Confessions of a Content Creator
Written by Mara Strobel-Lanka
Like all other aspects of my career, I started working in social media on accident. I had picked up a few hours working behind the counter at a boutique. When they needed a little help with their online presence, I jumped at the opportunity. I had a knack for witty captions and an affinity for making things look pretty. iPhone shoots quickly bled into professional styling, and onto hashtag searches, Insta pods, and more. Researching this role meant flipping through Conde Nast glossies, screenshotting pictures of glamorous French girls and making Pinterest board upon Pinterest board of shoot inspo, styling poses and the elusive perfect lighting. I walked to work in heels with a Vogue under my arm and the next photo caption wriggling through my head. As my job became about making things look pretty from beneath a screen, my everyday life took a similar path.
I edit photos to make them look as flawlessly unfiltered as VSCO deems possible. I hate the term “influencer.” I sometimes find myself staring down at my feed with absolutely no clue as to when or how I started scrolling and double-tapping. My worst fear is reading one of those “the average person spends 1.5 years of their lifetime in the bathroom” tallies of all the time I’ve ever spent on my phone. I have shed real tears when my art didn’t attract enough “likes.” I once moved my hot, fresh cup of coffee around the book I was reading for a full 25 minutes to get the perfect, most Instagrammable pic, completely neglecting my latest Terry Pratchett read (which deserved my full attention.)
Having an unhealthy relationship with an app is an exemplary First World Problem, created by millennials, for millennials. It’s not groundbreaking, surprising, or even very poignant. It’s also not leaving millions in crippling debt or creating an unstable economy, so it’s a dilemma I think we can overcome. (That one was for you, boomers.)
By nature, creating content is about projection. For business, I write blog articles, take photos and create designs that will hopefully make our audience not only buy our clothes, but also consider themselves to be part of our brand. I am personally in charge of how the world views our business. This task is challenging and creative, and the part of my job description that I cherish the most. I found myself on the little pink app constantly, and was quick to defend my time there with statements like “I have to post,” or “it’s for work.” Half of the time, it was for work. But the other half was spent refreshing my homepage, double (and triple) checking how many likes my own personal pictures had received and curating all aspects of my day to fit a tiny LED screen. It was pretty, it was pathetic, and I was miserable.
There’s a dangerously fine line between appreciating the modern connecting powers of social media and needing all corners of its attention. Content creation gives the operator the upper hand to control how the world views your account. For a business, this is brilliant. For a human, it’s limiting. Unlike a boutique, bakery, brewery or blog, people should not be branded or curated. So how do you turn your professional title off when operating your own social media accounts?
You don’t need a psychology degree to have figured out that both cellular devices and personal praise are addicting stimulants. But it sometimes takes a microscope—or just a fresh set of eyes—to realize that opening an app 10 (or 15, or 20, or 50) times a day might be problematic. Fortunately, it doesn’t take therapy—or quitting your job—to shake yourself loose from the toxic scrolling. It just takes some self-discipline, a few phone breaks and some brief filter bans to remember that unlike the analytics of a business profile, you’re worth a lot more than how many people see (and like) what you ate for breakfast.
Here are a few pointers I’ve found helpful in deepening the divide between kickass content and real-life worth.
Sleep with your phone in another room.
Let’s be real—this speaks for itself.
Set an alarm, turn it off or make your roommate hide it if you have to, but make sure there are one to two hours of every day during which your social apps aren’t just a thumbprint away. Pro-tip: lock your phone away after you post anything to save hours and forehead lines from refreshing to check on likes.
Following bikini models, blogging mamas and that random guy from that job you quit two years ago doesn’t do you any good. Keeping up with 25 different models who look like slightly different versions of Alexis Ren while you’re scrolling from the bathroom stall at work is not improving your everyday life. So, ditch them! I promise you won’t miss their flawless tans or vegan dieting tips.
Don’t post on vacation.
Vacations are just too much of a tempting opportunity to show everyone the cliff you climbed, cappuccino you sipped or beach you explored (during the exact moment they happen.) You should, of course, share those precious photos with the world eventually (#becausememories), but stay present in your adventures and post them later—like when you’re relaxing in your Airbnb or waiting to check your bags at the airport.
Listen to your friends.
Odds are, if you’ve read this far into the article, you or someone close to you has pointed out your questionable phone habits. I hate being called out just as much as the next person, but if I had listened to my besties sooner, it would have saved me months of app-based unhappiness, and probably gained me some more memories.
How hard would it be for you to put your phone away for a bit after reading this? (I promise, the world will keep spinning even if you do.)
Give it a try. I dare you.
Mara is the Babes Who Hustle executive assistant as well as the content creator for Momni. When she isn't managing all things BWH, styling photoshoots and writing for The Boutique Next Door, you can find her sailing, dancing, or sprawled out on a beach blanket with her latest read.