Tuesday 17 September 2019

Unemployed & Living Back At Home: A Millennial Tale

Moving back home age twenty five is never easy. It feels like a step backwards, and the inevitable fight to stop yourself from regressing into that moody eighteen year old I left the family home as, is a daily struggle.

I made the decision to move back to my home in Hertfordshire a while back, it was always something in the pipeline and when a friend would ask ‘when are you moving?’ the answer would always be ‘soon’.  My boyfriend and I made this decision as our families are based down here, and between the need to study and save it made sense to make the jump.

With big momentous life events like this, you always expect a big crescendo of emotions and a huge fanfare to happen when, instead, life carries on much as it ever did with no life altering epiphany.
So now I’m sitting here writing this blog post at midday on a Tuesday in my parent’s study, looking for jobs with wet hair and wearing a grubby pair of joggers and a t-shirt. Not exactly my dream of what I expected I’d be doing at this age back when I was a teenager and full of naivety.

Nothing can really prepare you for the soul destroying task of looking for a new job. I spend my days bouncing from recruiter to recruiter, with their perfectly practised spiel of ‘I’ve found the perfect role for you’, as they go into details of a job to mine oil in the North Sea - or something equally as absurd considering my current experience.

You swing from excitement of seeing a job that’s perfect for you, to only be met with an echoing silence from the job of your dreams or an equally depressing automated email reading ‘Thanks so much for your interest, but we won’t be taking your application any further.’

In the current economic climate, with the dreaded B word creating all this uncertainty, it’s hardly the most ideal time to be looking for a job. And I don’t think I’m in a unique situation. The government is busy telling us that unemployment is at its lowest rate for a decade, but with zero hour contracts leaving people struggling and with in work poverty at an all-time high – it all tells a very different story.
I’ve personally not been very lucky with my employment, boasting an impressive five redundancies (yes really…) across my four year working life with the most impressive happening after less than two weeks in the job.

I’m not trying to organise a pity party for myself, but what I want to talk about is that it is hard for people to try and make it in an industry we want to work in. Gone are the days where work is just for the sake of money, millennials want a job that is more fulfilling. And when you’re spending forty hours a week until you’re sixty-five or more doing it day in day out, then we should enjoy it.

But frequently, the creative and more desirable industries are becoming increasingly competitive. I’ve had three years’ experience within fashion marketing, and I’m finding it hard to get a response from jobs that fit my experience pretty much exactly and pay what I feel I deserve.

Within fashion, it’s often seen as being part of the journey to do unpaid internships to gain experience and curry favour with big brands. This is only ever available for those with the privilege of not needing money for rent, food and *you know* living.

I’ve been unemployed, working freelance for a few hours a week, since the start of August. Throughout my whole working life, I’ve never had the privilege of job security as I’ve never felt the companies I work with are ever 100% secure.

Living through the recession and trying to build my career in a time of economic uncertainty while living away from home has not been easy. And even now, when I’m in a privileged position of living at home and not having the threat of being evicted looming over my head, I still feel the huge weight of anxiety on my chest for not having a job yet.

I constantly question myself as to what don’t I have that my peers do? Why have I got three years’ experience but really no skills to show? Because sitting by yourself day in day out selling yourselves to hundreds of jobs to no avail surprisingly doesn’t do wonders for your self-confidence.

I wanted to write this as a cathartic way of talking about the hopelessness I feel and have always felt across my whole career. Always thinking ‘the next one will be better’ or hopeful for a chance that hasn’t shown its face yet. Because if I hear the phrase ‘when one door closes, another door opens’ one more time, I will scream bloody murder.

But if someone reads this that is going through the same thing, then that’s enough. To know you’re not the only person going through a bit of a shit time can sometimes be the therapy you need. We are worth more than our jobs at the end of it all, and even though success is often judged through our careers, that fulfilment doesn’t lie just in your working life.

So this is dedicated to the rest of the 3.9% unemployed out there, you are worth everything you think you are and you will bag that dream job one day. I believe in you.


Monday 8 July 2019

Is Advertising Through Influencers Killing Instagram?

Influencer marketing has completely changed the landscape of social media, advertising and fashion over the past few years.

Print advertising and traditional media outlets as advertising methods for brands have been swapped for the self-made brands that are social media influencers.

This is all in an age when millennials are so cynical about every form of advertising and the intent of brands that we have essentially trained ourselves to drown out the noise when browsing the internet, walking down the street or even watching TV.

So influencers are the perfect solution; they're more authentic, more effective and probably much cheaper than more traditional methods.

As much as I’m obviously for this in the way it gives the power back to real people giving real opinions on products, is it slowly killing the creativity and platform that is Instagram?

So how is this all happening?

When you have micro-influencers, it is likely that they are working another job full or part time and their Instagram and blog is a hobby (like myself). In this instance, you are often not paid for working with brands. You are gifted things in exchange for a post, and this tends to mean you will only choose a gifted option that you truly like and believe in.

This helps to build authenticity and trust in your followers, as they are able to see a true pattern in your style and likes and can help to understand your brand persona through this. With this authenticity comes a stronger following with better engagement and higher rates of followers - and so on.

When you would reach a stage where you have a following or engagement to now being paid for these collaborations and can reach a stable enough income to make the jump to go full time and self-employed - it can become a difficult balance to work purely with brands you love.

Once self-employed, you have the same bills and outgoings as before but an unreliable income source. This then means, on a month where money might be tight – a fashion blogger will accept a payment from a brand that may not fit into their aesthetic, brand or story.

This is an understandable situation. We all need to eat and we all need money to live. But in the case when an influencer works with this brand, is this not then damaging their own personal brand and affecting the Instagram page that made them popular?

Now that the ASA have changed and made it much stricter to have to be very clear when something is an advert paid or gifted, it is obviously much more transparent for the audience when they are being sold something. Which means the cynic comes out in people - is the product really as amazing as the blogger is saying, or is it those pound signs that are making this sub-par product 'amazing'?

This is not done with malicious intent, but purely on the act of transforming your instagram into a career you ultimately are held hostage in brands who want to work with you. Hopefully one would have a choice to only select the ones they want, but if money is tight you might not have that luxury.

So what is this doing to Instagram?

The shift in people using the platform to achieve the dream of becoming the next big thing on Instagram is generating an industry in itself – the concept of buying likes and followers. Buying likes can help falsely inflate the engagement of your images which may in turn mean that brands will get in touch to pay you for your content when the audience isn’t in fact real.

This wastes the company’s money and time, and essentially moves the creative platform into one that is there to make money. Instagram should be a place where people are able to work hard to create content that people love that can also provide a living for them. It shouldn’t be thought of as a way to make money through creating content.

In a sense, Instagram moving to hiding likes does in part solve this issue. The move that Instagram are taking to hide the likes each image gets was down to stopping Instagram becoming so toxic and preventing the obsession and consequent mental health people can feel from this. However, I think by doing this it will hopefully shift the focus onto content creation and creativity instead of making money through popularity - even when collaborating with a brand. 

But it’s difficult to see how this change will affect the relationship between influencers and brands until this is fully put into place. Will brands then just rely on following, leading to more bought followers, or will their gaze shift to higher levels of content instead.

The concept of influencer marketing is one that has naturally and logically come around, and is a phenomenon that may not have been expected by the creators of Instagram – especially not to the scale it has reached. So dealing with the issues that arise as it moves on is something that has to be slowly dealt with to try and keep Instagram as creative and authentic as possible.

How does this affect other influencers (and myself)?

In such a saturated market, it can become exhausting to create content to the best of my ability and sometimes feel that it isn’t been seen by a wider audience of users due to ‘algorithm changes’. To see brands working with other bloggers who have evidently bought the support they have got can be demoralizing - but I do try to not compare my success with others, which I have spoken about before.

I can at least be happy in the fact the imagery I create is one that I feel is authentic to myself, my style and the brands I support and enjoy and the image and voice I create is as real as I can create it in the highlight reel my Instagram shows.

To know the growth and support I have is genuine, and helps me to build friendships with other similarly minded people, which is hugely rewarding. But to know that I am against people who don’t do the same but reap greater rewards can be frustrating.

Which is why I question the way brands and money has started to control and navigate the direction in which Instagram content moves. The money that is needed or sought out by influencers is in some cases strangling the creativity which is the foundation of the platform. Which needs to be corrected.

My hope is that hiding the engagement from brands and your audience alike will create a shift towards the positive, but with the influencer marketing industry set to only keep on exploding – the effects that capital has on the future of the platform can’t really be guessed.

All we can do is to continue with our creativity and hope that the community stays based around photography and artistry instead of money making.

(all images of myself included were gifted collaborations)


Sunday 13 January 2019

Can Instagram Be Considered 'Feminist'

I’ve always identified as a feminist, even before I knew what the word meant – I could always identify the feeling of, ‘why is that allowed to happen’ and ‘that isn’t fair - why is that different for women’. But I never fully defined it as a concept for myself until I was a teenager and learnt about the word and what it meant for society and myself.

So naturally, as Instagram becomes more and more a part of my life I find myself querying is Instagram feminist and is it good for women?

It’s a hard question because there are so many parts of it that are so beautiful and empowering but there are also many other parts that can be damaging to women.

As I’ve mentioned previously, young girls of this generation are having a bigger struggle with mental health and depression and this is linked to the fact that they are growing up around social media.

Instagram has been proven to be the most damaging to body image and mental health of young people, with particular focus on girls and young women. So this already puts into question any empowerment or positives we can gain from the platform as this is a huge issue that is affecting a whole generation.

In my personal experience, since I have started my blog and Instagram I’ve found that the circle of influencers and bloggers that I'm connected with and that are on the same journey as me are all hugely supportive of each other and are in no way negative.

Where usually ‘trolling’ and negative comments may be expected in other platforms (and they still do in a minority on Insta) Instagram is full of women supporting other women and wanting to see them and others succeed.

It’s great to be able to post a picture and have positive comments from other women who are passionate about the same things as me, and also from the other side I am able to uplift other women by commenting on images I enjoy when they have worked hard to produce that content.

It’s also true that the influencer industry is mostly dominated by women, which can also be a factor in it being quite a feminist and an empowering space.

In the wake of the internet age, it has allowed women who are passionate about something like fashion to succeed. Female influencers can express themselves freely on a platform that they own artistically and creatively as a self-employed woman running her own brand.

Previously, as a woman wanting to make a career in something like fashion, unless you had amazing connections or a lot of privilege in terms of money, you’d most likely have to face a lot of problematic issues before your success.

Fashion is a female led industry yet the majority of CEOs of the big fashion houses are male - so it's clear that sexism within fashion still exists.

On top of that, the rise of the ‘me too’ movement only highlights situations women have been put into by men with power that stand in the way of giving them what they want and deserve. And let’s not forget unpaid internships and the wage gap which is the norm in fashion…

The rise of the internet and platforms such as Instagram allows these creative women to do what they are most passionate about and own it. Women can post images of themselves in their underwear and it’s because they WANT to and because they are confident in their body and not purely for the male gaze (ew).

However, on the back of that comes this issue with young women’s confidence with themselves. This is often because of the bombardment of images full of successful and beautiful women doing well all over their feed, when they perhaps don’t see this in themselves.

Other social media sites such as Twitter are positive in the way they allow young women to grasp political concepts such as feminism from a young age, with articles that explain feminism and ideas in a relatable way that is easier to understand

With women like Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajowski talking about body ownership and feminism, it gives the young women the opportunity to have access to these ideas early on in a way they can understand it. (Even if both Kim K and Emily R do fit into traditional beauty standards - it's a start.)

I didn’t learn about feminism until I was a bit older, and there are some young girls I see online who have a vast and impressive understanding of what it means to support each other and to love yourself in a female positive way which I only wish I had at their age.

With Instagram, I do think it can be harder to get these ideas of feminism across from simply an image of a sun-kissed body lying on a bright white beach. And I think this is where it gets complicated and this contradiction of empowerment vs body image comes in. 

Because Instagram can be a supportive place, but it is all dependent on the network of people you surround yourself with and the way you interpret the images you see.

I try to add humour into my Instagram as well as transparency through my blog to break down that idea of ‘perfect’ that I think can be damaging and negative for people engaging with these images.

Breaking down that social media isn't real life is key to solving the issue with young girl's relationship with social platforms. 

The solution may lie in these successful influencers pushing forward their feminist qualities of passion, empowerment and independence as well as how they looking amazing in a bikini – because you CAN do both!

Instagram has done nothing but improve my confidence and restore my faith in women everywhere by showing me how we can be supportive and really love each other and the progress we make in the messy world of social media. But it's on the other end of the content where it can get ugly.

Instagram has so much power to do so much for women all ages. For women who are engaging in the content AND creating the content. 

I think it may be down to people creating the content like myself and others like me, as well as larger influencers to take control to try and counteract the negative side on the consumption of social media. 

Because any space where women are free to make their own choices is a feminist space when done unproblematically, we just need to make sure that a few simple changes are made to support all women and girls that engage with the social media space so that empowerment can be felt on both sides of the content.

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