By Lateefah Jean-Baptiste
Remember the early days of social media? The days when the only editing we did to our pictures was slap Valencia on top of a selfie or random picture of a sunset? Back then, the idea of creating content was foreign to us, and we posted selfies and random group pictures of our friends on platforms like Myspace and Bebo for the fun of it.
Fast-forward to today, content creation and cleverly-planned aesthetics seem to be the primary focus of social media, regardless of whether you’re an influencer or not. “Explore” and “For You” pages on platforms like TikTok, for instance, are now full of everyday people filming their daily activities, from morning routines to skin care regimes and “Day in the Life” vlogs.
With popular sounds on Instagram encouraging us to “be the content,” the idea that we can gain fame and fortune by recording our daily activities is enticing for many Zoomers and those who grew up using social media. “Contentifying” our daily lives is often presented by social media influencers as an easy route into the global digital content creation industry, which has been expected to reach $38.2 billion by 2030. The desire to create content and become an influencer is one that some creators have managed to capitalize on by selling courses on how to build a platform and become popular online.
After all, we already do these things every day, so we might as well record it. This was my thought process when, after months of watching random “Day in the Life” and morning routine videos on my own Instagram and TikTok feeds, I finally caved into the temptation and stopped letting my anxiety about posting online get in the way. I decided to tap into my college media editing skills by making my own videos sharing various parts of my routines such as morning routines and weekend vlogs.
I started creating content for two reasons: firstly, because I made a pact with myself that I would stop letting fear stop me from trying things that I wanted to do, or that made me uncomfortable. Secondly, as the founder of a new online platform for writers, Career Girl Collective, I knew it was important for me to get to grips with content creation, especially with Instagram focusing more on short-form video content.
However, I quickly realized that content creation wasn’t as easy as it may look. Take it from someone who’s been there: for every great camera angle you see in an Instagram Reel, I can almost guarantee that the creator recorded it at least 10 times before finding that perfect shot. It also quickly became apparent that as I filmed more and more content, I became slightly obsessed with it. For instance, I would re-record footage over and over again until I was happy with the lighting and the angles, and I wouldn’t stop editing until the transitions were smooth as could be. I did all this only for me to watch the video again, and decide not to post it because of something insignificant like my hand shaking in a 0.3 second shot of me holding a coffee!
It was at this point that I realized that my urge to “contentify” my life made social media more daunting than enjoyable, as I had lost focus of the main reasons I set up the platforms in the first place. As a result, after actively making content for six months, I deleted my first TikTok account. At first I was relieved, but after a while, I started to feel regretful. I had forgotten why I started the account—to have fun and challenge myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable—and had let views and aesthetics ruin the experience for me. However, I stood by my choice to delete the account because it allowed me to take a break and assess my relationship with social media.
After speaking to other social media users, I know I’m not the only one who used to feel this way:
“It was one thing filming your daily life on Snapchat, to tweeting your thoughts on Twitter and then remembering to post at the right time on Instagram. However, the world of social media seems to be evolving,” content creator Tiesha Nvukani from London told Passionfruit. “Everyone is watching, everyone is posting, and money is being made. Now, I’m stuck on getting the correct lighting, the [aesthetic] background, the fancy fit and perfect edits, because this is the anxiety that social media has been giving me lately.”
Research shows that our experiences are far from uncommon. One 2019 report from the Psychology Of Popular Media Culture revealed that excessive Instagram use can cause women between the ages of 18 and 35 to experience self-esteem issues and anxiety.
While some people like Nvukani find this “contentification” intimidating, there are others that thrive in the chaos. For instance, lifestyle and fashion influencer Dazhane Leah, who has over 100,000 Instagram followers and works with brands like ASOS, Pandora, and Reebok, finds it motivating. She says that being able to “contentify” parts of her daily life doesn’t have to take the fun out of social media.
“I personally really like creating daily life vlogs,” she said to Passionfruit. “It allows me to romanticize the mundane tasks and actually motivates me to get things done. I’m very blessed to be able to make a living out of it.”
I have managed to repair my relationship with social media by reminding myself why I set up these platforms in the first place. For example, I set up Twitter to interact with other writers and career professionals. I initially set up TikTok to challenge my anxiety about posting online and stay true to the pact I made with myself this year about not letting fear stop me from trying new things. Now that I have got to grips with this, I’m able to healthily engage with my social media platforms—which includes taking breaks when necessary.
I still dabble in creating random pieces of content for social media. I enjoy creating random videos here and there for my personal TikTok, which I created about three months after deleting my old account. The difference is, I no longer feel pressured to capture every moment or to meet some sort of aesthetic requirements. I stopped getting so hung up on views and aesthetics, and more focused on the reason I started to create content in the first place: to force myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable when trying new things!