The Marmite effect of Instagram

Hello, my name is Katie and I am an addict. Luckily for me, I only have a handful of addictions and there are only two over which my, usually ironclad, willpower has no control: recipe books and Instagram! Leaving my problem with recipe books to one side for the moment, let’s focus on the social media app with those little square images!

I have always loved photos and photography. As a child, I would happily look through anyone’s photo albums (as long as there were people in the photo, I wasn’t so keen on landscape back then!) and as a teen I rocked my way through many a roll of 35mm film and eagerly awaited the return of my developed images; most of which were grainy, blurred or heavily featured my fingerprint! Luckily over time, cameras have improved and so have my skills. Therefore, Instagram is naturally a habitat that appeals to me. I love looking at all the beautiful images of people and places, seeing how they have been composed and learning a little as I go. Sometimes I’m even inspired to buy stuff, try a new recipe or a different way of squatting in the gym.

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I’ve just had a look and I posted my own first photo in October 2011. It’s a photo I took of my, then seven year old, daughter as we sat watching tv and it received 5 likes. In the last five and a half years, she has grown a lot, and so has Instagram and my fascination with it.

I’m a fully paid up Instamember! I post regularly, I scroll, like and comment loads and most importantly for me, is that I engage. I truly feel part of a friendly community with some of my followers and when I’m working from home, that may be the only social interaction that I have all day, so I really appreciate the laughs, love and occasional lows that I share with these people.

Having said that, there are days where Instagram is like a bitchy friend dropping snidey comments that make me feel far from great about myself, my life, my home or my career. I defy anyone not to be occasionally affected by the sheer array of beyond perfect bodies, wrinkle free faces, houses, wardrobes or perfectly lit peachy flat lays. Or what about that friend who unfollows you or doesn’t follow you back in the first place? Your colleague who appears to be doing oh-so-much better than you or the gorgeous wonder mum, wearing her slogan tee, snapped with her super cute, Boden clad child shovelling down homemade quinoa burgers, while you’re in saggy trackie bottoms and scraped back mum-bun eating peanut butter from the jar.

(I do know that they’re not doing it to make me feel bad. Only I have the power to make me feel that way! The issue lies within me and the way I feel is only a reflection of myself.)

Do not get me wrong! I have been that person that has photographed her lunch, taken photos of the one perfectly tidy little corner of my home, my happy holidays and Gloria Isles, the cutest of dogs. I don’t think that you can help but fall into that trap and hey it’s fun. Hell, if you look at my Instagram profile, I’m sure it could make some turn a pale shade of green, and that doesn’t make me feel good because, while I lead a pretty great life, it isn’t always rosy.

*But* I don’t ever lie. There’s no editing (beyond a filter), magic body shaping, or hanging my husband from the chandelier for the Instaperfect image. In real life I’m a very open and honest person, flying by the seat of my pants and just about holding it together on a daily basis, no matter what my photos appear to show. I hope that the captions that laugh at myself and the behind the scenes Instastory provide a much more realistic version of me.

And I think that’s what we all have to remember. Instagram is the (highly) edited moments of life and not real life at all. Many people’s followers and likes are bought and/or fake, lots of images, faces and bodies are photoshopped, the posted ‘casual’ selfie was probably number 48 of the 76 taken and the most carefree of ‘what I’m doing now’ posts was probably perfectly staged and re-shot!

Over the last few months I have subconsciously changed many of the accounts that I follow as I was fed up of being bombarded with unattainable perfection every day, whether physical or material. Bored! I’ve also stopped following many of the big bloggers. Unfortunately, it appears that once you get so big that you get sponsored, you quite often lose your ‘soul;’ the original uniqueness and quality of your posts and recommendations is diluted and your profile becomes peppered with whitening toothpaste and diet tea promotions. I’ve definitely had a seismic shift towards real, maybe slightly imperfect, people. People I would be drawn to in the real world. People who chat, engage and don’t just post ‘awesome!’ before unfollowing you 24 hours later!

My profile has definitely changed since I started modelling. In my early Instadays I rarely posted a photo of myself, it just didn’t sit right with me, but now here I am posting various versions of my face. To be honest, it still doesn’t feel right, so you’ll often find them accompanied by some sarcastic caption 😉 However, as Instagram is great for connecting fellow models all over the world, it’s lovely to be able to keep in touch with people that you’ve met along the way. In spite of what you might think, some of us are a pretty supportive bunch and cheer on our colleagues. And hmmmm okay, let’s just skirt over those moments when you see someone doing a job that you would have simply loved to have known about..…

I know that there will still be days, when I will spot something or follow some virtual path, that will make me feel a bit crap but I am a lot more aware of it. I try to stop myself before I get to that point! I seek out the professional photographers that I admire and the amateurs that I can learn from. I love the bunch of fabulous #IgersBirmingham who bring out the best of my much maligned city and the #LMDweddingbelles and the new #ALLlovelies who are simply the most supportive bunch of ladies in the whole wide world! To make it work, I just had to find my own group of people that suit me and give me lots of virtual lols and hugs.

So the fact is that most days I love it but very occasionally I hate it. Am I alone with these feelings or has anyone else felt the same? Are you a lover or a hater? A secret stalker or a 20-a-day poster? Do you feel pressure to only post the very best or do you spamalot? Any words of Instawisdom? (And I haven’t even touched on what it’s like being a mom to a tween of the Instageneration because that’s a whole other blog post!!!)

Was Huey Lewis right? Is it hip to be square?! 😉

Much love
Katie xx

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