As I write this I’m hearing a conversation in the background between kids on a sitcom about followers (daughter is sick on the couch) how many? How to get more? Who has the most?
Of course it feels indulgent to write about social media, um, real-life problems, yes, I know. Sadly, during the show there was no discussion about the ‘why’, why they were using social media. I think that’s kind of important. Don’t you?
For a long time I resisted the social media landscape, but a few years ago I signed up under the alias @choose_simplicity the same time I actively chose a path to simplicity and I’ve been navigating my way through ever since.
I have gently surrendered to the fact that right now it’s important in my life and recently I dropped the alias in favour of using my name @frances.antonia.
Given that I’ve been at this simplicity thing for a while now you can be sure that if it’s in my life it’s going to need to have a purpose, to provide some meaning.
Dramatic over thinker? I’ve been called that, but don’t worry, I’m ok. See, here’s the thing:
For those of us who search for meaning in what we do, we need to understand ‘why’ we do what we do. In fact, the thinking bit can be a very deliberate action. And here’s the reason: It helps to keep us intentional and out of the shallows.
Intentional in our choices, our use of time, our parenting, our noise, our actions….life really. So here’s my ‘why’ I use social media and a little bit about why I blog.
First the housekeeping. I have been thinking about this term follower and what it implies. So a quick google search reveals the definition:
1.a person who supports and admires a particular person or set of ideas.
2.a person who moves or travels behind someone or something.
1.1 Ok, I actually don’t mind this. It implies that there is intention in following. An acknowledgment that we are engaged in our choice of who we follow and that we are thoughtful and active in this choice.
2.2 This one I don’t love so much. It implies a passive kind of follow. A passive use without meaning is what makes social media feel shallow to me. I’m wandering away from that.
I don’t want to be a follower that passively moves or travels behind something, nope, I want to be a supporter and an admirer online and in life. There’s more meaning in that right? A more considered kind of consuming.
That doesn’t mean I have to comment and like everything. Simply, that I’ve chosen who and what I follow (consume). Alongside my family and friends the amazing cooks, the gardeners, farmers, environmentalists, activists, travellers, readers, the indie wool dyer, the writers, nature lovers, slow livers and philosophers. All the stuff that matters to me.
From here on the term ‘follow’ will be replaced with support and admire.
Let’s not say that it’s not real life. We’re all real people with real feelings sharing real thoughts, ideas and life. How lucky we are to be able to connect with like minded people, new ideas, inspiration and conversation. If you’re a lover of stories and you learn from story tellers as I do then there are stories to get lost in, particularly blogs. Words that will carry you when you need to be carried, words that will give you insight, challenge you, encourage you, words that can express how you feel and ultimately for me there were words that helped connect me home, back to myself. Obviously, outside of the reading I did a lot of the ‘doing’ to find myself, but the words and stories told me that others felt the same. It was less lonely treading a different path.
Saying hello to the world online has been very real for me and hasn’t always come naturally. I am very private, I’m shy and an introvert. I had years of pride built up over top of vulnerability. Slowly shedding those layers over time while connecting with people who I support and admire with similar ideals is a very real community. Very different personalities, all over the world. Once my my friend Tracie while on a digital break said “it’s only fucking Instagram” and she’s right, of course. We need to be able to find peace in our daily life without apps. but jeez Tracie I’d thank my lucky stars I met you. And look at that you, did eventually teach me to swear, aloud, online and oh how you’ve made me laugh. Sometimes I think can I be bothered with it all? But then I don’t want to hide. I want to share and talk about minimalism a different perspective to the consumption ideal. Maybe I can help others on that journey feel less lonely.
It would take 1,000’s of words for me to explain how exponentially I have grown because of the connections I have made ‘online’ via blogging and on social media. Many conversations have moved into the private sphere, meals have been shared, a crop swap attended, a tiny home toured. I’ve been touched by the genuine kindness of new friends, a painting donated from Finland for Zoë’s One Girl fundraiser, a delivery of crocheted bunting for the campervan. All very real, very life changing connections. When I lived in Holland the friends I made via an expat site are some of my best friends. My actual real life friendships and relationships haven’t suffered in fact the most important ones have strengthened as a result, that’s the beauty of simplicity and intention. More appreciation of what matters. Maybe there’s a theme here?!
I don’t struggle with online FOMO. I really don’t want to be invited everywhere. I’d rather have time at home or one-on-one with a friend. Creating a slower life with less rush and more gratitude means that I don’t look ahead too far. I can see and appreciate what’s around me. That doesn’t mean I don’t have future plans or dreams nor does it mean I have nothing to do. It means that I’ve learnt to value the moment and I’m better at finding my way into it. I live in my life not wishing for someone else’s.
I did have some overwhelm in the beginning when I supported and admired a lot of slow, simple living style accounts. One day I saw that one of my favourite environmentalists had shopped at IKEA and I thought WOW! I wouldn’t have expected that. It was a break through moment for me. I realised that none of us do everything perfectly and we can’t judge another or ourselves based on imperfections. We’re all a work in progress, what matters is that we are giving it a good crack not sitting in apathy because perfect seems, well, just too damn overwhelming. I really wanted to travel with bees wax wraps instead of plastic, so far that hasn’t happened. I’m ok with using snap lock bags and washing them for reuse Sarah Wilson style. Not perfectly plastic free but that’s ok, still doing my imperfect best.
I’ve learned to flip it, I get inspired and learn from those who are better at the things I want to improve and hopefully that’s what I do for others with the stuff I’m a little more naturally in tune with, the outdoorsy and slow stuff. It’s a dynamic shift to accept imperfection and plow on. At one point I closed down a blog (The Simplicity Journey) because of my imperfect writing. Silly really, I was worried that people I knew might judge me. After some time and more shedding of pride, I came back. Boy am I glad I did! This week I’ll start contributing to an adventure website about adventuring with kids and encouraging families to connect with each other in nature. Pretty awesome hey for an imperfect writer. I get to contribute to a conversation that matters to me. Showing up.
This is a big one, the V word. I have been questioning this a lot of late. I do believe we need to share some of our real-selves if we want to create connection and have an authentic presence. To be able to allow yourself to feel vulnerable and to tap into it that is really hard, and boy it takes courage. I learn from others who share and that actually gives me the courage to feel more vulnerable. This goes back to the conscious consuming right. Questioning what you’re absorbing from those you choose to surround yourself with in life, images and words.
We all support and admire people for different reasons. We’re all different. I think we connect to the vulnerability that we need to give into in our own lives. I find that. It’s the warrior women standing strong, having an opinion, being honest about their convictions, just being honest that I am drawn to currently. And those that are saying we have enough, how best can we creatively live this life?
A great lesson I learnt about sharing myself and my feelings came from Brené Brown. Only to share what I’ve already worked through, and can talk honestly about otherwise the vulnerability can be too raw. I’ve found this to be true for me. If I’m processing or angry I’m not ready to share online. I’ll debrief with a trusted friend. In hindsight, my first blog has some rawness and while I could share and am sharing it now back then maybe it was too much.
In case you haven’t come across the work of Brené Brown here is a TED talk to come back to….you’ll want to listen to more I promise.
Slowly I’ve learnt that my intention with social media comes back to this:
Connection, Inspiration, Community, Conversation, Giving a Shit and Creativity.
I keep it simple, no Facebook, it never really interested me (too noisy maybe??). I deleted an old twitter account (I’m too wordy). I do fit with Instagram, I love the imagery and post style. I blog, the writing helps to keep me on track, it’s my journal of life lessons and adventures. I try to keep them seperate, occasionally I share on Insta if I posted something, lately the travel stories but mostly it’s just a quiet corner here.
Creative living requires questioning and adjusting to make sure the ‘feel’ is right. You know #allthefeels. You do have to sit with all the feels to work them out.
I have a few strategies for keeping my Instagram use intentional, they evolve and I adjust as I need to (it goes without saying family first):
- Step back a bit, sometimes I even delete the app. After a day or two you’ll be surprised how easy it is to let go.
- I don’t take my phone out when I hanging out with you. I want to hear you. I use a watch for time and no ping notifications (for anything).
- Posting, I never feel comfortable when I post more than one a day consistently, so I take a few days away after a double or triple photo post day. I never mind or count how many other people post it’s a personal thing. I just need a break, it seems to work for me.
- I don’t go searching for people to support and admire nor do I randomly search for photos to like and I don’t use an app to get followers (it’s so obvious). Although, once I downloaded and app that showed who had unfollowed, that was interesting, I learnt a lot form that. I never open the tab that enables you to look at what others are liking or doing. All will lead me to black holes of mindless flicking.
- I love who I love and you’ll hear about them. Organic is simpler and more authentic. All the good stuff has come organicly.
“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” – Brené Brown
- Sometimes I unfollow, if there is really no connection to words and pictures or we just don’t get each other it becomes noise. I don’t do it lightly if it’s a personal account, but if we’ve never shared anything and it doesn’t make me feel right then I do. If it’s not relevant to my life now I adjust. Tourism Ireland has replaced Visit NSW. Camping accounts have replaced some gardening accounts. Again, that will change as my interests or inspirational needs change.
- Sometimes I get unfollowed. This can sting a little (and one time a lot) especially if it was someone you thought you had a connection with. But, just like real life, we don’t connect with everyone. It’s not personal, just real. In fact, if I let go of feeling judged I actually get it, the unfollow – so, in a way I see it as a good thing now. If you’re not into what I have to share (my story, my vulnerability) then you shouldn’t hang around to see my life and read my thoughts. So you are free from guilt if you want to unfollow me, I’m cool with that.
- Last week I had a post that generated a lot of meaningful exchange, it was a vulnerable kind of share so I need some space for air and reflection (introvert) and am currently stepping back. Also triple post on Sunday 😉
- I try to reply to people but not always, sometimes too much time has passed. When I comment I don’t always expect replies so I go with what feels right. I do keep in mind that it’s a sharing community and real conversation but to reply to every comment can become mindless. Again that just what works for me. I will always reply on my blog.
- I never post if I’m angry or not in the right headspace, that just doesn’t work for me. It does for others and I like the fire and passion in their posts but I’m not as articulate in my direction of anger so I refrain.
- I’ve learnt not post for the sake of it, only if I’m inspired to. Obviously, I do get a lot of inspiration in my life, lots of tiny moments.
- I don’t share all of me online – that’s reserved for the small circle I keep close. What I do share is still real though, my real life and the vulnerability is real, it’s not easy to share a personal growth story.
- I am learning to care less about the hashtags and likes. For some people I understand it’s part of the building of an account or creating a business but it’s not really how I want to measure myself. Mine account is personal, not selling just sharing, encouraging simplicity and an outlet for creativity. Unless, it’s an awesome photo or if I’m bored, then I might chase the likes. (hmm maybe I shouldn’t post if I’m bored).
- I also reserve the right to not do all of the above and be mindless, of course, I’m human…But, I’ll feel it and I’ll come back to intention and adjust accordingly.
When I apply this deliberate action of searching for meaning and understanding across my life, it allows me to give more shits and ensure that I’m contributing, not just passively coasting. Does that make sense?
Oh the divine bunting in the opening shot I hear you ask, a handmade gift from one of my favourite people. ~ Brydie Piaf – Artist. Story teller. Shit Giver.
Here’s another Brené Brown. I’ll own it, I’ve been a blamer before.