If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably notice that there’s been a bit of a shift and change in content over there. Nothing drastic, just more lifestyle, more authenticity and a whole lot more me.
It all came about for several reasons. Things like not enjoying the commercialism and ‘insta’ fame-seeking culture within the community, wanting my Instagram to reflect my blog more and feeling as though I had put myself into a very small, very constricting niche all played a part the most important reason was that it was negatively impacting my mental health. I started this blog and it’s matching social media accounts in 2016 and I happened to stumble across a thing called Studygram. It was a perfect match for me as a university student and at the time, study blogger. I posted photos of my studies, met and befriended people with similar interests from all corners of the world and fell in love with the community. It was just an added bonus that people liked my posts enough to follow.
Everything was great. There was no interference in my life, my photos came about naturally and my studies weren’t negatively impacted… until all of that started to change. In the middle of 2016, I noticed I had a bit of a problem with comparing myself to others and it was messing with my anxiety – nothing big, just enough for me to notice and realise that maybe I was spending too much time on Instagram. Immediately, I took a step back and took a week off of social media. It did serious wonders. I was able to reevaluate my reasons for being on social media, my reasons for blogging and set limits to my usage – no more social media in bed, no more planning my day around posting and no more worrying about comments, likes and followers.
It worked for a little while but as the community changed to be more about notes, bullet journaling, calligraphy and aesthetic flat lays with lots of expensive stationery, the more I felt my mental health being a nuisance. Don’t get me wrong, I think all of these things are fine and I enjoy a good stationery filled flat lay but my issue came with the fact that I couldn’t keep up, even though I felt obligated to.
I tried, and oh boy, did I try, to do the bullet journal thing. I tried to rewrite my notes (over and over and over and over) and I have a massive stockpile of unused and expensive stationery that very well demonstrate that I tried to do the fancy flat lay thing and all of that did not work out for me. If anything it messed with me even more. My studies were being affected because with rewriting my notes, I wasn’t learning anything, just stressing about perfection and making things picture perfect, my life was being negatively impacted because I spent more time stressing about good lighting and the perfect feed instead of spending time with friends and family and my mental health was absolutely screwed. I felt as though I owed my 30,000 followers good content, I felt I was obligated to post daily and to reply to comments and I was so obsessed with checking my engagement and statistics, it was horrible.
I hated using Instagram.
In the October/November of 2016, I began searching for inspiration for my blog. I’d let if fall to the side a bit in the mess that was finding ‘success’ on Instagram and no longer had inspiration or motivation to post. The thought crossed my mind to start writing more about being a student, not just writing about studying but with Study Break Down as my blog name, it just didn’t feel right.
And then it hit me. I could change my blog name. I’d include more about the student lifestyle, write about things that actually interested me instead of regurgitating the same tips about finding motivation or how important taking breaks were. I’d share more about myself and being a student on Instagram instead of posting the same pictures of my (rewritten several times) notes over and over again.
I’d found a little spark of inspiration and from that Bookish & Bright was born.
I spent so much time on planning content, on redesigning my blog and figuring out how to make things the absolute best they could be and despite having my doubts, a little fear and knowing there were people who weren’t going to appreciate it, I went forward. On the 31st of December 2016, bookishandbright.com went live and I changed all my social media handles. I was so excited.
Only, I didn’t account for being met with negativity. People unfollowed me by the masses and growth became stagnant, there were comments about how they’d miss the old content and how they had to unfollow because they only like studygram posts and DM’s telling me that I was making a mistake. It broke my heart.
At that point, I felt cornered. I had to keep things the same to grow, something you’re always striving for in the blogging world. I had to keep my followers and readers happy, so against my better judgement, I kept posting the same old photos I was before.
Let me reiterate, and you can go back and check my feed for proof of this, I hated using Instagram. I’d legitimately force myself to post pictures because I hadn’t in over a week. I no longer cared about replying to comments or being perceived as rude for not getting back to DM’s the day they were sent to me. My emails went unchecked for weeks. I felt like absolute shit and all because of a damn social media platform.
Fast forward to April 2017, I was in the middle of attempting to do a monthly challenge. I had zero motivation and every time I posted, I’d go and check my stats just to see them continuously falling. It felt like a cliff dive from grace. All of my friends were overtaking me in follows. I was comparing my posts to everyone’s and trying to figure out if I could emulate them. I felt as though I didn’t fit in anymore because I couldn’t do what everyone else was doing (too much of a perfectionist, not enough time and too much stress). I didn’t want to post, I didn’t even want to open the app but I felt that I needed to or I’d risk losing my followers.
It’s a vicious cycle that messes with your head – post because you have to, watch everything decline because you’re posts aren’t as great as everyone else, hate yourself and feel horrible because you feel obligated to be and do better, then repeat because you convince yourself you need to post to stay relevant and update your followers or you risk losing them.
Then, one day whilst not being the perfect Instagram student and procrastinating, I realised something that I should have realised a long time ago.
I have control –
over my happiness
over my content
over my social media accounts.
It’s me that gets to dictate what I get affected by, how much social media controls my life and how much of my self-worth I put into numbers. I was doing this to myself – not Instagram, not my followers, it was all me. I wish I could explain how I got to that point but I don’t know, it just happened – like a lightbulb moment.
I wish I could explain how I got to that point but I don’t know, it just happened – like a lightbulb moment.
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And it was then that I made the decision to do things the way I wanted, knowing full well I was probably going to get backlash again, knowing I was going to lose followers by the bucket load, knowing I was going to struggle watching it all happened but hoping it would all be for the best in the long run.
That’s where I’m at now. I’ve copped a fair bit of backlash for posting photos of skincare or my visit to the Van Gogh exhibit but I’ve also received a lot of support from people who are tired of seeing perfect notes all over their feeds and of those who, like me, have felt social media mess with their minds. The support 100% outweighs the hateful messages I’ve received about it all.
If you feel like your mental health is being negatively impacted by Instagram or any social media, please, please remember that you don’t owe anyone anything. It’s your account to do whatever you want with. Also, remember it’s okay (healthy even!) to take a break and step back from it all. It can be so hard to see your own self-worth when you invest so much of yourself into your content, only to see others doing better but that’s such a damaging path to take. You need to do what works best for you and if that means not gaining followers as fast or receiving fewer likes, please just do it and make yourself happy.
Sorry for the extremely long ramble but hopefully this helps you to understand where I’m coming from and why deviating a little from the Studygram community is an important change I need to make. Remember if you need to chat, my inbox is always open!