So many feelings about all the talk about Essena O’Neill being so transparent about social media and Instagram especially when this all happened right as I’m learning that being a yoga teacher means being a independent contractor and that I’m working for myself and selling my services and social media is a big part of that reality. I felt strange about starting a public Instagram in general, I have had a private Instagram account (with fewer than 50 followers) for over a year, I feel comfortable and safe posting there, knowing that only family and close friends will see what I put out. I have had strangers and even old friends try to get access to those photos, and I say no, so to choose to post publicly and then go even further and hashtag the hell out of the photos to gain followers hasn’t exactly felt natural.
I began taking photos of my practice basically when I got Instagram last year (I had just gotten an iPhone – yes super late to the game) and also around the time that I started to practice yoga regularly, seriously and beyond the asana. My practice made me feel good mentally, it made me appreciate by body and it’s abilities instead of putting myself down and gave me so much strength. I appreciated and loved seeing micro-improvements each time I practiced and taking photos was a fun way of documenting this progress and sharing what I could do with family and friends.
My first photos were taken exactly like the ones I still take. I ask Jamie (or my brother, or a friend in-studio) if he has time to take a photo (and then once he says yes I convince him that 10 different asana photos are sorta like 1), I may or may not be warmed up, and we take them. We don’t seek out places to take the photos, I am extremely fortunate to have a cottage to go to and have a park nearby so I can take gorgeous outdoor shots. The photos aren’t edited (other than a cool Instagram filter here or there). I’m usually sweaty. I sometimes look at them and feel self-concious. Sometimes I look at them and feel awesome.
My public instagram has way more followers than I could have ever imagined. With the Essena O’Neill story blowing up, I’ve done even more introspection into why I’m choosing to use social media and what it’s effects are on me and my life outside of this emerging business.
I’ve noticed that on public social media, I choose to keep family and friends more or less separate. I also tend to veer away from photos that are head shots or where you can explicitly see my face. I posted a head shot a few weeks ago (before the numbers of people seeing my photos had mushroomed) and since there has been more traffic to my page, the amount of creepy and unwanted comments on my appearance has further deterred me from posting more personal shots. Because of this, unfortunately its not exactly a safe space.
Why then do I keep posting? For the same reason that I go to a yoga studio, I am looking to be part of a community. I want to be surrounded by like-minded people with beautiful and inspiring souls. Unfortunately, as in real life, we have to weed out the creeps. I also realize that even if I don’t like it, social media is a strong presence and a useful tool for me to market my brand and let people know about me as a yoga teacher and allow for potential students to learn what I am about.
I feel to some degree that as an emerging teacher, I do have to stand out, I do have to do something to bring attention to what I do and social media is an effective way of doing this. However, I understand and respect what Essena is saying, and I think she has also opened up an extremely important dialogue with her transparency. Although I remain so conflicted, I am choosing to keep control over my public accounts by only posting what I am comfortable with posting, and follow a strict no creepiness policy (my account is clearly business related, if someone posts something irrelevant, posts me in something unrelated, sends me an inappropriate message, etc they are immediately deleted and blocked, no questions asked). I also choose to keep all my Instagram notifications off. I check when I put up my daily post and then I leave it for the day.
I’m extremely thankful for the conversations that have come out of Essena’s video and it is directly because of her post and the traction that it has gotten that I have been inspired to confront the feelings regarding the business of social media that have been mulling in my head for weeks now and further adding to the anxiety of making this dream of teaching a reality. It is because of her that I want it to be known that my photos are a product of my love and passion for the yoga practice and I want them to reflect that. For this reason they are not and will not be edited. They will be reflective of my practice and the practice I can hopefully inspire as a teacher. They are not paid for. I will remain open and honest about what I put into the world. I want to be inspiration. I don’t want to be #goals. Let’s continue this conversation, encourage honesty on social media and hopefully ignite passion for yoga through this medium.