Honoured guests, thank you for joining me here today. I have not written anything for two. meaty. months. Two of the great twelve turns. But I’m back, and today, I’m reconsidering my entire career.
(Just a few casual thoughts, then.)
The unintentional radio silence came about after a number of factors collided, and I’ve found myself in this space where I’m going through the motions but not necessarily moving towards anything. And I haven’t been identifying goals to move towards because I haven’t known in what direction I want to head. I’m at a 2002 Britney Spears classic: a crossroads.
A lot of this confusion stems from the ingrained conflict I feel when sharing content on Instagram. When I started my blog many moons ago, the landscape was dramatically different. Very few of us were having conversations about commercialism, capitalism, the environment and our roles within these spheres because the industry… wasn’t. It wasn’t an industry. It wasn’t the money-making machine that it is now; there weren’t managers, agencies, huge ad campaigns on billboards and TV. It was just people in their bedrooms and back gardens, taking photos on old digital cameras before going off to sixth form or their job at Costa. We didn’t consider the impact of our blog posts and Instagram captions because we perceived that impact be so minimal. We were the only people paying attention.
Now it’s a very different story.
Sing it with me: with great power, comes great responsibilitáy.
Although to be clear, not every influencer holds immense power; sometimes we like the aesthetic that someone produces but their words hold no stock with us. But we do each, at least, hold some power, and being an influencer, it's difficult to extract that power from commercial value. Even when someone is encouraging you to buy from sustainable brands, or sign up to a course to better your learning, or invest in a stocks app or savings scheme which could aid you financially in the long-term, the central engine is still money. We make money by making money for other people, directly or indirectly (of course there are some exceptions but I’m speaking generally, in this case).
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing because we all need to make money; even if you don’t agree with the accumulation of wealth as the be-all-and-end-all of life (and I don’t), you can’t simply extract yourself from the current order and renounce the use of cash. I need to earn money, you need to earn money - that’s just the truth.
I suppose the conflict I’m struggling with is the morality of it. Here’s an example: I don’t own a house, but my partner and I would like to buy one within the next year. At the moment, most of the extra money I earn, I put into savings for this future house. However, I still feel morally conflicted when I consider that what I have is already so much more than others. We rent our home, we have savings, I’ve been able to clear my personal debt - who am I then to encourage someone who is potentially fresh out of uni with bags of debt and living at home, to buy X, Y and Z so I can move further towards my own goal? Who am I to be sharing outfits which somebody may open up Klarna to recreate? Who am I to make other 20-somethings feel as if owning a designer item before opening a pension is normal or wise? Sure, it may not be what I’ve intended - I can’t control the position others engage with my content from, and we each have the autonomy and tools with which to decide if we’re making a good choice - but then we return to intention vs. impact. What we intend to happen and what actually happens are two different things, and I want to reduce the potential risk of encouraging someone into debt or causing harm to the planet and the people producing our items.
My content doesn’t revolve around fashion or ‘things’ so you might think I’m overdoing it - “just write the long captions about relationships and shut up, please”. But each of us has a responsibility to consider what we’re encouraging, what messages we’re sharing and how honest we are being with ourselves. For a long time I’ve thought that I wanted to steer people towards shopping more sustainably, but what (I think) I’m understanding now is that I want to encourage people to consume less altogether. To be more discerning when buying things, not just for one night or one holiday away.
Because sustainability comes with its own issues. Having the financial means, the time and the opportunity size-wise to shop from sustainable brands or second-hand is a privilege. Then there’s greenwashing: false impressions about the environmental stance of the product and the company selling it. I believe that if you have the means to shop second-hand or from sustainable brands then you should on behalf of those who can’t, but ultimately, as we often hear, the most eco-friendly option is the thing we already own. Everybody deserves to have nice things, but how many nice things do we need? And are we buying these nice things in an endless pursuit of a happiness which will not be granted by the same material possessions?
The buck doesn’t stop with fashion, either. I’m considering this commercial consumption conflict in every aspect of my content. Sex toys, interiors, food, travel: everything.
I want to take the opportunity here to clarify that I’m not passing judgement on anybody who feels or acts differently. We all come from different positions. I just know that for myself, where I am in my life and what I feel in my gut, this is right for me.
Earlier this morning, I asked on my Instagram Stories whether I should continue tagging my clothes or not. The feedback was quite divided. Some said yes, tag, it’s each person’s own responsibility to make sure they aren’t overconsuming or overspending. Others said no, because providing easy access to items will always encourage impulse buying. Some said to only feature sustainable brands, or items bought second-hand. I think there’s merit in each suggestion, but after considering those kind words and chasing catharsis in the form of this blog post, I think I’ve found some clarity. A tiny bit, at least.
This - probably - isn’t going to be my long-term career. If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while, you’ll know that blogging/Instagram is only my part-time job. I also work in marketing for a skin clinic, a role which is likely going to expand and require more of my time in the next few years. I thought for a long time that I wanted to be a full-time blogger and in order to do so, I needed to seem an attractive option for brands: to tag items in photos, to share affiliate links, to show styling options and new releases and press samples and all the rest of it. Now I think I’m understanding that in order to do this the way I want to, in the way which feels right to me, fulfils me and allows me to express myself honestly, I have to release that desire to climb the influencer ladder. If someone wants to work with me or I can make some extra pennies sharing something I use and love, great! But I’m not going to reshape my perspective to make that happen.
I knew what my gut feeling was when I asked about tagging items but I was looking for validation that I was doing the right thing. That the people following me wouldn’t unfollow me because I no longer served a useful purpose. But I guess if that’s all someone wanted from me, then they should find someone else is better suited to their content tastes. If I’m not your people, I’m not your people, and that’s okay.
It can be intimidating sharing things like this because you know you’ll be bringing into question every decision you make from hereon out. To be a perfect embodiment of all that you’ve stated you want to be. This is by no means the finality of my position within the wider influencer world so expect stumbling blocks along the way, but for now, here’s what I’m thinking.
I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t post something every day. I only want to share things with you when I have something to say or laugh about or ask about, and it feels disingenuous to share something simply to advance in the algorithm (which rewards you for posting content regularly and engaging in the app, i.e. always commenting, liking, sharing other things). I also don’t think it’s healthy for anybody to be plugged into social media all day so it doesn’t make sense for me to do that myself.
For the most part, I won’t be tagging items on Instagram. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks anyway so if you haven’t noticed yet, you probably won’t notice now either. There will be exceptions for the ads I do accept or for independent, inclusive and/or sustainable brands I believe are worth promoting (particularly, in my case, for petite brands), but day-to-day, the caption will remain the focus. Most of my clothes are old so it’s a case of not wanting to support the brand rather than stopping you from buying the same things.
I will, however, start including some information in the caption with keywords to search for for second-hand items (e.g. leopard satin bias midi skirt) and of course, if you ask me via DM, I’m not going to be the gatekeeper for clothes. If you’ve made the effort to ask (and wait - I’m very shit at replying to things so I apologise in advance), then you can make your own decisions from there. At least you’ll know why I didn’t explicitly share in the first place.
As a personal preference, I also want to engage more in second-hand shopping and renting of items.
Finally, I want to continue this conversation with you. I’ve felt at odds with the commercial nature of the influencer world for a long time and it’s important to air these concerns publicly so you know where I’m at. Realistically, I’ll still buy things, but I don’t want to engage in excess. I don’t want to encourage you to line somebody else’s pockets - neither a big company nor my own - with things that won’t make you happy.
I’m in a point of change in my life and having shared every corner of my existence for the past 7 years, I want to be transparent about this turning point too. Where will it lead? Who knows. But I’m sure I’ll always make time to hear your worst first date stories and wait, he put WHAT in WHERE?
Priorities and all that.