Yesterday I received the tweet that every YouTuber will receive at least once when they start uploading regularly:
@iamnotlucymoon have you stopped doing YouTube? I rewatched like 20 of your videos yesterday cause I miss watching them! Upload soon please💕
— Estela Andreetta (@estelaandreetta) September 10, 2017
The desire for quick, consumable content continues and, as the lovely Estela recognised, I hadn’t uploaded for the past month. I kind of assume that people aren’t that committed to my weekly videos and that the pressure for regular content exists more so to take advantage of the algorithm, however a gap in the subscription box must be more obvious than I initially gave it credit for. People do notice and they do care, and I had vanished for a month without checking in, other than the occasional tweet or instagram. Whilst some people upload erratically, I’m ~roughly~ committed to a weekly schedule – so I’d imagine a couple of people were wondering, like Estela, why I’d stopped.
In short, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.
I often forget that my online anonymity has decreased and that I am not only a person, but also a brand. Anyone with a Twitter profile is in the same boat – we have employers looking at our pages to check that we toe the line of what’s socially acceptable, we have parents who can check up on us, and landlords who might want to make sure we aren’t going to be “too social” in our new flat. In addition to those pressures, my online presence is growing very fast. Posting on social media is a big part of my personal life, but has also become a big part of my job. It becomes hard to draw the boundaries; the lines blur when I’m deciding whether to share my feelings, photos and discussions within my usual posts and on my regular social media platforms. The conversation in replies on Twitter that was once relatively private is now viewed by thousands of people, and that’s easy to forget when only one or two might contribute. My platform has grown very slowly online up until the past year, and so I’m having to learn how to navigate a much more public online space. YouTube, as my biggest platform, is perhaps the most difficult element of that. YouTube also started as a hobby. I tend to be very honest and introspective when I talk about my life, which can sometimes mean that I have trouble gauging when I share too much, and what “too much” even is.
Too much sharing seems to have led to another new dimension to my online experience, which is hate. For a while I thought that the, for lack of a better term, catty comments were an attempt at being constructive, but as someone who is very open to criticism I couldn’t understand why taking them on board was leading to even more criticism emerging. But it’s not constructive criticism, and apologies don’t help because they always wanted their words to hurt you. It is a pool of lava that continues to bubble and nothing I can do will calm the cycle. It picks on your insecurities; it’s everything friends at school said about you behind your back but now it’s being said directly to your face. I’ve had a couple of waves of it over the past couple of months, and one particular one took a massive knock to my confidence. It’s seeped from the forums I can avoid to the comments of my videos which I have to read, and that has been really hard to deal with.
So in mid-August, after letting all of this get to me for way too long, I decided that taking some time off was necessary self care. With all of the shit that we encounter from being on social media, I think that looking after ourselves isn’t prioritised nearly as highly as it should be. I took some time for myself online and stepped away from posting tweets, photos and videos every day. I organised for a friend to start moderating my comments section. I created a private Instagram where I can share more personal photos without having to worry about branding, or sharing images of my friends and family and locations close to their homes. It gave me a month to process, and a month of relief from the pressures I’d been feeling from social media.
For some people, self care online involves having an unfollowing session and heavily curating who they follow. Some avoid online news and stick to print media. Some people delete their Facebook app to stop them from watching re-hashed viral videos and having to be confronted with Friend Number Four’s engagement photos and regular wedding planning updates. (I’ve got a couple of years before the wedding and baby photos explode onto my timeline and I’m making the most of it.) And even after all of those steps, some people need to switch off entirely and take a phoneless retreat in the Cotswolds. Each to their own – everyone has different battles with social media and we all have to work out the best way to detox. Whatever you choose to do, I am certain that it will benefit you in the short term.
After the past month, I am now a full advocate of applying self care practises to my social media use. Taking time away from posting has given me time to reflect, and I feel refreshed and with a greater sense of self-confidence. I’ve kickstarted the process of accepting that the commentary on who people think I am isn’t personal, but a reflection of the person writing it. I have always valued commentary on what I make much more than commentary on who I am, and that balance has been reaffirmed. I started this blog, which in hindsight was a clear subconscious response to the fear of making videos that had developed in me. With that subsiding, I now have two platforms that excite me where I can share my thoughts. I’ve gained so much from having a break from the rat race of regular content production and commentary on my life from outsiders, and now I’m ready to start posting again and have a renewed sense of purpose. If you’re considering a social media detox, I couldn’t recommend it enough.