So you want to start revealing yourself to the world. You feel you’ve got something interesting to say or your starting up a new business and can’t wait to see it take shape. Then that dream is so quickly faded that you lose all hope.
I’ll try to restore your faith by introducing myself to all the lovely new followers I’ve had over on Instagram (All 700 of them). I’m Ashleigh, I’m 27, I live in the Norfolk Countryside, I’m 3 years married and we’ve recently lost our baby girl Maddison due to stillbirth with no confirmed outcome. In this sentence alone, people generally wouldn’t be interested in the first 4 facts, but then suddenly shocked by the 5th. This is the power of social media. You will interpret my life depending on what I tell you, after your initial thoughts of the picture I showed you.
Since Instagram first came around, I’ve had no more than about 350 followers. I was ok with that, a good proportion of them would engage with what I was saying and fed back positive things about the way I wrote my blog etc… fast forward to June 2019 and that following doubled, plus some. In the grand scheme of things, a following of around 700 or so, isn’t exactly something a ‘blogger’ would aspire to achieve, but I did. Initially, people want large followings quickly, purely because the more engagement a post gets, the more people see it and the higher chance it has of popping up first on your home screen, it’s the typical Instagram algorithm. However, I knew that from the moment I started writing my blog, I am a little different to the majority of people on IG that gained large followings fairly quickly, which is why I haven’t.
I’m not all that into fashion, so I can’t post about my outfit of the day #ootd because the likelihood is that I’ll have worn it so many times in the past that it means nothing to people. I also don’t love my figure, I don’t hate it but I don’t love it in order to make it a ‘selling point’ in gaining attention. However, you’d be wrong in saying that I don’t post to attract attention. I do.
My passion and my hobby, is writing. It gives me the same feeling that my husband gets when he’s on a football pitch, a release of some sort and just general enjoyment. This enjoyment is heightened when I learn of someone else that has also read this and honestly taken something from it, a bit like when my husband plays a match and there’s spectators watching in support, the method is the same. In our lives we thrive off acceptance and praise and we get knocked down by negativity and jealousy. The statistic will fall that if you are praised more for the efforts you have made or good things you do at work, you are likely to put in twice as much effort and gain a more productive or impressive outcome within your career. I can vouch for this. Therefore there is no difference when it comes to our social lives, we seek acceptance from our spouses day in day out and in turn we want to do things for their benefit and for the good feeling we get from ‘giving’. Whether or not you decide to share a part of yourself on social media, you are still seeking acceptance elsewhere.
So, back to the topic of followers… I started to question why it was fair that after 4 years of trying hard with a blog and with my writing, that the same people were wanting to read, but no more. Then, when I lost Maddison, that figure doubled. Initially I assumed that people only really want to know when you’ve been through trauma so that they can feel better about their own lives, and that’s why the followers came, because all of a sudden I could be pitied. I soon realised how wrong that concept was and how grateful I am for that small number of 700 people that want to engage with me. I am more approachable now and even more so, I am more relatable. I know what it’s like to feel at your lowest and I just happen to be someone that doesn’t care to hide it. I want to organically connect with people who care to listen, and in turn find out about them, why they connect to the things I am writing and what I may gain from their stories in return. Instagram should never be a one way street and for me personally, it never is. I’m not the hypocrite that wants people to read my posts but isn’t willing to read others back, I base a lot of my research through blogs and we wouldn’t ever have had the amazing holidays that we have without the power of someone else’s past experience. It also works especially well local to where you live. If there’s a pretty photo spot or a quirky restaurant that I won’t find on TripAdvisor, I know where I can go to find it. Building a community is part of the enjoyment of social media and it shouldn’t be overlooked in order to get attention fast.
I searched high and low for a blog written by the mother of a stillborn baby girl as I sat in the hospital awaiting induction of labour. I needed to see some evidence that I was going to be able to get through this and be ok. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much accessible that wasn’t in the form of newspaper articles outlining a families situation and details of what happened. I searched everywhere for the accounts of raw feelings felt by parents at their most vulnerable. This is when I decided to share my own, not because I believed there to be a thousand people around me that could instinctively connect with what I was saying, or that I wanted to open myself up as a pity party so that people could feel sorry for me, but so that you could all read it and make yourself more aware so that in the future, when you know of someone in this unfortunate situation, you have a tool to to be able to take to them. I know in our situation, to have read something like this, it would have helped. It can also encourage the gruelling decision making process during as times as dark as these. It can be hard to fathom how to react, what to do and what choices to make, but by having something there as an example, maybe it will encourage others to really consider whether or not they spend time with their baby or decide to know what they look like etc. There’s no worse feeling than being robbed of your own choice because the emotional trauma was too much that you now have to live with regret.
To summarise, this is why I’m grateful that I have gained a few more followers over on the grid. I do it for the love of writing and what better subject do we know more than ourselves, so for me it’s the logical thing to write about. I want people to make connections with it, even if it just takes 5 minutes out of their day with a hot cup of tea to take time to themselves and hopefully make them smile, then my aim is achieved. I don’t need thousands of people who don’t care about me to follow my feelings and I ask that if you have no connection, to unfollow because it must be annoying following a girl that likes the sound of her own voice. However, as I previously mentioned, I learn so much from other’s too that I want to engage with the writer and I love that I have curated my feed to reflect that. I’m not where you should come for beauty advice, so I don’t seek it out in return. I have absolute admiration for those that have worked their ass off to look good in a crop top and cycling shorts but if I’m met with a cute picture of them followed by nothing more than a pair of eyes or kiss emoji’s, then I have no interest. I feel self conscious enough about the fact I’ve got a baby pouch but no baby, let alone seeing a mum rocking her best figure and portraying her baby as an accessory to the outfit that it would only cause me harm to follow a profile like that. But that should never be taken in the wrong context, because if your a new mum and wanting to find a way to get back in the gym and shred the baby weight so that you can feel as good as they look then that should be your motivation and they are the exact people you should be following, but don’t do it to yourself if you’ve never been that way, it’s wrong on so many levels. I’ve learnt that I want to be the person who’s story will touch just one person that might follow me on a regular basis, but in doing so, that person will be happy to tell their parents about it and encourage a new topic of conversation over coffee. The people who stop me in the street or reach out to share their kind words mean so much more than a high figure displayed at the top of a profile. Life should always be about balance. I will use an example of my husband who rarely uses social media to actually post, but has curated a feed to reflect what makes him happy, so that he can comfortably spend an hour looking through Instagram and save countless pictures of T-shirt’s, shoes or travel locations etc for reference later. He has therefore on occasion unfollowed close friends because the content they post just isn’t his thing and breaks up his feed of things he uses it for. This was of no disrespect to them and he is more than happy to text pictures back and forth of their life updates but it’s just not what he wants to gain from his use on social media, therefore there is no wrong in doing this. I’m not saying go and unfollow all your friends, but rather be more mindful of what you want to get out of social media. If seeing someone else’s life in such a way is making you compare your own in a negative context, you have the ability to change it. Likewise, if people decide that your thing isn’t for them, ultimately you should respect they are just doing the same. We are all individuals and we like different things.
It’s a huge step in talking out after the trauma you’ve experienced and so I do want to thank everyone who has engaged and continues to discuss their own circumstances or situations with me as well as those who just want to wish me well. It means a lot that you take the time to read and learn and I’m grateful for having you here. Thank you.