Ten months, 725 posts, £1537.56 raised for PANDAS, giveaways, charity campaigns, immeasurable hours spent “connecting” with new friends while admiring others from afar, and somehow gaining nearly 5000 lovely followers, it’s fair to say that Instagram has solidly featured in 2016 (if by “solidly featured” you mean caused arguments with the Mr and taken up more time than a newborn).
It all started as a soapbox on which to stand shouting, I have thoughts. And I wrote them down. Please read, about the blog I had started pretty much on a whim.
An act of narcissism, a desire to reach out and connect, a need to have something that was mine, that could not be undone with a sweep of a charmingly pudgy limb, or a mixture of all four, the blog was my new baby and oh how it reveled in that role.
Before I knew it, between the gridded streets of Instagram and my amateur-hour WordPress site, my time was no longer my own. Minutes spent away were minutes spent thinking about what I’d do when we were reunited and it was/ is all relentlessly done for nothing but the love.
Much like parenthood, the world of web-logging offers few pats on the back and certainly no pennies paid. At first it’s only your mum and her mate reading the words you wrote, revised, deleted and despaired over late into the night when you really should have been sleeping, so it’s often difficult to justify quite why it feels so important.
But don’t for one second imagine the playing of even the world’s tiniest violin. The beauty of spending time doing something that pays nothing is that were it to be “turned off”, the app dispensed with, and hours each week reclaimed, no one would suffer, no one would starve, no one would be shivering in the cold.
But when all is tapped and posted, I’m attempting the long game.
The over-head-scissor-kick-let’s-make-this-a-hat-trick-goal I really want to score is writing, but while Instagram has leapt out of the gates like an over-enthusiastic hare, the blog and other writing opportunities are ambling along at the pace of a tired tortoise.
We all know how that story ends though…
In the meantime I’m grappling with The Gram as a creature I never expected it to become. It started as a bit of fun like that pint-sized puppy I excitedly borrowed from a mate for a morning before I realised that pushchairs and small confused animals on leads don’t mix.
After a few hours spent tripping each other up and repeatedly cooing, “Come on” in a voice saccharine enough to rot teeth, in that case I was happy to hand her back. But when it comes to Instagram, that most seductive of mistresses – opportunity – had slipped her hot hand in mine and was leading somewhere I’d never even considered.
I’ll happily/ slightly cringingly admit that I started to think about what life could be like if I persevered, because I realised that this funny little hobby that I’m slightly embarrassed about, which most of my almost-millienial mates don’t really understand, could actually help me achieve my aims.
But with that realisation came another, because when it comes to the rules of how to play this gridded game of The Gram, I’m groping blindly in the dark.
What happens, for example, when a person you are following because you enjoy their honesty (as honest as any moment frozen in time can ever be – it’s really the difference between an image captioned “Beyonce throws shade at love-rival Rhianna”, when the video reveals she was actually about to sneeze) takes cold hard cash-money from a brand?
They attach #paid to a post and the questions inevitably surface. Are they selling out? Is this honest? Where is the integrity? Does this mark a change of direction, a departure? Is it only about the money? How much loyalty do people have? Will they be mean? Will they (the horror) unfollow?
And does any of that matter anyway?
Is it good, is it bad, afterall it’s just a little #ad (does throwing some rhyme into the mix lighten the mood?), and surely we all need The Money?
And, with these agonising over-thoughts, questions and the clear paralysis of a mind too eager for approval, have I yet made it clear that I’m talking about myself?
What’s going to happen when you lovely lot realise that over the next three weeks the much-maligned #ad will be making its inaugural appearance across my feed?
Only four times it’s only four posts four posts out of many I’ll make sure the others are good really good so people don’t hate me they won’t hate me they’ll understand it’s an experiment an experience I don’t ever have to do it again don’t worry I’ll keep my “voice” I’ve wankily insisted on that and if they make me change my voice they can do one and on and on and on… the goofy-eyed, desperate hamster running on the wheel in my mind has been squeaking this way for weeks.
Because the hard, unvarnished truth is that it IS (in part) about money. You come here for honesty? Well, that is mine.
So when someone came knocking and offered to pay me to do something I would do anyway, then the slightly stroppy side of my brain stamped her foot and said well why shouldn’t I?
But call it fate, serendipity, bad or good luck, the same week I was approached, the boss of one of Instagram’s favourite families, @mother_of_daughters, was unceremoniously splattered head-to-toe in mud slung by some members of her it-turns-out-not-so-faithful following.
The awareness that around her neck hangs a World Cup winner’s medal while I reside at the foot of the GM Vauxhall Conference, didn’t make the shit in my knickers feel any less lumpy, or smell any better. That tap-fight felt nasty, personal, and ultimately hurtful for someone just trying to make a dime, and I realised there was a lot more to this than I’d thought.
The case of what’s the difference between real people endorsing products and celebrities doing it; the argument of would you really turn down the opportunity to get paid for something you do for free; the question of why should people turn down payment if they provide entertainment and support at a cost to them of time and effort; and the accusations of jealousy and #hatersgonnahate, have already been made by countless followers alongside the inimitable force that is @mother_pukka.
It’s a strong argument it’s true, but lingering in my background is an awareness that the very people (you) who have facilitated this opportunity, are the exact same ones I stand to lose by taking it.
So here is my disclaimer, a contract you can throw in my face should I fail to adhere.
I respect your opinion if you find it distasteful and I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise, I’m just hoping you won’t jump ship just yet.
The vast vastness of vast-city majority of my posts are still going to be written by me with no purpose except to offer a laugh, a thought, or a moment of compadre-ly companionship in those “It can’t just be me” moments.
This (imagine me gesturing wildly, phone in hand, towards my computer screen) is one big experiment, I’m clueless about its direction or destination, but I don’t want to let fear of what people might think stop me trying.
And, not least, if I can earn for four posts on Instagram, what I’d be paid for TWO AND A HALF DAYS as a supply teacher, it seems clear to me that 1. the world is insane, but also 2. ‘gramming, and social-media-managing offer levels of flex previously seen only on the sprung floors of the Olympics, and I think I’d be daft not to make that leap.
In the words of my esteemed leaders, Digital Mums, this really is #workthatworks (#notanAD ;-).
So imagine me now rushing to finish this blog post sat in a branch of Costa (their tea is shite but it’s cheap). Time is doubling-down on me with the imminent death of my battery – I’m many metres and several strangers away from the nearest plug socket – and the clock ticks ever closer to the time the Grandparents down tools and depart.
But having got to the end of this rather long post (soz), I want to leave you with this thought – I’m willing to admit that maybe this #paid tag isn’t all good, but perhaps it isn’t all bad either.
And truth be told, I’m hoping, really, really hoping, you can feel a tiny spark of joy for the oddest of opportunities in this world as I head off into the night to achieve the impossible – getting paid to do bath time.