I’ve been thinking a lot about my “social media journey”, which I alluded to in my last blog post, and I decided to just sit down and hammer out some thoughts while they are fresh in my mind.
First of all, I want to start off by thanking you – because if you’re reading this right now, then that means that what I’m doing here with this blog, and through social media, is reaching people – for better or for worse! And I truly appreciate each and every person who takes the opportunity to check out my work, either here on the blog, on Instagram, or even on Pinterest.
For those of you who met me through social media, you may have observed how things have slowly evolved for me over the last six months; however, for those of you who have known me for years, the changes have probably seemed more dramatic.
I used to engage on social media platforms in the way that most people do – I “friended” only people I actually knew, uploaded content that was interesting to me (and potentially my friends and family), and basically used it to keep tabs on people I cared about. I got a Facebook account when Facebook was brand new… in fact I remember being asked to join because someone’s friend at some university was trying to get as many people to join as possible. Yes, I know, that makes me practically a dinosaur in the social media world. I also signed up for Instagram when the app was brand new, at the recommendation of my younger brother, and really, I basically just used it for the filters. I would over-post multiple edits of the same image, and I’m sure blow up the feeds of my 10 followers (all of whom were family members). Truthfully, I didn’t even realize at first that it was a social platform – I legitimately thought Instagram was for editing.
I only began to consider the benefits of engaging on social media more seriously when we decided to move to China with our young family in 2013. I initially started this blog as a way to keep people updated on our lives in China, and so others could follow along on our international journey. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that great at posting regularly, and life at the time didn’t allow for a lot of this type of writing. I wrote the occasional post about life in China, and did begin to use Instagram a lot more, because I was constantly taking pictures (and I had finally figured out that other people could see what I posted). But again – this engagement was still more about me, and the eventual photo albums I planned to print.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know what an “influencer” was until last spring (2017). I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Vancouver, and my SIL showed me the most stunning Instagram account. I was shocked to learn that it belonged to a regular mom from the Vancouver area. At the time, she had 10K followers, and if you looked closely, you could see that she was frequently featuring awesome products seamlessly within the everyday photos of life with her family. I was shocked to learn that this was a “thing” that regular, everyday moms were doing successfully.
However, despite my newfound awareness of the possibility of using social media more intentionally, I still wasn’t really drawn to that particular aspect of what I had seen on the BC mama’s gorgeous account. What I was drawn to was how stunning and cohesive the photos were, both individually and laid out one next to other on the instagram grid.
Now, for those of you who know me well, you probably know that growing up I was an avid “scrapbooker” (Creative Memories was my jam… and yes, I know I’m dating myself again). Anyway, I hadn’t scrapbooked in years – in fact I still have several unfinished books tucked away in storage bins, along with countless stickers, and more patterned paper than any one person should own. But I had always loved taking beautiful pictures and arranging them in a way that I thought was fun and pretty to look at. For me, something clicked when I saw that beautiful Instagram account and I realized that IG might be the digital equivalent of scrapbooking for me.
As a result, I did a bit of research, downloaded some editing apps, and starting paying more attention to the composition and layout of my photos. At this time, I also decided to make my IG account public, because I wanted the opportunity to connect with others who were using similar editing apps and techniques, since no one in my close circle of friends and family was really doing what I wanted to do with my photos through social media.
It really was a slow progression for me; in July and August, I basically just played around with different editing apps, and photo styles, and got comfortable and familiar with editing my own photos exclusively using my iphone. As I mentioned in my last post, 95% of my photos are taken on my iphone. As cheesy as it may sound, this newfound hobby had truly awakened an artistic creativity inside of me that I hadn’t really used in years. Instagram become a creative outlet, and in my mind, a way to preserve a beautiful keepsake for myself and my kids, documenting our everyday activities.
Then, in August of this last year, I also decided to re-launch my blog. I was enjoying the second half of my maternity leave year with Molly, and I realized I really missed writing for enjoyment; I also wanted to document some of the special events in our lives in detail, such as the birth of my kids. I really wasn’t sure if others would want to follow along, but it was still much more about me and preserving these memories for myself using a platform I enjoyed.
It was around this time that a good friend of mine reached out to me to encourage me in my social media journey. I still hadn’t really considered the idea of using social media as a way to benefit my family, outside of sentimental reasons. However, this friend of mine had been on her own social media journey, and was growing quite a following on both Instagram and through her Blog. I had watched her own account evolve to become this gorgeous piece of art, highlighting her days at home with her kids, and I loved reading her inspirational comments and blog posts.
We ended up having a coffee date via Facetime (she lives quite far away from me), and she gave me all sorts of useful information that would help me begin to use my IG and Blog in a new way, with purpose and intentionality. I honestly would never have been able to grow in the way I have been blessed to grow without her advice and encouragement.
After that conversation, things began to happen more quickly, and I was incredibly lucky to connect with several other amazing women from all over the world who are doing the same thing with Instagram and blogging that I am. I know I have said it before, but those connections have truly been the most rewarding aspect of this entire journey. It’s amazing to be a part of a larger group of women, coming together to encourage and support one another in this endeavor. Community over competition is truly such a blessing.
With that said, I also feel extremely blessed to have so many people taking an interest in what I’m doing through social media, and in the content I’m creating; those who have known me for years as a real life friend, and those who I have met through the platform itself. Although I don’t really consider myself an “influencer” I do like the term “content creator”, and I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some amazing brands, creating content for various campaigns and promotions. I love that this “digital scrapbooking thing” that is so fun for me has officially become a way that I can contribute to our family in some really unique ways!
At this point, you may be thinking, “Well this all sounds pretty good… so why would she title this blog post The Elephant in the Room?” The reason I chose to give my blog post this title is because although there are some really amazing benefits to growing on social media, and using these platforms intentionally, it does have its ups and downs. And sometimes the downside comes from the people you would least expect it – your friends and even family. I have been lucky to have very a very supportive circle of people in my everyday life, who encourage me daily in this endeavor, but I know that this isn’t the case for everyone who chooses to branch out in this way.
I am still in the process of figuring out why exactly this is. In my own mind, what I’m doing with social media has truly become a legitimate way to benefit my family, and this is a similar sentiment that many of the women I know through social media have voiced. There are many women out there who are doing secondary jobs to supplement their family income, or to allow them to stay home, or even just for their own enjoyment – and for many content creators, what they are doing through social media is really not different in its goals and aims. As content creators, we don’t actually require much of people to show their support: follow, like, comment. That is the number one way that people can help support their friends and family members who are involved on social media – just incase you weren’t aware that it really does make a difference for us, and I personally appreciate so much when people take the time to show their love and support in these small ways.
I think maybe one of the reasons why it tends to be those we know in real life who have the most difficulty supporting this kind of a venture is because it seems “out of the norm”. As content creators, many of us went from not using social media in this targeted way, to using it very intentionally, so perhaps it can come across as disingenuous. Truthfully, that thought always hurts just a little, because for myself, whether I’m working at creating content for a company or not, I always try to catch meaningful moments that are worth preserving. I also try to share from the heart and express my thoughts and opinions honestly and openly in my captions; the idea that it would come across as insincere is one of the things I battle with the most when I realize that people I know and care about are no longer interested in following me on my journey.
The other reason for this perceived lack of support for some content creators could be that it’s possible that in the absence of having an open and honest conversation about it, “real-life friends” just don’t really understand what’s going on. Maybe they don’t realize that the intentionality of building a presence through social media platforms is actually bringing about positive changes for a friend or even a whole family, and don’t even realize how meaningful their support in small ways really is. I hope this is the real reason for the disengagement of genuine friends and family members when it does occur, and not because there is a legitimate aversion to what content creators are doing. I’ve come to appreciate that things aren’t always as obvious to others as they may seem to me, and it’s my responsibility to engage openly and honestly with those in my everyday circles about what I’m doing if I hope to gain support.
As I mentioned above, I have had many conversations with other women and mamas who are doing the same thing as I am on social media, and we all agree, this is the hardest barrier to overcome – worrying what our friends and loved ones will think of our new venture. For most content-creators, it’s not about getting famous, being the most popular, or having everyone think our lives are perfect. On the contrary! For myself, and many of the women I know, it’s been an amazing opportunity to explore our creativity in a new way, and share that with others. Obviously the perks of being able to work with great companies and organizations are undeniable, but at the heart of it, for me, I love having a creative outlet that results in something beautiful for myself and others to enjoy.
I was blessed to attend a Sisterhood event at a local church with a good friend of mine last weekend, and it was very timely for me, as the evening was all about exploring the creativity that God has given us, and how we actually honour Him when we use that creative side of ourselves. I think sometimes, particularly in Christian circles, we can have a very one-sided view of what it looks like to honour God, and I have come to appreciate that if you have a stirring inside of you to create, in myriad forms, then its right to pursue that calling. Not to overly-spiritualize my social media journey – but I truly believe that even Instagram and my Blog can be used as a platform to spread good; to encourage others; to share truth; to stand up for what I believe is right in this world in a public way. When I view the opportunity through that lense, it also stops mattering so much what others think.
Now, please know, I am not writing this to guilt-trip anyone. I have no idea who is reading this, or why. This is simply a glimpse into my journey into this social media world, and honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all I have learned about the impact of social media on your everyday life! But, it’s been on my heart a lot lately to share some of what I’ve been doing openly and honestly; to talk about the “elephant in the room”.
If you have questions, feel free to ask me about what I’m doing with social media; feel free to express an interest! And if there’s something about what I’m doing that you really don’t support… feel free to speak to me about that too. I never want to hurt or offend anyone I care about with my posts on this blog or on my Instagram account. I hope I can continue to connect with others through this medium in a positive way. At the end of the day, however, I also recognize that we all have different tastes and interests – and if what I’m offering is no longer inspiring, I do genuinely understand that. Our time is precious, and if you have five minutes to spend on social media, you want it to count.
I am really excited about where this journey into social media has taken me so far. I love the fact that I have been so intentional about taking pictures with my kids, and creating a keepsake for all of us to enjoy for years to come. And I am grateful daily for the many amazing people I have had the chance to connect with all over the world. These are such strange times that we live in – they are exciting and scary – and although I sometimes feel like a dinosaur in this world of modern technology, I am really really enjoying the ride. And I would genuinely LOVE it if you would join me!
For another great perspective on diving into the world of social media, check out friend Karin’s blog post here! She is a Canadian mama I have been so grateful to connect and grow with through Instagram.