Get Well

Unfiltered: UK Influencers Tell Us What They *Really* Think About Social Media

by Leah Jade Connolly

In case you weren’t aware: it’s 2018 and life is hard. From political woes to the (literal) searing heat of record-temperature summers, is it any wonder we’re searching for an escape from the daily sense of impending doom? Whether it’s a breakup (hello), a grueling house hunt (oh, double hello), or even just the fact you poured your coffee on your cereal instead of milk this morning (cos we all need more shut-eye, huh?)—let’s face it, we all need a break of some sorts.

So, what about those seemingly, perfectly preened influencers and girl-crushes we all follow on our newsfeeds? How do they manage to keep it so together, while the rest of us feel like we’re falling apart, and how—if at all—are they doing it with integrity? It’s not all pretty filters and #spon posts, guys. I spoke to three of my favorite fellow Brit girls on the ‘gram about calling out industry snakes, freelance woes, how they cope with a broken heart and is it really as good as it seems? Can social media help in these times, rather than just be a hindrance of jealousy and FOMO—and ultimately, how do these girls find their chill. 

Brittany Bathgate

@brittanybathgate  – 27-year-old fashion/ lifestyle blogger. Brittany is a favorite of mine as she follows a minimal lifestyle both in home and fashion that isn’t exactly *me* but is something I can admire and lust over longingly; she has linked up with brands including Tiffany & Co, Dior Perfumes and Away luggage.

Hey Brittany! How has your summer been? 

So far so good, this summer is my first self-employed summer! I’ve been quite lucky to travel a lot already and enjoy the good weather we’re having in the UK at my leisure. 

Congrats, the freelance life isn’t easy. I wanted to first-off start on a post you mentioned a while back about audience interactions and how effort may not always bring results (I believe it was this post you referenced)—do you find it important to make posts more relatable and why? Do you ever feel pressure to “keep up” with current trends in order to maintain your audience?

Keeping my posts relatable is my number one priority when creating content, because what Instagram and blogging all boils down to is the audience. My loyal audience is the reason why I am now lucky enough to call this my full-time job. I’ve successfully built a healthy following based on my relatability, and I pride myself on that, so it’s important to keep that going not only for them but for my integrity. I’m still an avid Instagram user, I still always seek out new inspiring accounts that I can also relate to, so when I create content I’m also thinking, what would I want to see? Something I can relate to!

My content has never been trend-led, which is another reason why I’ve kept a loyal and ever-growing audience, so I don’t feel that pressure and if anything, “keeping up” with trends would probably put them off! 

Sometimes I feel pressure from myself though, which sounds odd, but if I’m having a lull or a not so good week scrolling through Instagram and seeing the same trend or items over and over can subconsciously make me think Do I need that? Do I need to jump on this trend to get more likes or more work? It’s 100 percent counterproductive, and if I’m having a bad week, I should probably focus more on myself than on what others are doing. 

I understand. We all feel like that whether we have 100 followers or 10,000! So overall, do you find social media cathartic in some senses, or, I’m guessing from the above, can it also be quite anxiety-inducing for you?

I think I started to touch on this in the previous answer, haha! So, I’ll continue from there: It comes in ebbs and flows, one-day social media can make me feel on top of the world and the next it can make me feel extremely low. There’s so much catharsis on social media; it’s a new way to express yourself, share a story or connect with people, there have been times when I’ve wanted to have a good rant. Or a good chinwag about something and my audience has been great for that. Sometimes it’s as simple as the reward from sharing a new outfit! 

But social media does bring a lot of anxiety with it. It’s the whole comparison thing that triggers it for me. It’s challenging not to compare yourself to others; Instagram is essentially people showing off, sharing what they eat, where they go, what they do and what they’re wearing. We all know by now that it’s a one-sided view of reality but subjecting myself to that too much can still be damaging for my self-esteem. It causes me to question what I’m doing. “Why am I not on that fabulous trip away? Why am I not eating at that fancy restaurant? Should I be sharing more on stories? Should I be posting more of this and that on my feed?”. It stops you from appreciating your own life and being grateful for what you’ve achieved.

I think that is so refreshing to hear, that not everything is pristine and perfect as we think and it’s ok to be appreciative but also admit when you don’t feel 100 percent! Can you tell me a scenario/situation that has affected you personally and how social media felt for you in the aftermath of this? Have you found your network has acted like a web of support or quite the opposite?

I’m quite [reserved] on social media; I find it hard to open up and seek advice or support online. I much prefer to speak to people face to face or pick up the phone and reach out, so I don’t have many examples to tell you. I wrote a blog post earlier in the year opening up about my struggles with going self-employed full time and how it hadn’t been the fairytale dream I’d hoped for, in fact, it was the complete opposite. I felt really low. It was the first time I’d openly said “Hello, online world; I’m not ok.” and the response was really overwhelming; people from different backgrounds, different job sectors and all walks of life reached out and offered so much insightful advice. It was a real eye-opener for me and it taught me no matter what you’re going through, however big or small if you ask, there will be someone out there who has been in the same position, experienced the same scenario and will be happy to support.  

So your community helped you through that, ah, how wonderful! And what tips do you have for people out there who are finding it difficult to switch-off and navigate through their own social media abyss?

Remove yourself from the situation. If you’re struggling with the never-ending abyss that is social media, or it’s causing you discomfort, then try cutting it out for a short period. I know this is a very “of-the-moment” term, but I can’t recommend a social media detox enough. I recently took a break from Instagram, it was only four days, but it was four days in which I didn’t upload to Instagram, didn’t check it, didn’t even think about it and it worked wonders for me. Not only did I feel more present in other areas of my life, but when I returned to the platform, I felt stronger and more inspired. 

So, with all that stress and navigation of freelance life, what helps you find your ~chill~?

Anything that doesn’t involve me looking at my phone constantly or removes me from social media is really important in helping find my chill. Running and going to the gym is my favorite way to do so! Running is an excellent way to clear my mind, reflect and the release of endorphins makes me feel good about myself. Ironic that something so un-chill like a Tabata class or spin [class] can completely chill me out. 

I really enjoy listening to Adam Buxton’s podcast (I don’t know if he’s made it over to America yet, apologies if he has!). He’s a British comedian who essentially has an informal chat with all sorts of interesting people, some of my favorite past guests have included Wes Anderson, Kathy Burke, Greta Gerwig and Louis Theroux. It feels very far removed from the social media minefield I find myself struggling to navigate sometimes, so listening to him is an escape for me. Oh, and you can’t be a cheese and wine rant session with your girlfriends can you?! 

Hannah Louise

@hannahlouisef 24-year-old law graduate and fashion/ lifestyle influencer in London via way of Manchester. Hannah’s feed gives me some much-needed ~live your life~ prompting – whether she be opening up about her mental health, sinking pints in the city or looking for her dream vintage emo tee, what you see is what you lovingly get. Hannah has collaborated with brands including Diesel, Levis’ and Adidas.

I’ve been really enjoying your posts recently—especially a Summer of Primavera and England’s World Cup frenzy! But tell me, do you ever feel pressure to “keep up” with current trends in order to maintain your audience?

I don’t think there is a pressure to keep up with trends necessarily because I think that audiences crave individuality and personality, rather than the same trend on their feeds over and over. That being said, there is a pressure to constantly be doing or wearing something new, which I find problematic at times. 

I hear you, we can’t all be on the go all of the time. Do you find social media to be cathartic in some senses, or can it be quite anxiety-inducing for you?

Definitely both. I find writing and publishing very cathartic, whether that is long-form or something as simple as a tweet, but being online all the time can definitely exacerbate existing anxieties. 

You seem to have it all together—can you tell me a situation that has affected you personally in the past year, and how social media felt for you in the aftermath of this? Did you find that your network acted as a web of support or quite the opposite?

I went through a bad break-up earlier this year and found people online, either strangers or mutual [friends], [to be] incredibly supportive. The network that I have because of my career as a blogger really helped, but being online and seeing “real life” friends with my ex was really painful. It’s hard to say whether going offline altogether for that period would have made things better or not, I think there are pros and cons. 

Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. So, what tips do you have for people out there finding it difficult to switch-off and navigate through their own social media abyss?

I purposely don’t have [TV] WiFi enabled so that I can read a book or saved articles, or just listen to music when I travel. For those who don’t commute in London, there is a lot to be said for even half an hour with a book and your phone on airplane mode. 

Away from the black mirrors and blue lights of mobile screens, what helps you to find your ~chill~?

I try to go to the gym or to a class (usually boxing or barre), or do a Yoga With Adriene video (bless that woman!) at least once or twice a week, but I’m not really a fitness fanatic. I’ve also started leaving my phone in my bag if I’m at dinner with a friend or on a date, and I try to practice the above tips as often as possible, too! 

 Elizabeth Ilsley

@elizabethilsley – 22-year-old artist, designer, and model that has constructed designs for North West (!), Anne-Marie and has collaborated on an exclusive capsule collaboration with Hill & Friends.

Hey, Elizabeth, how are you? I wanted to discuss a post you bought to light a while back that really opened up a dialogue about marketing, activism and creative respect as a female in the arts—or lack thereof—can you please explain why you felt it was important to speak out, and how your audience reacted to you with this?

I was very angry about a certain situation that I and a friend of mine was in, I would never go out my way to complain or shame someone individually, however, I felt it was important to express my feelings of being used on the guise of an important topic for someone’s individual financial gain. We weren’t getting the respect we deserved or was promised….

Do you find social media cathartic in some senses, or can it be quite anxiety-inducing for you?

Instagram for me is incredibly cathartic. My emotions react so well to imagery and videos way more than text, so I’m definitely more an Instagram person than a Twitter twit. I love to post photos, I love to see everyone elses [photos], and I do tend to feel really good when giving out praise to my friends; I think with Instagram, it’s so easy to be positive on there and that’s one of the reasons it’s so popular, I think. I do worry about being on my phone too much, but I have rules in my own personal life, like no phone at dinner, quality time with my boyfriend and friends – those things are more important than checking out my timeline!

We all need some boundaries, I think! Can you tell me a scenario/ situation that has affected you personally and how social media felt for you in the aftermath of this?

Thankfully things run pretty smoothly with me. Although a while ago, I did have a fake account of me made with some pretty weird accusations of me that went on for a while. Obviously, that was very hurtful but I tend to keep my feelings away from the internet…

Oh, wow, some people are gross! And what tips do you have for people out there finding it difficult to switch-off and navigate through their own social media abyss?

I think one thing to remember is that it’s not real life, and real life is more fun! Also, a good book to read is So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. 

I concur, a brilliant read. And away from the fake accounts and focusing on your own life, as you seem to make it a priority to do, what helps you to find your ~chill~?

I love doing yoga, I love [drinking] rosé, and chilling in the garden with my fella and my friends. Generally, going to the pub [chills me out] and I’m a really keen cook, I cook all the time! That helps me switch off massively.

Feature image via Ella Xu

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