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I’ve been thinking about this post for almost two months now, it’s one of those controversial topics that people don’t like to share because it does and will have consequences. Except that when it comes to the opinion of people that are irrelevant to me, I honestly don’t care. I don’t ever want to hurt anyone but at the same time, I have zero intention of pleasing them – this post is about the expectations that we are all authentic bloggers, however, for some their online persona really falls short in real life.
Admittedly, I’m not an overly friendly person. I can’t deal with prolonged small talk, I don’t bother with ‘girl politics’ (I know that’s an incredibly un-feminist thing to say but look, it’s just a thing that exists) and I am kind of clueless when it comes to ‘faking it’. Once I was asked what after-party I was attending during Fashion Week and I was like, ‘none?’ and I know that was the wrong answer and I should have blabbed my way through it but I literally could not be bothered to think up a half-truth. And that is also why I struggle so deeply with the socializing and peacocking involved with FW. In spite of my innate lack of warmth, I try my best to share as much as I know with you, my readers, and I respond to all my comments and try to learn the names of people that I see on my feed all the time. I care about real relationships and have no time for pretence.
However, there’s a big problem in my industry. And no it’s not the algorithm or the issue of paying bloggers; it’s a lot
more intimate than that. It’s the huge disconnect between online personalities versus real life. Where I work we have data that shows that nearly half of global social media users under 30 wish they were whom they described to be online. We could infer that this refers to how they wish that they looked as airbrushed in real life, as skinny as their FaceTuned-self or as interesting as they suggest from the array of locations that they visit.
But consider this – how many of us wish that we were as in nice real life as we act online? Some of us are already genuinely lovely but even when we don’t feel like being our usual perky selves – with social pressures and reputation that comes with being an online presence, we seem to care a lot more about our behavioral footprint on Instagram than we do offline. Particularly in the culture of fashion and beauty blogging, there are a lot of affectionate terms thrown around in our interactions – ‘babe’, ‘hun’, and ‘sweetie’, to name a few – you’d think we were talking to our pets! I’m guilty of it too but the problem isn’t the vocabulary. It is actually the subconscious perpetuation of a false personality. I would like to clarify now that I really am that nice to you if we’re friends but otherwise, I promise I’m polite but I’m certainly not huggable. In fact, please don’t hug me.
However, even then, some people that you meet in real life from the virtual world aren’t even polite.
The first time it happened, it dawned on me very gradually. I had an uneasy feeling about the incident but I wrote it off because I know I am quite sensitive to other people’s energy and also, it wasn’t even a big deal. The story goes like this: I once shot with a very high profile photographer whilst I had an even humbler following. I don’t want to make things too obvious because the world of Instagram is surprisingly small and this is not about personally attacking anyone, instead painting a picture of a problem that needs to be addressed. In person the photographer was incredibly polite but reserved – nothing wrong with that right? But compared to how that person behaved with other individuals, ones that they believed could offer them something, whatever that ‘something’ was – I noticed a stark difference. Furthermore, to confirm my suspicions, after a friend experienced a recent success, this person started warming
up to him and went from ignoring him at meet-ups to becoming very friendly. This photographer didn’t leave me with a great impression when we first met and in retrospect, I have even less praise for them now.
Imagine if you treated everyone that you saw as ‘valueless’ differently. Realistically, the number of people that can have a huge impact on our professional lives is a stark minority. So think about the majority that you’re excluding, making them feel inferior for the benefit of your ego. A huge warning sign of someone who behaves this way are those that name drop incessantly and only ever boast about the achievements of their friends. From countless experiences, I can tell you that you need to measure your trust in them if you encounter someone like this. And on the other hand, if you fit that description, please reconsider the way you’re acting.
Take all of this into the world of fashion blogging and it gets much uglier. As bloggers, we’re meant to be a bridge between traditional media and the young demographics that are looking for something authentic, responsive and reactionary. We’re meant to be democratic without the hierarchy of an established industry. We’re meant to be the ‘friend’ to our followers. Yet so many of us are not. Some of us see our numbers primarily as commercial leverage. Others view themselves as simply ‘above’. I’m not an extroverted person but I can turn on the social switch if I attend events – it’s purely the professional thing to do. I have friends that are very shy in public but there’s a notable difference between this and arrogance.
Once I attended an event where I met an influencer who was incredibly chatty and from our conversation it seemed like we had a lot in common. I bumped into her again at a large party, perhaps just two weeks later and approached her to say hello, except that she completely blanked me – and she was the one that made such a show about us meeting up again!
It’s interesting to note that at work, one of the highest and most consistent points of data that I’ve ever come across, is that 90% of people believe it is important to be who you say you are. To be an authentic person is so valued by others, yet there are so many people who simply are not and use this as a currency to get ahead.
The world of blogging, if you aren’t already aware, is one big Lindsay Lohan movie. And if someone is alone at one event but has a friend with her at another, it’s probable that she’s going to wear a different mask. It’s happened so many times that I’ll just bore you if I were to list them all. And the reason for my disappointment isn’t naivety. You may think, well obviously there are going to be fake girls in an industry that’s partially built on aesthetics and popularity. The reason I feel so let down by my peers is because they are following the stereotype model of our mother industry, Fashion. Except with the major and critical difference that we are so valuable to our audiences and to brands because we aren’t elitist.
Model: Stae, @nama.stae shot by me