My first Instagram post was in 2012. I left the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and was over the moon excited to get home and blog about my experience and interviews backstage. A friend recommended that I share my blurry AF photo of Miranda Kerr on Instagram as a little sneak peek of what was to come on my blog. I was hesitant at first, mostly because I hate attention and I’m by no means photographer status, but the opportunity to promote my blog on a platform other than Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter was far too tempting to resist. I was so young and oblivious to the fact that this app was about to change everything.
Six months after that first Insta post and essentially trying to build my own brand, I began managing social media for an accessories startup. Less than a year after that it was for a fashion company and for the past year and a half I’ve handled social media and influencer marketing for a beauty brand. Social media campaigns take strategic planning, trends take research and creativity and copywriting often takes time. It’s not just about engagement and followers, but rather building brand loyalty, awareness and an ROI. It’s not an easy gig many assume it would be. This profession can be lonely. Since it’s still a fairly new form of marketing and advertising, many companies don’t have social media teams. Being a one-man show, even having times when I didn’t have a boss, has allowed for creative freedom but it’s boring and stressful as hell. Navigating your way through your career alone in your 20’s, at any age, sucks.
I unknowingly fell into this job where taking a digital detox isn’t an option. Evenings and weekends you’re still expected to be “on” because social media never sleeps (coffee is my BFF). I’ve worked every single one of my vacations, continuing to post and regularly replied to comments. Checking out is impossible when you’re constantly keeping an eye on social apps. And of course, holidays are spent with close family, friends but mostly my phone. I’ll never forget one Thanksgiving, before the Black Friday chaos, my cell was right next to my dinner plate. Text messages from my boss requesting that I share a promotion on social and answer customer complaints was enough to lose my appetite and spoil dinner for others. I had to excuse myself from the table more than once and I don’t remember eating dessert. When you’re young and starting out in your career you want nothing more than to please your boss. I took every call and text message, even when I was at my uncle’s funeral.
I know every career has challenges, but these beloved apps I have to be on 24/7 are proven to be associated with high levels of anxiety and depression… something a paycheck or receiving praise from upper management can’t cure. In 2015 I became so anxious about what I was posting, believing that the platforms I ran would be seen as a true reflection of my work and capabilities. In reality, 50% of what I was sharing on Instagram I was directed to post by executives. I would text my friends saying, “FYI, this post was not my idea!” I was paranoid and embarrassed. Everyone had a say as to what should and shouldn’t be shared on Instagram. I posted at least once a day for that brand. It’s impractical to be satisfied and proud of every single Instagram post. I realize that now, after multiple panic attacks.
Facebook and Twitter are always an open tab on my work computer. I see every traumatic shooting, terrorist attack or new sexual assault claim on the newsfeed of these social accounts whether I like it or not. I remember the morning after Trump was elected I cried in my car, not because the loserface was now our president, but because I knew I’d have to be online all day seeing the same sadness others had about the elections outcome. I told my boss that I had to do anything but social media and luckily I was able to work on planning an event, a good distraction for at least 24 hours.
I assume everyone knows by now the #sponsored or #ad hashtag included in an influencer’s post is basically a disclaimer that they’ve never used the product or heard of the brand until money was thrown at them, yet businesses still have to play the game for brand awareness purposes. Working with influencers has been a significant responsibility in addition to managing social media. I legit have to stalk these bloggers and “it girls” Instagram feeds to determine who’s a good fit for the brand. I stare at hundreds of pretty chicks on the computer at least 2 hours a day and judge them based on their following, content and engagement. After time it completely crushes your soul. I’ve had my moments where the comparison was too real and hurting my self esteem. In attempts to gain back my confidence, I would post a selfie or cute picture of my own. Although I know it’s things like working out, writing and being around emotionally intelligent people that makes me happy and feel good, it’s easy to cave and resort back to Instagram when everyone else seems happy to be on it. For my own sanity I try to not follow or look at influencer accounts in my spare time, I spend enough hours having to do that.
The bitter sweet part about my job is seeing what’s successful before having to try it out on my personal Instagram. I would take my learnings and tricks from work and apply them for my account. For example, I would use a social media planner called Planoly to get my feed to look as aesthetically pleasing and influencer worthy as possible. As a creative spirit, I love how Instagram allows us to be an artist. However, when I started to paint a perfect picture of myself and life I knew I had to stop. I unknowingly became more obsessed than I’d like to admit and I didn’t like that feeling.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the future for Instagram and how my future looks beside it. I think about how I don’t want to be the type of mom sharing one too many photos of my children and those children being obsessed with social media and what they look like. I don’t want to be the partner who is oversharing photos instead of enjoying date night. I hope to be present in the moment with my future significant other. And of course, I want to drink my fucking coffee (god knows I need it) and not wait until I capture the perfect photo of it. This past June through October I refrained from posting on my Instagram. I can’t say it was life changing but I did see improvement in my sleep, mental health, happiness and confidence. I loved drinking my coffee before it got cold, wearing the same outfit twice without the fear that I’ve shared the look already on Instagram, going on a hike and fully enjoying it because I left my phone in the car and going to restaurants that aren’t insta-worthy but have amazing food. Although I’m back on Instagram I will try to ask myself why I am posting a picture before I share it. If it’s because I think the shot speaks to who I am or shows my sense of humor then great, but if it’s to get attention from a crush, gain followers or look as if I’m having the time of my life then I will take a second to step back and check myself.
So, what does all this mean for me and my career moving forward? Well, it’s pretty damn obvious that this profession has impacted my life, mental and emotional health. There’s a lot of changes happening for me this month, too much to write about in this post, so I don’t know exactly what’s to come but I will say I’m excited about the needed change. I suppose more than anything I felt the need to share my experience and full warn those who are looking to become a social media manager. Know your limits, set boundaries and most of all don’t allow your soul get as black as your coffee.