Are we sharing too much?

The last year has been tricky one for many creaters and influencers (p.s have we decided what term for us that doesn’t make us want to do a little vom). YouTube has been a lot darker and critical, so much so that many have taken lengthy time out’s, or posted significantly less. The Instagram algorithm has been 2017’s villain of the year (in our internet bubble that is), and we felt victimised by Bloglovin when we found they were doing some shady stuff. But it’s the general feel of the industry that’s been a bit off….it’s just been a tad ‘bad vibes’.

I’m not here to talk about glitches on platforms , or other changes to social media which have effected our ability to grow, succeed and make money, or remain happy when posting regularly. I wanted to talk about what we’re doing, and how we might be adding pressure to our online lives.

Like the birth of the Internet itself, some of our approaches to being bloggers and YouTubers haven’t been well though- out enough, and it means some aspects feel tricky to deal with, and even worse, completely out of our control. People didn’t think about the impact and implication of the internet before it grew to a point it was unstoppable, and impossible to manage (and keep safe). Many of us posted our videos, hoped for success, but didn’t think about what that would really mean for our lives moving forward.

I’m private and discreet about some stuff ( for example, I was always been told not to talk about money and specific terms ) but in areas where I think it’s useful or beneficial to others to be open, I try to be. When I decided to give this YouTube thing a proper go I wanted one of it’s prominent features to be honesty, which lead me to my honest vlog’s series which talked mental health, embarrassing illnesses and other taboo issues. For a while, I was happy with the approach I took. Despite the fear you get when posting vulnerable videos, and some of the personal shame or embarrassment I felt , the rewards made it worthwhile. I found comfort in hearing from people who’d gone through similar things, and felt honoured they’d email me at great length to share their personal stories.

But of course there are many responsibilities and pressures that come with that too. People come to you for advice, expecting words of wisdom you’re not actually qualified to give. The fear of giving someone in a fragile state the wrong advice is absolutely terrifying. You’ve built an audience based on this heart to heart content, so when you need to take a break from soul baring, or want to try something more visual or aesthetic it doesn’t do very well, which can be very disappointing. Then it’s simply keeping up with the emails and letters, which although I’m sure they’d understand if I didn’t reply, I consider it part of my job now. I’ve found it has greatly limited by opportunities too. Obviously fashion/beauty videos lend themselves to sponsored content far better than a videos about health issues. Imodium …I’m still waiting for you to email me….the face of violent pooing is here waiting for you. I love the friends I’ve made through my bare bones content rough and ready content, but these aforemtionted issues are just a few of the many things I don’t think people factor in when they want to step on the ‘relatable content’ bandwagon purely because it’s trendy, they want to expand what they do, or feel ready to be more open.

My heart aches for prominent online people (those waaayyyyy bigger than me) when they go through personal heartbreak, whether it be a relationship split, a diagnosis, or loss of some kind. Instead of focusing the energy they have on getting through the experience, whether that be coping and just about getting by, or managing to triumph in the face of adversity (although in my book, coping can be just as much an achievement), they’re draining themselves worrying about how to let their online audience know about their change in circumstances. Everyday they’re dealing with having to see comments from eagle-eyed viewers who have spotted something’s up, who rather than quietly thinking it to themselves, decided to probe and interrogate via the comments.

The difficult position these people find themselves in is that these commenters aren’t necessarily trolling, and sometimes it’s coming from a place of concern and care, which adds further stress and difficulty for the creater in terms of how to deal and confront the issue. They can feel very conflicted. On one side they just want to make it stop and to ease their pain, but they also have to factor in how that will effect their relationship with their viewers. If the comments are purely attention seeking trolling you’d block (without guilt) or feel within your rights to tell them to bog-off (or worse). But when you know  these words are coming from loyal and loving fans who have invested years into your life, it’s a delicate thing to handle.

History of situations like this being played out on Twitter has taught us that defending yourself can lead to people saying, ‘you’ve forgotten where you came from you’, ‘without your fans you’d be nothing’, or that ‘when you choose this career path you sign up to this’.
I don’t buy into the fact that people should be given a free reign to be rude (getting away with saying they’re ‘Just being honest’). I don’t think we should cultivate thoughtless communication, or enhance the notion that tactless, mean-spirited or inappropriate comments is something you just put up with. I also think we have a right to challenge people who are questioning or judging our personal movements.

If we all unite in standing up to, or even just responding to these type of comments, and do so in a well thought out and measured way, will it put an end to them? I’m not so sure it will… what’s the answer?

Do we have to take responsibility and take a bit more time to consider what we share with our online community? Do we need to ponder whether we are robust and thick-skinned enough to deal with what may come with putting out content that people connect or invest in? Do we need to find a happy balance where we put out videos that show who we are as people and showcase our personality, but that don’t include the nitty gritty parts of our lives or the people we share them with?

Does someone need to start a platform where we upload where there are no thumbs downs options. Should platforms moderate comments so that we only see ones that are fair, constructive or positive. Nice idea, but a bit too idealistic, after all who could possibly define what fit’s into those categories and man what a big job that would be to keep check of. Plus I wouldn’t want us to be get to a point where we are praised all day long, whateveer we do or upload, and our heads balloon to the size where we think we’re better than anyone else. Sometimes we deserve or need criticism – it keeps us grounded and encourages us to grow and improve.

I often envy though influencers who keep their Instagram and blog focused purely on outfits and beauty looks, interiors etc. If you’ve never offered out information about your private life, people haven’t invested their interest in it, so therefore there will never be that pressure to update them should any personal matters change or shift. If you keep your content aesthetic based you also reduce the potential for a particular type of judgement. Sure you might get comments about weight gain or loss, questionable blending, you might have some comments critiquing your style choices, and occasionally you might get the odd bit of slut shaming if the followers deem your outfit as cheap or overly provocative. Yes, of course they can hurt or irritate, and you could very much do without them, but unless they hit a nerve about an insecurity that has caused havoc throughout your life, they’re not going to sting in the same way a comment that challenges who you are as a person.

The main thing we all have to remember with posting online is that once it’s out there it’s out there….a bit like a silent but deadly fart. At the time you may not realise how bad the repercussions will be, it might seen fairly innocuous at first. You may think it will go unnoticed and have little effect on the people around you. But the smell might be more pungent than you predicted, and it may linger more than you ever thought it would. The people may also always now think of you as a person that does stinky and penetrating farts.

Stepping away from toilet based analogies for a minute, putting it simply, you can’t just take it back or press rewind. Deleting stuff doesn’t mean it’s gone. The backlash about old tweets during Jack Maynwards shorts stint on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here reminded us of that.

But I’m not even referring to regrettable or offensive tweets, I’m talking about how we generally put ourselves out there online. What I’m saying is that once we have established an audience via a certain type of video or content it puts us in a certain position. If you’ve shared personal and intimate things people will expect you to continue to do so, and they’ll always refer back those moments or the people they involve too . My friend still gets asked about her ex-boyfriend who appeared in videos over 7 years ago, even though she’s now engaged to someone else. This means that even if you’ve moved on, people will still be reminding you of a past (or a person) you may wish to forget. Sure, sometimes it’s good to have these reminders because it serves as a way of showing you how far you’ve come, and how you’ve made changes to improve your life. But that doesn’t mean they’re not painful to go over, again and again. More importantly it’s annoying that it’s something you can’t do anything about, unless you decide not to read comments – but for me and many others, the biggest joy of doing this is interaction with others.

Now, this is referring to the title of this blog from a bit of a different angle, but we also might want to use the start of the year to analyze how much time we are giving the internet, in terms of the reward we get in return. Does the time/effort we put in the videos/blogs pay off as much today, is it time to reduce the amount of uploads to adapt to the changes in the industry. Do we feel emotionally warmed by the hours we spend online scolling? I have digressed away from the main point of this post, but thought it worth mentioning while we ponder the online world and our behavour within it.

So after all this reflection how am I going to upload moving forward. I definitely regret some of my health related content because it became a large part of why I was so stressed (and even depressed) last year. Personal videos generally mean more interacting which also means more judgement and more trolls. So I’m going to reign it in a bit, and at least think a bit more carefully about whether the video is needed. Have I covered that ground already? Are plenty of others doing that? I will also consider how my honesty effects people in my life. I know some people around me feel I overshare and that bothers them. Si was often unsure about appearing in vlogs, and I challenged him on it because I seemed the norm to have your partner in it, and it felt strange to leave him out as such a big part of my life, but maybe he is right. This one needs more thought. And I’m not saying that his absence is right in terms of everyone, but in terms of me, and him, and us, it may be the right decision, particularly as our current lives are so tense already.

I also started to realise you don’t have to go in depth about you or your life to create content that capture who you really are. I think you can get your personality and who you are across by chatty make up tutorials and sit down hauls for instance. You can show off you unique style of humour, your style, your mood, and yet you don’t have to reveal too much about the inner workings of your life, and put yourself in a position where it’s expected for now… and forever.

Of course, as a viewer, the selfish side of me loves to know what’s going on in other peoples lives, we’re an innately nosey species – there’s a reason reality TV got big. But knowing what comes with it I would wholeheartedly support those who want to keep a large wedge of their life to themselves. I’ve not watched much YouTube the last 12 months if I’m honest, but a few times I have it’s been for wedding, birth, engagement videos, which lead me to ponder what I’d do if I were faced with a momentous day like that .Part of me thinks it would be lovely to share what is meant to be one of the biggest days of your life, with an audience who has followed my journey. It’s nice to have it documented and be filled with love and a reminder of the day when you read through the comments. But part of me thinks there’s something sacred and personal I’d like to keep for myself. Particularly as it would likely features friends or family that might not want to be online too. I’m definitely torn on this one. I think maybe I’d do a short edit for YouTube and keep a full video just for friends and family. Who knows though….

It’s hard is’t it?  So convoluted and layered, not to mention so personal to everyone. There’s no one clean-cut answer. I know a lot of people seek a lot of reassurance and comfort from blogs  and vlogs that show real life, warts and all. So I guess it’s about working out what you are willing to deal with in terms of exposing yourself to judgement, pressure and questioning. Then equipped with that information decide how to mould your content around that. What do you choose to edit or leave out of vlogs? What subjects and themes are no-go’s? When do you decide to respond to queries you’re not altogether ok with?

I guess the main point of this post was just to remind people that you don’t HAVE to post a particular type of content, and you can certainly totally tailor a certain avenue of video-making to suit your own fears, preferences and reservations. Share what you are comfortable sharing, not what people have made you believe you should be. I also wanted to use this scribe to heed a warning to those embarking on YouTube/Blogging for the first time, or looking to diversify their existing space. Give it thought, and a lot of it. It’s only you, and you alone that will have to deal with what comes with the content you make, so make sure you’re confident and happy with the path you are about to take, and have considered the possible outcomes. Don’t do things because you feel you should, do it because it’s right…for you.

Totally irrelevent outfit – but here I am wearing another Everything5Pounds item, this amazing ribbed yellow dress. I wish I hadn’t worn a vest underneath, terrible visible vest line as a result, but oh well. I teamed with my Sacred Hawk Baker boy and my Primark boots.

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