The social media monster

Slaying the social media monster.

Yesterday, I had the sudden urge to delete all social media apps off my phone. The constant notifications – a reminder that I needed to take action and feed the social media monster.

It is a monster. A huge, fire breathing, hungry monster. It always wants and needs more.

Working for free for the social media monster.

I started out on Instagram just over 2 years ago, to document my transition to natural silver hair. Something quite casual, a photo here and there, a short caption and a few hashtags. I woke the monster. Slowly, slowly, as it started to grow, it demanded more and more of my time.

I was working for free. The number of hours spent taking care of the monster is not worth the (lack of) dollars.

You must feed your monster twice per day. You need to interact with other monster carers, delivering likes and comments to feed and nurture your own angry pet. Instagram doesn’t like it if you; don’t post regularly, use the same hashtags, don’t respond to posts and comments. It’s very demanding.

Lots of people talk about algorithms. Like there’s some secret man sitting in a room, deciding who to promote so they can win more followers. But it’s an enormous marketing machine, using free content from millions of creators to draw in the crowds. I knew this, and it suited me to use the platform to share my messages and spread the word about positive ageing.

It’s like a drug

Instagram content creators get hooked. Their followers will eventually drop from time to time, so they start advertising and promoting posts to increase the flow of new followers. This of course is the kiss of death for free promotion in the discovery section of the feed. Insta now knows you want and need followers, so will make you invisible until you feed the machine with coins. I never advertised, but watched as other women who experienced a decrease in number of new followers, started promoting posts. Their sponsored posts would show up on Facebook. I knew then, they were owned by the mother of all monsters, throwing dollars at it for followers.

Sure, there is money in Insta if you are prepared to sell anything and everything that companies throw your way. I wasn’t. I stood true to my beliefs, only accepting occasional gifts and discussing products from companies which were vegan and cruelty free. I never took money for paid posts, that’s not what my channel was for.

Instagram vs reality

Often when looking at other women’s posts, I would see #ethical #sustainable etc on clothing posts. But there she was wearing leather shoes. What is ethical about that? I would see another lady talking about veganism one minute, whilst chomping on a piece of dairy the next. Or, posts like ‘ I’m vegan except I can’t say no to roast lamb’. If I saw a post like this I would just scroll on by, maybe hit ‘unfollow’ and mutter something about how fake everyone is. But I’ve come to realise, that most people prefer fake. They don’t want to see women without filters, without some photoshopping going on. When you see how popular images of fake faces and bodies are, you realise you are in the wrong game, or on the wrong platform.

I met a fellow content creator in person. She is a little older than me and uses filters on every post. I commented how great she looked in a bikini shot on her grid. To which she replied ‘I photoshopped my tummy’. What is the point? All she is doing is contributing to unattainable beauty standards set by large corporations, pushing unrealistic images of ageing women to sell products. How can other women expect to look as good as her and feel good about themselves, when she doesn’t look like that in real life either?

I posted photos without filters. I got abuse and insults. I didn’t care, but I’m not making a difference. I just look older than women the same age who are filtering their faces beyond recognition, and I ponder ‘what is the point?’.

What next?

What next? Well, I’m considering a move to YouTube. Firstly, I am going to be filming my house build in Portugal and the orientation of the filming is better in landscape mode. Secondly, there’s potential to earn money from the posts without promoting other company’s products. YouTube pays creators with revenue from adverts displayed on the video, whereas Instagram is getting all of its content and users for free. That doesn’t really seem fair – does it?

I’m enjoying a break from DM’s, emails and post responses. How can I ignore emails from women, desperate for emotional support on their ageing journey? I am not a doctor, therapist or psychologist. I’m an unpaid agony aunt who is slowly sinking under the weight of other’s needs and expectations.

I’m taking time out. An opportunity to re-think and evaluate my time spent with the social media monster. Insta is getting value, but am I? If I move to YouTube am I just switching monsters?

More thinking to do, so stay tuned for updates.

Gail xxx

social media monster