WAG for that matter. I don’t know anything about insights, ads, like4like, follow4follow, promotions or when to post for the most traffic. I just write stuff down and (some) people read it. There are however a lot of people (growing at an exponential rate) out there on this here tinterweb who influence society, create trends and have a direct impact on a person’s emotional existence, positive or not, and with that level of control I feel they too have some level of responsibility to get all this stuff right and accept when they don’t. Whether its the users or the service providers I don’t know, but someone has to take control of what is said, written and shared on some of these platforms and I think it needs to be soon before we’re all living in a scene from Avengers: Infinity Wars (I watched it last night so that’s the closest reference my mum-brain could come up with right now!) and we’re all trying to fight for the power to control the world, and as much as I love that movie, it wouldn’t be a nice place to live; I’d be Idris Elba in the first scene. (SPOILER ALERT??? Or is that too late??)
And just like that, I’m no longer making sense…so I’m out.
Does anyone else have any thoughts on this minefield of internet responsibility? Online bullying? Instagram Influencer responsibility? Who controls it, or how to even start? Anyone just started this blogging game and as lost as I am 8 years later? I’d love to hear from you.