Stay in your lane: Finding a place in the social media machine

As an über private and conservative social-media holdout, there’s been times in the past 18 months that I hardly recognized myself.  In the years of their existence I was never tempted by MySpace and there’s not not a trace of me on Facebook.  I fell out of love with Instagram after a brief stint in the early days to the point that I completely deleted the account.  But sewing changed all of that in the spring of 2017 around the time I decided I wanted a fully handmade wardrobe.

I’d been hungrily consuming blogs and YouTube videos from sewists around the world and greedily wanted more.  All the big names mentioned their Instagram accounts and I knew that’s where I needed to be.  Still, I was unsure about how much exposure I could handle so I dipped a toe in the water with an anonymous account. 

So what’s my problem with social media anyway?  Admittedly, my feelings on this are not perfectly defined.  I’d even admit to a bit of contradiction in my outlook.  In general I resist the idea that a digital presence can in any way be a substitute for in-person interaction.  But as is common with most sewists, I find that opportunities to bond over this shared passion in real life are scarce. And then there is of course the desire to share what I’ve accomplished with people who really get what was involved in making it.  That’s not to discount the encouragement of my incredibly loving and supportive family and friends.  There’s just something about recognition from someone who’s been there before and who’s not more inclined to move quickly to another topic.

So, I’ve been putting myself out there somewhat regularly for a while and to be completely honest my experience has been nothing but positive.  Heck, I even started this blog. The sewing community truly is such a positive place to be.  With their support I’ve not only been inspired to complete more complicated projects than I ever imagined, but I’ve been equipped with the skills needed to get there.

So again, why the struggle? It’s basically internal.  I’m definitely prone to overthinking and overanalyzing and after putting this out there to the community, I’ve found I’m not the only one. In fact hearing everyone’s feedback was so reassuring, I wanted to share your comments as a bit of a therapy session.  Because even without any major resolution, knowing we are not alone can be very heartening and just may be the most valuable thing of all.

One of the most echoed feelings expressed in my query was concern for oversharing- either for privacy, lack of interest by followers or shame of attention-seeking.  I love this quote from @heatherandthepugs who admitted, “It’s such a weird concept.  Like hey everybody here is a photo of me - please like it and give me complements.”    I’m totally with you, Heather!  When did that become okay?  A fellow introvert @annyongsittinginatree had this to say, “It’s strange to share what feels to me like journal entries in a public space.”  And @pistolwhip must have read my mind when she wrote, “I sometimes feel a little cringey about my real life, non-sewing friends being subjected to a thousand pictures of me modeling clothes!  Like, does it seem embarrassing/unseemly/vain to them?  Who do I think I am anyway?”  Amen, sister!  Another like mind is @commesew_commeca who says, “I’m constantly torn with posting and just deleting my Instagram altogether.”   I’ve been there!  Some of us struggle with how much we should post.  Like @rach_wain who’s conundrum rang so true: “I feel like I can only share my makes once.  I personally don’t like it when someone posts the same thing about 10 times, preceded by 5 or 6 sneak peeks.  But the opposite is that we put so much time and effort into something why shouldn’t we share it loads?!  So hard to find a balance.”  Yes it is!  Quite a few respondents mentioned concern for safety as well, like @girlsinthegarden who wrote, “I don’t show my kids or grand kids.  I tend not to show vacation photos until I am back home.”   Another concern can be bots or creepy accounts. @ionasews worries, “I don’t like being ‘out there’ for anyone to see.“  A viable option comes from @whatsarimakes who says, “I made this account public so I can connect to other crafters via hashtags...otherwise my accounts are super locked down.”

I was also surprised to hear from a couple of ultra-shy ladies who use their accounts only to follow others.  For example  @abbyonpurpose10 who is a self-proclaimed “total creeper” that doesn’t post any of her own makes for fear she isn’t “prolific enough to keep followers engaged” or @julifelis1 who shared this with me: “I have never posted anything.  I feel weird mixing my sewing world and my real world.  It’s stupid, but I cannot get myself to post.”  I don’t think it’s stupid at all, Julie.  I think a lot of us feel the same, but our desire to share is stronger.  Take @soisewedthis for example.  She confesses, “I don’t actually like taking and posting photos of myself!!  But I love connecting with other sewers and I like having a record of what I sew, so I keep doing it anyway.”  And your’re doing it well, Amber, judging from your 10k following!

That leads me to another area of concern: self promotion can feel really icky, but what how else can one get more involved?  Introvert @nikkischreiner wonders “if all at-home jobs now require “being ‘on’ and on top of all the social networking.”  I tend to agree!  This world is changing too fast for me. (anyone recognize that B.R. quote??)  @theunfinishedseamstress brought up a common practice I don’t mind others doing but I personally can’t stomach.  She says “I’m not at all comfortable requiring people to follow me for any giveaways or challenges - so I don’t.” @threadsnips wrote, “I feel very weird at being ‘good at social media’ and I hate how much it has taken over both my professional and personal life.”  And if growth or involvement in the community don’t come about organically as we might like, it can be a disappointment.  @jack.stich laments, “I want exposure, I want to be a big part of the community.  I hate writing blog posts, though and I really don’t like to constantly post several photos of the same garment…But we can’t get sponsored unless we have tons of followers and I can’t get tons of followers if I’m not posting things all the time.  It’s like living in this perpetual loop of feeling conflicted…”  Exhausting, right?                                                                                                     

I found it interesting how most of those who consider this whole game a struggle still expresssd a lot of positive feelings. @meesh.made says, “I try not to post something ‘just becuase’.  I would like to  think I’m contributing to the community rather than just stoking my own ego.”  @hannahmcorey does feel she needs to be selective of what she shares with her mixed group of followers but in the end writes, “I’m grateful for the people I’ve met through the sewing community here!”  A very common sentiment!  @ailz_ agrees that the benefits outweigh potential awkwardness.  She says, “I find it incredibly helpful to see people wearing things I’m thinking of making.”  Isn’t that the best?!  @annyongsittinginatree, a struggler quoted previously even says, “honestly I would have never started sewing it it wasn’t for the instagram hashtags.”  Now that’s saying something!

Now how about some tips and reflections from some of the more well-adjusted social media users?  One of my favorites comes from @sewshelagh who keeps it simple: “I take a break every now and again and don’t use social media for a week or two.” Nothing like a palate cleanser to set us right!  A breezy chill perspective comes from @omolsmadeit who wrote, “I just sew for fun and post stuff I make when I feel like it...I have nothing to promote.”  @stitch.and.press.ahn shares a similar perspective.  She says, “it’s a way to connect with other like minded crafters and get inspired. I have ideas of my own and feel inclined to share. I’m grateful for all the shameless posters, for I have learned so much.”  Now why can’t everything be this simple?  @hann_made makes an excellent point: “even if people are posting content to promote a pattern or fabric company I find it useful and relevant to the account I chose to follow.”  Of course! Anyone can choose to unfollow an account they find to be too salesey.  With regards to posting content unrelated to sewing @patsypoomakes welcomes “little snippets.”  She writes, “in this Pinterest perfect age we live in, a little realness goes a long way.”  Confidence guru @mlemaust may be the most at ease of all.  She says, “If I love seeing what others are doing, then I feel confident that people are following me and watching my stories for the same reason. People are hungry and thirsty for inspiration...they want to see someone passionate about something.   Don’t confuse self-promotion with passion...Show people what a passion for life looks like.”  BoomLast but not least, because we all know it but sometimes need a reminder, from @pistolwhip: “ultimately, who cares what anyone thinks!” 

For me this has been such a positive exercise!  Thank you to everyone who was so open and willing to share their feelings on the topic.  I’ve compiled my takeaway into a little social media mantra that I hope will keep me in my lane, and I invite you to do the same.

1. I will strive to offer something of value

2. I will show up to learn

3. I will complement and encourage others freely

4. I will pass on that which does not benefit me

xo April

p.s. I did my very best to pass along all of the feedback I received.  Please forgive me if I failed to mention you.  And this doesn’t have to be the end of it!  Feel free to leave a comment to voice your option.  I’d love to hear from you!