I’ve been writing less lately, online at least. I think I’ve become confused about what blogging means, I know I’ve definitely become confused about social media in general. Blogging used to be a platform for online storytelling a vehicle for creative non fiction. Whether the writer was weaving a story of their lives through words or images or food, there was substance. Not all of it was my cup of tea – but that’s the beauty of blogs, you scroll until you find a writer that speaks to you, in a voice you can understand.
Now more often than not I can’t understand any of it. I’m often confused by how overly monetised blogs are know. Now, I don’t regret a writer making money for their work – I think they should. I don’t think anyone should work for free unless they truly want to do so. I think that photographers should be paid for their images, writers for their stories, foodies for their recipes. Always. But the over saturation of product placement and gifted items and hashtags and bloggers pushing products left, right and centre. Sometimes tasteful and carefully crafted, but more often than not… not.
People should be paid for their work – but gratuitous gifted product placement, is that the way forward for the salary of online writers?
I look over the carefully curated posts and Instagram feeds and I can’t help but wonder what it is doing to us all. I wonder what it is doing to those who aren’t using social media as a business (because that is a different model entirely) but those who are using it personally, and trying to live up to the curated lives that are as beautiful as they are unattainable.
What is happening to our creativity when we all try to squeeze ourselves into the same carefully designed box in the hope to get more free stuff to adorn our lives with?
Do we want to create or do we want to curate?
We can create whatever life we want to live, except one that looks perfect – because a perfect life doesn’t exist. The more we buy and the more we need to create lives that mimic the little snippets we see of lives that we don’t truly know – we run the risk of losing ourselves to the consumer machine.
There will always be more. There will always be better and bigger and newer and more fashionable. But if we chase them, endlessly, we run the risk of not just being a part of the machine but becoming it. We can let go. We can filter the noise. We can disconnect for a while. We can avoid the chase. We can remove ourselves from toxic relationships. We can buy less and grow more. When everyone around us is looking for more, we can focus on the things that really matter.
We can focus on the relationships that bring us joy. We can learn skills that sustain us. We can spend more time in the sunshine. We can grow our own food. We can share what we have. We can experience the joy that comes from finding joy in the simple things.
When everyone is focussing on getting more, we can focus on making the most of living with less.
We can stop seeing happiness and success as a competitive race with the world around us.
We can focus on accepting ourselves and being grateful for the lives we already have.
Earlier this year I started to remove myself from areas of social media. I removed blog readers and social media from my phone. I removed all ‘friends’ from my friends list that I don’t have personal relationships with. I spent a lot more time focussing on who I am in real life. On the parent I am when no one is watching. On the woman I am when I am on my own. On the friend I am to those who I see face to face.
A month ago I stood up at a Neighbourhood Soup event (a micro-grant in person crowd-sourcing event where door tickets go into a pool and the audience votes for its favourite project). I stood in front of 120 people with no persona and no agenda. I told them we didn’t need the money for the project (because we didn’t – we run a moneyless project based fully on volunteerism), I spoke as myself about the need for connectedness, for our need to focus closer to home. I spoke about participatory economies and why it’s the future that we should all strive for together – as one. As a crowd they voted for my co-founded timebank Project Bunbury to receive the very generous micro-grant to grow our membership pool – to connect with those who would otherwise not be connected. Do you know why? Because people want to help each other. Because people are desperate for community. Because despite the fact we have constant online connection we are all desperate for the connections that we are missing. Those that don’t fit into a little box or a status update. Those that we can’t capture in a blog post.
Those we can’t sell for a price or a sponsorship. Those we can’t buy.
I don’t know where my future lies in the world of social media. What I do know is that focussing on growing our communities and connecting to each other is the only way forward. I’m always looking for online reads that are more created than curated. Images and stories about real lives, you can take beautiful photographs of chaos, reality shouldn’t be hidden, it’s the most beautiful thing of all.
And you know what reality costs to create? Absolutely nothing.
It’s all around us.