18 March 2019

Love Before Likes: We Need To
Sort Out our Instagram Priorities

     HOW TO GROW YOUR INSTAGRAM   

  • Brew Polyjuice Potion and become a Kardashian (do hair extensions work?)
  • Become best friends with a Kardashian (rumour has it there's a vacancy) 
  • Follow the "Influencer" formula - outfit selfies and flatlays ft. 50 shades of grey jumper.
  • Jump on the #LikeForLike #FollowForFollow bandwagon and miraculously find yourself comparing to Regina George. Who cares if their profile doesn't have an avatar, their usernames include  @free_ig_likes & @socialgains, or they shower you with fake compliments until  you 'like' them back. They like you, right?

Well... I've got a secret and the #instagurus won't like it. 'Likes' are Social Media's pretty little lie.  It's a word with far too much power but, ultimately very little weight. That is, if you allow yourself to look past the filters, come up for air and recognise what truly matters. As Ron Weasley tells Hermione Granger in Philosopher's Stone, there comes a point in our lives where we need to sort out our priorities... otherwise, we will find ourselves endlessly battling the Three-Headed instaDog:

Head 1 = self-comparison       Head 2 = self-criticism      Head 3 = self-punishment. 

While I admire Ms Granger's commitment to her studies, I'm with Ron on this one. LIVING should be the first priority; more specifically, living with, by and for our values. Thanks to charities like Heads Together, Young Minds and Place2Be, young mental health has become a top priority for society; more recently, the spotlight has focused on the relationship between social media and mental health. Given the popularity of Instagram among young users, mental iHealth awareness has never been more vital.

At the same time, it's never been more vulnerable. And on that note, the clock hand turns to me and it's time for honesty hour: by the end of 2017, Instagram was hurting my mental health and the problem wasn't the platform. It was the culture. I was caught up in the trap of likes, calculations, followers and filters. To use Forever Fi's words in her recent post  - which I siriusly recommend - Instagram didn't "spark joy" like it does now. So what changed?



     SORTING OUT MY PRIORITIES   

In the last 12 months, I socked it to the stats and decided to do SOPHIE. Come what teresa may. Through the lenses of #Pottergram, #MeettheMaker and #MyEverydayMagic, I identified the three things that make me ME: Mindfulness, Making and Magic. Accompanied by those three words, I finally stepped out of the comparison cabin and set myself free

"So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, 
nurtured by the voices of those who had sent their books
out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave
Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone." 
- Roald Dahl, Matilda

If you bumble across @beeing_sophie in 2019, you will find snapshots of my crochet SPEW Crew ft. individual stories of Wellbeing Wizardry, whether this be Patience the Pygmy Puff saying #HelloYellow for Young Minds, or a house elf called Bea saying it's okay to simply BE. After casting a storm over 2017, Instagram somehow became one my 8 Silver Linings of 2018 and this has only grown stronger since. In a recent post on 'Soul Setting', I solemnly swore to ditch the preview app and have mostly stuck by this - a momentary wobble did see me downloading again, but by some stroke of liquid luck it wouldn't connect to IG (I suspect Felix Felicis was behind it...)! 

Nevertheless, the simple fact of finding it much harder than anticipated, was all the conformation I needed that deleting was the RIGHT decision. Every-time I find myself questioning my NEW priorities, I remind myself what truly matters. I now see those "How to Grow your Inatagram" bullet points and do the opposite. In a world of likes and lip kits, it's not always easy being Luna. It's certainly not going to make me an "influencer" any time soon. Yet if the comments on my posts are anything to go by, I've been able to inspire some good in the world. 


     TROLLS IN THE DIGITAL DUNGEON  

So why am I writing this now? 'Love Before Likes' has been hiding in the 'drafts' dungeon for months, but it never seems the right time share.... Until last week, when my 'New Priorities faced their biggest test yet - the Digital Dungeon Troll. In 2018, I spoke about my own encounter with a "bloggart" (blogging boggart) in the comments section of Bumble and Be and, last week, the keyboard warriors charged again - this time towards my Instagram DMs. Would my values live to tell the tale? (The clue is that you’re reading).

This one may not have carried a bat like the the Hogwarts Mountain Troll; however, like the previous troll on my blog, he was arguably more intelligent than Mr “Pea Brain” (Ron does have some golden one-liners). You see, Social Media Trolls are very good at pretending they don't give a (Mrs) Figg about you, bu in most cases they do their research; like the boggart, they ask "what does she fear?" and go from there. In my case, a handful of captions/stories referenced my worries about rambling/being too whimsical in my posts; this message essentially gave those  “Mind Muggles” a  life beyond my head.

The general gist of it was that it's no wonder I get less likes when I “never shut up", then some derogatory comments about my crafts/'fake' business about  and finally a commentary on my (lack of) mental health. I can’t quite remember the wording - and nor do I want to - as I’ve since deleted the message and blocked the user in question. It also helped to press pause on the "Mind Muggles" and do some basic fact-checking: no one is forced to read my blog or buy my crochet creatures on Etsy, so to that troll I said RIDDIKULUS and be done with it.
Unfortunately, by the time I remembered the spell I had already deleted my most recent post - a photo of Matilda the Mooncalf, who was inspired by Dahl's heroine and shared some lessons to live by - namely, fighting your corner and not letting any Trunchbulls/Story-hating Wormwoods get you down! It seems fitting that Trunchbull almost sounds like Troll. Knowing Dahl - I did a Dissertation on him after all - I suspect that was intentional and it definitely gave me food for thought (though thankfully not as much as Bruce Bogtrotter). 


“If you are holding out for universal popularity,
 I'm afraid you will be in this cabin a very long time." 
- Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Matilda doesn't like what her parents like. She'd far rather dive into world of Dahl's Chickens than the dejavu streets of Corrie. The Trunchbull relentlessly tries to squash Miss Honey's spirit, just like the Dursley'ss try to "stomp magic out" of their nephew. All of these 'villains' fear one thing - a world beyond their own and this echoes the trolls of social media. To some extent, it is also true of social media as a whole...

Or, at least, the side of social media we need to sort out; the culture of comparison and likes; the algorithm that tells us to look a certain way, post at certain times, or speak in certain ways. In the Digital Dungeon of Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and even Instagram, we will always risk encountering trolls and, more widely, people who simply don't 'get it'. This definitely isn’t the first time I’ve faced them - albeit on different platforms - and I know it won’t be the last. What I can decide, as CBT (AND Sirius Black!) taught me, is the part I choose act on. 
I could hold out for universal popularity and curse the darkness - as the Mind Muggles would have me do. I could sell my soul to algorithms and make likability my first priority. Alternatively, I could light a candle and read the magical comments on IF, priceless reviews for my Etsy Store and whimsical stories of #TheSpewCrew - a hashtag I created for my beasties and now see used by customers 'parents' across the world! It has been more than a light for my business; it is an inexhaustible way of bringing people together and that means more than 1000 silent likes. 

Last year, the Economist wrote an article titled "It's not an audience, it's a community" and it completely resonated. My potter puns and mental health metaphors won't scream #instagoals for the majority, but I know that, somehow, somewhere, there are people who choose to listen.  If someone doesn't like my content, that's okay. What's not okay is to live and lie by a keyboard: to constrict my captions, filter my photos or type #likeforlike instead of #lovebeforelikes. 

In a world that tells you to live #forthegram, I choose to share who I am, what I love and why those things matter. Beeing Sophie  is all the validation I need.  
  
“You are protected, in short, by your ability to love."  
- Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix

#LoveBeforeLikes
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