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Candid or composed? On the Insta tightrope

Influencing is great, but it’s important to keep it real and not allow the exposure to affect one’s mental and emotional state

Protima Tiwary says many influencers get carried away by ‘likes’ and numbers
Protima Tiwary says many influencers get carried away by ‘likes’ and numbers

Your life looks like one big vacation. So jealous!" I get this a lot, and it’s one of the things I did not want to hear when I set out to be an “influencer". For some, Instagram is social media. For the rest of us, it’s a job.

Does this mean influencing is no fun? Of course not. Influencing is great, but it’s important to keep it real and not allow the exposure to affect one’s mental and emotional state. The work you have to do on yourself is the part that is not visible to the public.

Across social media, there’s a blurred line between what’s candid and what’s composed. In this race to show off the best life, it’s possible to forget reality, something that happened to me two years ago.

I started blogging in 2012 as a hobby with a blog name that my now 30-year-old self is embarrassed to reveal. As an early adopter, I got my first event invite within a month. Before I knew it, I was flooded with invitations and was living the life. I didn’t have to pay for any of the food or alcohol I consumed at the swankiest parties in town. What more could I ask for?

I continued to grow, collecting followers and haters. I started working out religiously, and food updates turned into fitness ones. Soon, I expected praise. I allowed popularity to go to my head. I thought I deserved fame and followers.

In our quest to showcase our best selves, as influencers, we have made our entire life a satire. We ignore the bad things and curate picture-perfect moments that help us get more followers. I was often sad or frustrated about not having a good life (because it didn’t look good on Instagram, you see). For all the fitness updates I posted, none of it pointed to self-love, an irony that I understood much later.

Then, an injury put me out of action for three months, and I started practising yoga and maintained a food and gratitude journal. It’s been two years since, and today I see fitness as a balance between a strong body and healthy mind. I only accept brand partnerships that I feel add value to my audience, and refrain from doing collaborations that might make it look like life is unfair to you if you’re not an influencer.

The life of an Instagram influencer only looks perfect. It’s easy to get jealous because they’re people like you—same age, same education, maybe even from your neighbourhood. But blogging is hard work. To give you some context, let me show you what a typical week in my life is like.

Monday: Do the daily Instagram update. Company I’ve been hounding for three weeks responds, saying the collaboration needs to be done in six days. I have five days to find a photographer and create a mood board. I put up a request for a photographer on Instagram and Twitter, and sort through the applications at night.

Tuesday: Connect with the photographer and fix the time, concept and deliverables. Make the daily Instagram update, and plan the feed for the week. Sort pictures, content topics, and schedule them on an Excel sheet.

Wednesday: Make that daily Instagram update. Check Facebook and Twitter. Do some research for new collaborations. Follow-up on payments.

Thursday: Make that Instagram post. Write blog post. Promote blog post on all platforms. Research new partnerships.

Friday: Make that Instagram update. Follow up with potential brands. Follow up for payments.

Saturday: Make that Instagram update. Get ready for photoshoot. Make sure hair and make-up is on point. I have four hours to shoot with five minutes to change outfits for each look. Might have to skip lunch, so meal prep accordingly.

Sunday: Make that Instagram update. Shoot organic visual content for next week.

All this needs to fit in with my regular job, since the money in blogging is still far away. Blogging is a business, and the return on investment is probably just 0.1%. Handling a personal brand requires dedication, patience and skill, something that gets lost in the curated world of Instagram.

Negotiating with brands, working on contracts, preparing editorial and social media calendars, doing research, and planning shoots are just some of the skills needed to run a blog. Spending your own money on travel and networking are part of creating your brand.

Being authentic on social media slows down your growth but I’ve learnt how important it is to stay patient and not let numbers and likes validate your life.

In Daily Diary, professionals offer a glimpse of their career. Protima Tiwary is an Instagram influencer.

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