I’ve been writing and publishing for about eight years (even longer if we want to talk about those dreaded Xanga and LiveJournal days). But posting online has become a time-consuming process for me. First, I take the picture. (If I’m being honest, I take several pictures. Sometimes 30 to 40.) Then, I find one that works, edit it in Lightroom, run it through FaceTune to get rid of any stray hairs, come up with a caption, find relevant hashtags, share it on Instagram, share it on Facebook and monitor the posts for comments.
I’m not complaining because I’m choosing to do all of this — it’s just not as organic as it used to be. Once I improved the quality and aesthetics of my content in hopes of building my personal brand, it only seemed natural. But it does sometimes beg the question, how can I be authentic online? A few years ago, that meant throwing up a front-facing camera selfie and hashtagging it #nofilter, but I think our societal expectations have changed.
I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago and she jokingly mentioned that I tend to share picture-perfect moments every day, and then I’ll randomly make a post about how hard life has been and how I’m struggling. It probably gives all of you whiplash! I think my routine so far — only sharing the good things, lying in the caption if I need to, coming clean once I’m feeling overwhelmed — has been messy, but it’s been borne by a desire to keep it real while still keeping things light.
Here’s the thing: I don’t always want to share the bad stuff. Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know that I’m a chronic over-sharer and often have to be reeled in, and I’ve realized that it isn’t always smart to let thousands of people know every detail of my life. I now operate from the assumptions that my followers know my life isn’t perfect because I’m human, but I also don’t ever want anyone to feel bad because things seem unattainable on my blog or Instagram account. But enough of me rambling: Here are four things I do now to keep my feed aesthetically pleasing while still being honest.
1. When I’m Feeling Good, I Create A Ton Of Content
If I’m having a day where I feel motivated and creative, I’ll draft blog posts, update Pinterest and other social networks that I sometimes accidentally neglect, and take a ton of pictures. That way, on days where life kind of sucks, I don’t feel like I have to put on makeup and smile for the camera.
2. I’m Honest In My Captions
When I officially launched my blog, I focused heavily on fashion content. There wasn’t anything wrong with that, but my approach was off. A typical Instagram post included a smiling picture of me with a caption that told you where to buy my shirt. I’ve since shifted to both lifestyle and fashion, and as a result, I use my captions as a way to share what I’m really thinking. They’re often super long, but I get the best engagement on posts that have raw captions.
3. I Don’t Overthink It
If I want to post something, I post it. If I want to share a pretty picture of the sunset without getting too deep, I’ll do that. I use my personal Facebook and Twitter regularly, and I often save my wordiest posts for those platforms. That’s OK. There’s no obligation to share everything with everyone.
4. I Don’t Post If I Don’t Want To
So many of my friends feel the pressure to post 1-2 times a day because of Instagram’s algorithm and explore page. I got caught up in the same cycle until I realized:
- It wasn’t sustainable for my emotional wellbeing.
- Likes didn’t matter that much to me.
If I’m having a bad day, I’ll log off or just use an old picture (see point number one!) if I feel obligated to share. But I feel much better about myself when I’m not forcing myself to be something that I’m not, which is why I allow myself breaks.
What are your foolproof strategies for staying authentic and maintaining your brand? I’ll be in the comments if you want to chat!
Ayana Lage is a fashion and lifestyle blogger based in Tampa, Florida with a background in digital media and content marketing. She’s worked for Bustle, the Tampa Bay Times, the Miami Herald, and numerous freelance clients. As a blogger, she’s worked with 50+ lifestyle, fashion, travel and food brands. When she’s not blogging, she’s focused on her day job in digital marketing, watching Queer Eye, or laughing aloud at tweets from @dril.