It was November 2012. I was checking out at Medical Massage Therapy talking to the front desk worker about my new job, photography. She looked at my website and booked me for her daughters senior pictures. She continued to ask if I had a facebook. "Nope, I really don't care about that stuff." She gave a lengthly speech about how much social media would help my business and how I should run home and start one that very day.
Truth is, I had never considered myself good enough to advertise as a professional prior to that BUT I had some good shots and thought, "Why not."
I came home that evening and fired up a professional facebook page, "Kelli Carrico Photography." Over the first 24 hours I had about 300 likes which made me feel like a super star. I thought, man, how wonderful this will be!!! Then, time to post. I searched through my work to find images that I was proud of and looked over each intently for far too long before hitting post. If I only got 10-15 likes, delete. I remember posting one of a former student who had a baby and that said baby (Ben) peed directly into the sunlight as I snapped a picture. I posted that on a Sunday and after church that morning I checked to see how many likes it received and it was well over 300. WHAT??? I'm famous. My following quickly grew.
1,000 followers. 2,000 followers. Business Grew.
My first year, I received "Top 5 Wedding Photographer in WV" from a magazine in Charleston, WV who found me on, what else, FACEBOOK.
My obsession began.
How many likes can I get? Is this good enough? What if no one sees this? Will I ever post another one that 600 people will like?
The pressure was AMAZING.
I recently shared that I have struggled for a lifetime with anxiety and let me tell you social media magnified that problem by 1000.
As my following continued to grow, so did my "friend" list on my personal page. I think right now I have 4,000 friends. Come on, who has 4,000 actual friends? No one.
My anxiety level grew with my numbers until, I broke. I had what I can only describe as a mental breakdown in 2015 because the stress was too much. I had to come up with a way of dealing with this. Initially I decided to simply post but not scroll. Meaning I would still use facebook for work and sometimes post personal things with the kids but I would not scroll and look through others feeds.
This helped but every 6 months or so I was tempted, reverted back to my scrolling days and so the stress continued. With my own "success" on social media I began what I could only call the "Comparison Game." I started justifying that I was only looking on social media for inspiration but the truth was I was looking at all the other photographers pages, near and far, comparing my work, my following, my numbers to others. It was quite easy to come up with one conclusion, I was not good enough.
My anxiety grew, again.
Comparison is the thief of joy they say and THEY are correct friend. Every time I would think I was doing great, doing enough, someone out there was doing more, doing better. Around 2016 I joined instagram and made a point to only follow photographers and business people far, far away. This was super helpful and I still follow that practice today. Instagram doesn't get to me the way facebook did and I think it's because of how it all began and who I followed.
ANYWAY, this entire blog is simply meant to share one recent practice I have started that I believe has saved my sanity and prevented me from needing lots of medication. Stay with me.
Last year I got back into the terrible habit of scrolling. Thinking I was mature enough to not fall into the comparison game, after all, I didn't follow any local photographers so what could be the harm. Then, it started. 3 new photographers in the area, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12.... not exaggerating. "Ok, no big deal" I told myself, I'm established in this community, it's fine." After all, I teach new photographers, so go for it ya'll. You do you. I would, however, unfriend, unfollow these new folks just to prevent nerves from creeping in. Anxiety from taking over. Self-doubt.
This practice of unfriend/unfollow is serving me well. I now have a rule, if I see anything that:
A. Gives me anxiety
B. Hurts my feelings
C. Creates Self-Doubt -
Very recently I was copied. I don't mean "XX Photography" shot in a field with a pumpkin just like me, I mean everyone does that, it's cool (No sarcasm). I mean like an entire shoot at the same location, with the same clothes, with the same models. Most of the models were friends, so my feed one morning was full. Page after page of my copied work. Page after page of my friends who had these images made with someone else. Page after page. My heart sunk. How could someone so openly do this? I thought I built this business on integrity and respect and this person knew I did that EXACT thing earlier this year. ANXIETY, ANGER, DISAPPOINTMENT. How do I deal with this? Do I lash out? Do I call them on it? (Well, I guess I do vent in a blog) Do I yell, curse, publicly shame them?
Guys this is REAL talk. In your life you are constantly going to run across things that hurt. That make you question you. That make you wonder if you're doing the right thing. Some of those things you cannot avoid but some, you can. Some, you should.
I know that in our lives we can't look away from all the things that cause our hearts to hurt. I realize that we must learn to deal with things head on many times. I'm a child of the 80's. Suck it up was our family motto. I know that I can't shelter myself always from disappointments or problems BUT SOCIAL MEDIA IS A CHOICE. I CAN delete that stinking app whenever I want. I CAN turn off my phone. I CAN choose who and what I see. I CAN UNFRIEND/UNFOLLOW and so can you.
I believe in depths of my soul that someone out there, reading this is subjecting themselves to so much anxiety that is unnecessary through their use of social media. Maybe its checking their likes, comparing themselves to someone else, or reading posts that just jab them in the heart.