2016 / the start of a new year generally prompts "newness" - or a resolution of some kind. I've been thinking about this lately. Mine's not for me, it's for people who view what I project. I don't know if that makes sense.
I've been morally conflicted lately. I've been working almost a year now at Free People Providence's social media photographer. I have been working with fabulous ladies and have grown so much and appreciate every opportunity I've been given. I want to continue to love Free People as a brand like I used to - I love everything they share and post. The problem is, I don't love what they DON'T post/share/project.
I read a brilliant "style report" for the new year that listed the newest trends in everything from art, music, fashion, social media and ways of thinking. It dubbed 2016 the "Year of Real Realism". It wasn't until I was jolted into understanding that this was possible that I realized it was the opposite of what most people on social media* are doing at the moment. My first thought was - ugh, it's all those cute girls on Instagram with their perfect hair and big hats and well-dressed friends and coffee-next-to-a-book-and-a-puppy pictures. I blamed them. And naturally then thought of Free People - they might not do it the most, but they have the most sway amongst people (1.3 million followers worth). I instantly felt a lot of (maybe ungrounded) disdain for the "perfect" lifestyle they project. Perfect girls, perfect places, perfect days, perfectly dressed.
*(I'm directing this mostly to Instagram because that's generally all I use, but I assume this rings at least a little bit true to Facebook, Snapchat, whatever else people use these days.)
And then I realized - I do it. I represent that. I do it, too. Not in the same way - I don't post selfies in my best outfits (and take 100 photos until I finally get one I like), and I don't post photos of my coffee dates with attractive friends, and I don't have a puppy, and I suck at those cute photos with the coffee/book/flowers/cute legs wearing socks (who the heck drinks coffee like that anyway?!) BUT I am a vehicle for posting what I know people will like. What people will think is beautiful: my best photographs of beautiful girls. Beautiful places. Beautiful ideas of my life - I write about myself only sometimes, but when I do, it's always positive. It's not as real as it could be, not even close.
I think it's an understatement to say my life isn't perfect. I don't intentionally try to make it seem like it is, but some people - a lot of people - on social media, do. My relationship with Free People has made me adopt this on a small scale subconsciously. Here's how it works:
Free People posts my photo. Other Instagram users click on my profile. They like the photos of beautiful girls and perfect clothes. Those photos get me followers. The ones of my every day life - don't. So without thinking further about the ramifications or what I'm projecting on a whole - I start posting more photos of perfect girls in perfect clothes. I go to less-than-perfect places and share only the most-perfect pictures. I didn't even know I was doing this, but in retrospect I feel a weird sense of guilt. Who am I and what am I projecting into the world of social media?
Instagram is tricky for me, because it's photo based, and therefor a platform for promoting my business. And like I said - I get more attention with beautiful things. With the "perfect" perception. I don't know how to get popular and get real at the same time.
But I'm working on it. I thought it would be worthwhile to share here, to at least promote a little bit of "realness" in the interim while I'm working on figuring out how to make my online presence across the board more real.
I stumbled across the page of model Essena O'Neill and think she is brilliant. If you want to feel better about the fate of the social-media-consuming world, check out her revealing re-edited Instagram captions.
Who's with me here? How can we stay positive, stay beautiful and stay real at the same time? How do you promote real realism?
/// I wrote this post in January, and out of concern for job security and other stupidly practical things, I never posted it. Well, here goes - honesty. I don't feel at all guilty about speaking my mind.