Hello — it’s been a while hasn’t it? (Haven’t you noticed the virtual tumbleweed around here?) Things have been changing, in both the online world and my life, and I’m sharing this to make sense of it all…
Trying to find the words in a world of haste.
Over the past few months I’ve exhaled numerous drafts of this article, and although in some I can find the correct sound, I can’t put my finger upon the melody. Why haven’t you blogged? I mumble something non-committal. I noticed you haven’t posted on Instagram in ages. I flatten my lips like a stave.
I wonder, have all the minutes I’ve spent on social media caused this embarrassing diminuendo of my writing voice? Trapped by the transient timeframes of Instagram and Twitter, have the essays, articles and blogs I so loved typing shrunk to their 280-character equivalents? It feels that, perhaps, all this scrolling has made me scared to post what I really want to say.
Blogging has changed, and what’s expected no longer works for me.
Five years after I started this site, blogging as I knew it has transformed. Back then I was one of a dozen or so in Scotland who were sharing their travels regularly. Press trips in those days were relaxed affairs, devoid of contracts or diva moments; it felt like an exciting time and bloggers seemed flattered to be asked along on behalf of a brand they admired.
Social media growth was organic; buying followers wasn’t yet a ‘thing’ and Twitter and Instagram showed new content chronologically. But we forget that money makes the world go round. Facebook and friends realised that they could now monetise their popular platforms; a new industry called influencer marketing sprung up, allowing those with an engaged following to craft a full-time career from their content.
It was new and I said yes to some of the opportunities that were out there. Yet as the years passed, the promise of payment for my photos and words bizarrely began to blight the joy that creating content had initially given me. I began to get anxious; a part of me felt like I was selling out, lending my mouth to commerce rather than my creativity.
This feeling that I was experiencing coincided with even bigger changes in the digital world. Every third post I scrolled past on social media was now an advertisement. Algorithms were determining my relevance, not showing my content to my audience if I dared to take a month off. And a bigger backlash against a new army of influencer-bloggers and their sponsored posts made headlines. This world — if I wanted to be a part of it — required me to spend my free time ‘engaging’ with my audience, developing new blog ideas, being constantly stuck to a screen. By late 2017, I was struggling.
Returning to the root of it all, the reason: my love of writing.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, changes in my life this year have got me reconsidering my relationship with blogging and social media. There are two main things that have sparked this. One, I started a daily yoga practice at the start of 2018, which has really made me reflect on what drives my happiness. Two, we swapped our rented inner-city Edinburgh tenement for a little house near the Fife countryside where we can see trees (trees!) from our windows. As these changes forced me to slow down I wondered: in this world of landscapes, love, learning, travel, family, just being — is online growth something I want to pin my success on at the expense of what I truly want to do?
The answer is no. Over these past few years I’ve put my love of writing on a side plate, letting myself get distracted by the instant gratification of self-publication and social media engagement which is served up for those who dedicate enough time to it. I’ve been so busy wondering what will please an online audience that I’ve forgotten what I actually want, that is, to write. Through the ever-present digital dissonance, I can hear a faint melody. I’m hoping it might be mine.
Lastly, a thank you — and a call for recommendations.
I know some of you probably just stop by for coffee-table words and pictures of Scotland. And that won’t change — I’ll still be sharing ‘stories from Scotland’, just in a slightly different way. And if I can ask one favour? Leave me some recommendations in the comments.
Send me links to some breath-stopping blogs, the kind written like a journal entry or crafted like a novel. Tell me who your favourite journalist is; that one person who manages to put the news on paper poetically. And leave your book lists: fiction, non-fiction and everything in between (just maybe not chick-lit).
Thank you — hope to see you here again soon.