What I Did Before Blogging & Notes On Digital Anxiety

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s something us bloggers don’t talk about enough, what we did before blogging. I had an amazing discussion with some Instagram friends recently where we all shared our lives from before and it was totally fascinating – the range of careers, interests and backgrounds was so diverse and inspiring…  

The other thing I wanted to touch on is the anxiety so many bloggers and Instagrammers of all ages (and at all levels!) seem to be suffering from at the moment. Trying to stick to our own perfection criteria 24/7 and feeding that into social media feedback is something that’s definitely on people’s minds. Lucy and  Carly both recently addressed the myths of being perfect and the apparently perfect world of Instagram on their blogs and Kristabel’s brilliant comment on us all feeling personally victimised by the Instagram algorithm really struck a chord I think about our constant striving to be perfect and associated social angst in this digital age.

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Getting caught up in Instagram numbers can be great when it’s going well and a total downer when it’s not – and the new algorithm is making a once predictable response completely screwy – people’s posts aren’t being seen by as many people which, in an overall less engaged (as in tapping that button to like or comment) social world can play havoc with something you once felt you understood and could count on to act accordingly!

Some Instagrammers (see the lovely Jules and Freya) have been asking their followers, “Hey! Are you out there? Are you seeing my posts?” to great effect – such gorgeous responses and introductions tumbling in reminding them that their audience is there, and does care a lot. Over all, I try to keep the focus on the content creation, enjoying what I do, and recently if I haven’t been feeling it that much, not berating myself to work harder, but just chilling and taking a step back which is wonderfully relaxing. Gotta keep the oxygen circulating and avoid the pressure chamber feeling to keep it healthy.

BUT FIRST, WHAT I DID BEFORE!

But first, what I did… I think most people know that I started the blog while on maternity leave with Gus as something to do and also as somewhere to explore my burgeoning interest in photography. And that before that I worked as a freelance journalist for publications like Elle, Time Out, Psychologies, Mixmag and loads of online publications. But before that?

Well, I studied Philosophy & Politics at Edinburgh University – I had straight As from school but no idea what to do with them! I remember randomly making the decision in the careers library at school one day!). After getting my MA, I took a year our, did some work experience at the Observer (only two weeks! Wish I stayed on doing more experiece when they’d asked me to on reflection, but working for free wasn’t really a longterm option…) and temped at The Guardian press office in London for six months before returning to Edinburgh to work in a café (where I could save more than temping in London) and save up for a postgraduate MSc in Philosophy. My postgrad was a year of moral philosophy and after that I temped at the Scottish Executive while applying for jobs in magazines and publishing.

The first ‘real’ job I got was working on the philosophy list for academic book publisher Routledge as an editorial assistant based in Chancery Lane which was an extremely busy time but it wasn’t long before they decided to move their offices out of London and I, along with many others from the editorial team, took voluntary redundancy. I used the money to pay for a six week journalism course and then got a job working for a contract publisher in Farringdon. I loved this job as I was writing features and putting together small magazines for clients, loads of fun! However, I did crave a freelance life and when a friend launched a website I left to work for her and eventually moved into freelancing.

Now, the anxiety. There’s no doubt our striving for perfection is fuelled by the ever-growing barrage of beautiful images we are surrounded with day-in day-out on social media (something that didn’t really exist for me in my 20s, especially as I had a self-imposed ban on reading women’s magazines bizarrely!) and for those of us working in social media and the very visual world of blogs I guess it hits even harder.

With everything so visible and on display, it’s so easy to fall into the comparing yourself to others game and come out feeling like hell and if only you worked harder you could achieve that. Blogging and Instagram being such a new world I feel that we haven’t really stopped to take stock and are all just throwing ourselves headlong into the maelstrom without much thought for ourselves. In every industry there will always be someone bigger than you, and in every other industry people seem to be a bit more level headed about it.

BACK TO DIGITAL ANXIETY

I haven’t met a single blogger of late who hasn’t suffered some kind of burnout or exhaustion from just pushing themselves too hard – myself included. There are so many wonderful opportunities now open to a whole swathe of people that just didn’t exist before. For many of us, the complaint is there just aren’t enough hours in a day, because trust me digital is 24/7.

We are spending so much time looking outwards we’re forgetting the import of looking back at ourselves. Like in any creative industry, our real value comes from our individuality, what we are able to create will always be different from someone else and that is a good thing. Yes, we can be inspired to improve, but like every musician, artist, writer and sculptor and designer you have to work with what you can do best and be damn proud of it.

And look at your life. Remember it needs attention to be the life you want it to be. Sometimes our work needs to work around us to allow us the time to work at our relationships, look after your loved ones, create a beautiful home for you family, relax and chill so you are a nice and attentive person to be around and spend time with your friends, because these are the things that make a life worth living. Instagram numbers can start to feel pretty irrelevant when you’re heart is filled with the love and joy and laughter.

I’ve had a quite a few days now of feeling wonderfully relaxed and disengaged from the all the anxiety and manicness that being online so much can create. Not least because I had a mini-scare a few days before Christmas when I spontaneously developed double vision. Obviously I thought I was dying and rushed to Moorfields for all the checks and scans which showed a nerve supplying a muscle in my left eye has stopped working.

But thankfully nothing immediately serious has been uncovered and although I have a few more tests to go in the meantime it does seem to be slowly improving. But it was a massive wake up call to just slow down. And wow, it feels nice. And the realisation, as I was discussing with the lovely Poppy this week, that everything isn’t just going to crumble because you’re not going at breakneck speed round the clock.

In these slower days, a huge sense of appreciation for my life, my work and the things I enjoy has kind of crept up me and there’s not much room for anxiety when you’re in the mode which is so nice. So do the things you have to do to get to that space. Recognise your achievements, be proud of them, do what you love in the the time it takes to do them (not my usual ‘I’ll just squeeze about eight things into this tiny time slot!’) and look after yourself. You. Take time to love you and feel a lightness and happiness inside. Now that’s addictive. 😉

I would love to hear about your background and/or any struggles with online anxiety and how you tackle it! Do comment below, but only if you have the time 😉

Ps. There are loads of practical things you can do to beat anxiety – limit caffeine (I stick to one cup a day), exercise, meditate, read – things that put you in another headspace for a while to help gain perspective are just the thing! Planning a post on my favourites ways to beat anxiety soon!


Ps. Gorgeous new airplant from Geo-Fleur’s #plantpost club, candle by Evermore London and Olympus Pen E-PL8 (restocking in a couple of weeks!) and my Mimi Berry collab strap.


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11 Comments

  1. Awesome post Julia – I’ve definitely felt the disconnect by connecting too much in social media and my blogger burnout hit hard at the end of last year. It seems as we only put out ‘best’ on social media we expect that scope for our ‘real lives’ too – when on reality we need days which are both boring and uneventful to regenerate. My friend has this amazing podcast on SoundCloud called #LiveAwake – her posts kept me grounded last year while I was blogging daily – there’s this one episode with a great quote which applies so very much to the digital age: “All life needs time below the surface, where it can breathe itself full and round, where it can reconnect with its nature and sprout again in its flushed form. Just as you can not force flowers to continually bloom, the same is true for all human beings. There is great value in letting go and dropping down. We must learn to remember, from time to time, to be like the tree in the winter.” https://m.soundcloud.com/liveawakepodcast/podcast-learning-to-honour-our-rythms-and-cycles … is trying to make that my mantra this year and let go of the numbers and comparisons as best I can … practice the art of slow living and see if it provides better benefits for self and blog in the end 😉

    1. Thanks Holly! Yes I always think we forget the natural flow of life & creativity requires time to let the well fill up again and we’re just totally ignoring that at the moment… fab thankyou, will check out that podcast for sure 🙂 xx

  2. Great post, Julia – definitely trying to slow down here too, and recognise the need to create some space and distance from social media. Creating boundaries too is something I’m working on; realising that just because we live in a 24/7 world, I don’t have to respond to emails and messages as they come in! X

    1. Thanks Ali!:) Yes totally, so guilty of that too, gah! I think in a funny way we’re all still learning how to incorporate technology into our lives in a way that works for us and not us for it! xx

  3. This is fantastic Julia – I have been taking a slower pace this year. Keeping up the ‘cramming 12 things into one hour’ is just not sustainable. I’m consciously being more present in all the things I do – I have my own business and three children and everything suffers if I’m not on form. What I’ve realised is that the only way to be on form is to look after yourself first. It’s great to feel that others are doing the same and that it’s ok not to be frantic. I’ve promised myself not to use the phrase “I’m too busy” anymore – just a bad mindset. Thank you again for a great post – and really interesting to read more about what you did before blogging. Laura

  4. loved this! so vulnerable and insightful. have such a total love / hate relationship with what i do … and trying to balance the demands of others with what i want to do creatively… i’m sure it’ll never quite get resolved but leaves me feeling as though i’m always letting someone down – or just juggling badly. hope your eyes have resolved themselves! and we have to get that interview in soon, when i’ve sorted my studio a bit more (🙈 panic) but maybe a coffee in the meantime 😉 xx

  5. I absolutely love this post. I think sadly a lot of people do end up burning out all too quickly because we all want to be a part of the digital world, always competing and wanting to do more and more. We have to remember to look after our wellbeing as the no. 1 priority. Thank you for a lovely post. Frankie x

    Joieandthevivre.com

  6. this is such a beautifully written blog post. I’m so glad you have a blog my friend … your writing is a treat. glad things slowing down and feel more controllable. love you, chica xxx