Stylist Nikki J McFarlane discusses Instagram vs Reality, and how Instagram can impact job prospects, self esteem and sense of reality.  

Sitting on the sofa one evening I have a quick look at the time and realise that I have been scrolling and tapping through Instagram stories for more than half an hour. The TV is on in the background but I couldn’t tell you a single thing that is happening, as I have found myself lost in an Instagram spiral. I am a huge fan of Instagram it is my favourite social media platform but I am starting to question if it is consuming too much of my day.

I’ve noticed a lot of posts lately showing images of Instagram vs reality. I am so on board with this and think it’s great to show a behind the scenes look at your ‘perfect’ Instagram pic. Although in some cases the ‘reality’ version is just as set up as the Instagram version. I want to show you my Instagram vs reality from a stylist and retail designer’s perspective.

I’ve had a personal Instagram account for many years and I had never planned my ‘grid’ or the images I posted. If I was in a pretty place or out with friends I’d post it, not really caring how many likes it received. I felt I had a healthy relationship with Instagram in the sense that if I felt like posting I could if I really couldn’t be bothered that day or wasn’t up to anything exciting that was fine too. That was until I set up my business account, where given my job I am expected to be doing something super exciting every single day. Don’t get me wrong I know this part of Instagram is a little different, as it’s my business and my job where social media needs to be a huge part of it. I absolutely love it but sometimes it can get unhealthy and really drag you down.

I work extremely hard behind the scenes on my posts for all my social media channels. It can take hours of work for just one post sometimes. A lot of people don’t understand what goes into one “instagramable” image. I have always struggled with what content to post. I want to stay true to myself show the real me (well the best version of me, no one wants to see me first thing in the morning trust me) as much as possible and make sure my Instagram followers are loving it too. This is so so hard. I have changed the style of my grid a number of times. I then read an article saying it’s better to have strong images that you post daily rather than the style of the grid. I find myself back to square one getting all stressed out about what to post and if it’s strong enough.

Instagram is all about the likes, comments and followers right? So most people’s goal with Instagram is to gain as many followers as possible to get their brand/image/product, whatever it is, out there. Instagram has become almost like your CV. These days a lot of jobs in the creative industries stem from the number of followers you have on Instagram. If you are seen to have a high follower count with constant interaction a potential employer is more likely to give you a chance. I’m not talking about paid partnerships, I am talking about actual jobs, like mine, illustrators, writers etc. It is crazy and completely shocking how much this is happening. You may have a ton of social media followers but that doesn’t mean you are able to perform highly at the task in hand. Same goes the other way around just because you don’t have that many followers it really doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of doing a particular job. We can all sit there and upload our social media accounts and post pretty images, what really matters are your skills and what you can do behind the scenes. In terms of what I do, a lot of brands/companies and sometimes clients really need to understand that. My follower count has nothing to do with how well I can style you or design a window display.

We are totally in a vicious circle where we want to gain more followers to get an amazing job opportunity but many of those followers will not come until we have that amazing opportunity that we can blast all over our social media. The reality of this is the hours put in behind the scenes to show you are just as good if not better than someone with way more followers than you.

This brings me back to my business social media account. It has been open almost a year but I didn’t really start to think about posting stronger content until around September. I have been finding it so frustrating that my follower count seems to go up and down constantly and I can never seem to get past the 450 mark. This is so disheartening as I put a lot into my social media posts and feel I can be missing out on great opportunities due to my lack of followers. I look at other stylists with many followers to see how they post, and I often ask myself what am I doing wrong?

At this moment in time I still don’t have the answer to that.

I have decided to just keep posting images that I love and spend more time working on my content. Plus, zero of my clients have come from Instagram so should I really be that bothered? Probably not, but let’s face it I’m still going to be, hey, I’m only human.

Being a fashion stylist and retail designer I love the creative images that are posted daily and I find a ton of inspiration from them in so many ways. If I am having a down day where I have a creative block or just feeling a little fed up I can always rely on Instagram to perk me back up and make me feel inspired and motivated again. A lot of images on Instagram can spark huge inspiration for a window design idea or a photo shoot theme. Sometimes however, I feel annoyed by Instagram and myself in the sense that I let myself be taken over by something that shouldn’t matter as much and something we’ve managed to live without for so many years.

I post on my business page daily, sometimes even twice a day. I used to just post my work or inspo images but now I have started to post my ‘daily’ outfits. However, like a lot of other accounts most of the time this isn’t the actual outfit I’m wearing that day. I take a few pictures when I am actually wearing the outfits and save them up to post daily. Some days my outfit is nothing like what you see in my post. If I am working from home most of the time I don’t wear any makeup and am in a comfy loungewear. I read somewhere once that you should dress for the office even if you are at home but if I’m working on a design or profile for a client it can take a while and I really need to be comfy.

My job looks glamourous and for the most part it is but, there are times when I have a good few hours of desk work ahead of me or a window to install and I need to be comfy. During these times you would never look at me and think I am a stylist and I am totally fine with that. These moments are never going to be shown on Instagram as that isn’t what people really want to see. Yes, some celebs or influencers post a no makeup selfie but that has taken a lot of great lighting, a number of filters and probably a good solid ten minutes to get that ‘natural’ shot. We all need to give ourselves a break. When I do need to look presentable for work or even for a shopping trip or catch up with the girls I remember I am the girl in those Instagram images it just doesn’t happen every single day.

This isn’t my usual fashion related article, but, in a way, Instagram is like a piece of fashion. We post what’s on-trend, follow the trends and brands we love and keep our own style all year around. Just like fashion and style, we are all different and our Instagram accounts should reflect that just like our outfits do.

Nikki J
Styling & Retail Design

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