Thursday, September 06, 2018

Unrealistic and Staged Content


This week, blogger and YouTuber "Scarlett London" set her latest collaboration live. Now, for an online influencer, this isn't really that out of the ordinary. You may even think, okay - why is this even news? And you're not wrong. Why is this news?

It all started on August the 31st, when a Twitter user under the name of @hintofsarcasm shared the image above and captioned it "Fuck off this is anybody's normal morning. Instagram is a ridiculous lie factory made to make us all feel inadequate." He then went on to tweet how this idealistic view is very different from his actual morning routine. Now, I'm not disputing his comment at all, anyone is free to have their own views, especially on the internet, it's full of opinions and I'm so here for it. I love seeing people have important discussions about various different topics.

However, this wouldn't just be a throwaway comment that no-one would remember the next day. The tweet quickly went viral, with thousands and thousands of people adding to the thread - and some even felt compelled to go over to Scarlett's Instagram page and comment something directly, to ensure that she would see it. Now, again...opinions are FINE and great but there is a pretty mighty fine line between what is and what isn't okay to say to someone. I think this is one of the biggest problems that we face when putting ourselves out there online, the "audience" we have sometimes seem to forget that we're actual real-life people, with feelings. The comments I've seen regarding Scarlett this week have been insane and far from acceptable.

It's okay not to enjoy staged content but death threats will never be okay, in any context.

 So, let's discuss the underlying issue - the rise of staged online content. Is it as terrible as it seems? 

Once upon a time, Instagram was probably, ironically, one of the most unfiltered social media platforms out there. The images uploaded didn't need to be heavily produced, you could just snap a picture of whatever you were doing at the time, pop a filter over the top and BOOM, all your pals would like it and that would be that. Over the years, with the influx of new bloggers and vloggers and other online creatives,  the quality of what is expected on Instagram seems to become greater and greater, every single day. It almost does feel impossible to keep up and this only got worse when Instagram decided to mess around with the algorithm, which makes it nearly impossible to grow on the platform anymore. 

But I don't think we should hate on this overly produced content. After all, photography and filmmaking have always been considered as a form of art, so why is this suddenly picked apart the second it comes from a woman on the internet, making some money from it? It's a question I would really love the answer to.

I'm only a tiny person on the internet. I don't have brand deal offers in my inbox, every day of the week but I have had my own experience of doing them in the past...

The second you accept a sponsorship, you are accepting to do a large amount of work. Brands will look at your writing, your videos, your photography skills and they want you replicate that sort of content, featuring their product. When influencers tag their posts with #AD, it means exactly that - it's an advertisement. 

Now, there are so many examples of advertisements and how they create an idyllic image, that you will want to buy into. For example, when "boohoo.com" wanted to promote their latest summer pieces, they created an advert that showed an idealistic view of the festival season, so you'll watch and buy into that image. In real life, festivals aren't that perfect. You'll be met with overly persistent gross men, be knee deep in mud and let's not forget the horrific toilet situation but, of course, they don't show you that because then you wouldn't want to buy into the image. It's just straightforward marketing. 

And this sort of thing can be found anywhere, by any brand. Another popular example is fast food adverts. They make their food look like the most exquisite, appetising thing that will ever touch your lips - and the intention of their advert works because you'll soon experience the most intense cravings for that food because, in your mind, it will be just as incredible as it was on screen. However, the reality is quite sobering and every single time, the food looks nothing like it did on TV. The worst culprit for this has to be McDonald's. Their adverts always look incredible but when you actually buy their food, it kind of looks like someone has been sat on your meal for at least 20 minutes, before handing you your order. The disappointment is real. 

Now, you could argue that the difference between advertisements with well-known brands and influencers is that you expect bloggers and online creatives to be much more relatable and that's totally valid. I think the relatable factor was what made so many influencers popular in the first place. I remember being a young teen and being obsessed with Zoella because she was just a normal gal but obviously, over time, money became no object to her and her posts were more centred around herself living in her £1million house, with her dog. That is no way relatable to me, so I stopped watching. 

Earlier this year, I was going to write a post discussing whether bloggers were still relatable but I never hit publish, for some reason. In that post, I sort of realised that it's impossible for a blogger or anyone online to be deemed relatable to everyone because we're all so different, our realities are not always going to align. When scrolling through Scarlett's Instagram, on the surface, of course, it isn't relatable to me but I also think she uses her Instagram as a creative outlet, which should always be encouraged. On the other hand, if Scarlett had have done a much more realistic spin on that sponsorship, I just honestly don't think it would have done as well, in terms of engagement and likes. YouTuber "Brittney Lee Saunders" recently posted on her Instagram stories, where she said how she often gets comments from people saying that they want to see real life and relatable content, but the more produced and staged posts are the ones that usually do the best - and it's true. I personally never see minimalistic posts do as well as the more produced style of content.

I've seen many comments which say that Instagram feeds that show unrealistic and staged content are a huge contributor as to why young girls struggle mentally...because they're comparing themselves. I've thought a lot about this statement and I just don't think I agree. The first time I started showing signs that I was struggling mentally, I was 11 years old. Instagram didn't exist and I don't think I had any social media accounts, apart from maybe a Bebo account but let's all pretend that never existed. I do think social media is quite a toxic environment for anyone, no matter how young or old you are and I think you can easily fall trap to comparing yourself to everyone, it can be a pretty vicious cycle.

I saw a tweet from Vix Meldrew and she said "If you feel inadequate looking at images like this, and then feel the need to belittle Scarlett on social media then it says a lot about you as a person"

And I have to agree. There will always be people who seem utterly perfect. It's like whatever you can do, they can do it so much better. We will also always have FOMO, we will probably always compare ourselves to some aspect, but if I've learnt anything this year, it's that you need to safeguard yourself and do what you think is best for your own sanity. Sometimes, you will come across people that make you feel insecure or they might trigger certain memories or feelings and every time you see their name pop up, you forget how to even breathe. It happens. But you don't need to be venomous and spread unnecessary hate. Just unfollow/mute/block and move on. It's really that simple and don't ever feel guilty for the steps you have to take to get through the day but remember: it's never okay to be so nasty over something as silly as an image on Instagram. 

Everyone always talks about how many bloggers and influencers there are around these days and it's always said in quite a negative light, like, maybe there isn't enough room for us all, but I think it's a good thing. That means there are bloggers out there for us all. If you don't like the staged and unrealistic content, there will be the perfect lifestyle blogger out there, waiting for you. Don't waste your time following people who make you question your own worth. 

If you have any thoughts on this topic, feel free to leave them below in the comments!
sophie.
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