• Simply Slow

    To Instagram, With Love

    28 March, 2018

    I started my Instagram account at a difficult time, around 10 months ago now. I was feeling a little lost and stuck, with so many dreams but no idea how to bring them to life, and my precious Grandpa’s cancer had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. With my friends having mostly moved away I was missing their company, and I found that few of the people I encountered day-to-day shared any of my increasingly ‘alternative’ values.

    I’d used Instagram for years but my profile had always been filled with the usual quick snaps and bad filters. I was too shy to expand my audience beyond my friends and family, and too self-conscious to explore the creative side of the platform with them watching. But my longing to find my ‘right people‘ and a sense of community was becoming ever stronger, and one day I just went for it: I created a new account so nobody I knew would easily find me, and nervously said hello to the big wide Insta world.

    And what a good decision that was. The response to my first post was so welcoming and kind that I instantly knew I belonged, and I couldn’t wait to get more involved. My trepidation at getting started was met with a chorus of “me too!” and “don’t worry!” and suddenly I was completely immersed in the creativity and kindness I’d been searching for.

    Just five days after that first post, my Grandpa died. I didn’t know if I would be able to cope, but a stream of new friends that I’d never even met showed me that I could. Since then, those same friends – and many more besides – have supported, encouraged and inspired me on a daily basis. They (by which I most likely mean you) have showed me that I’m not alone in the way I see the world, and have given me the courage to pursue a way of life that I’d started to believe wasn’t really possible.

    Through this little collection of squares I’ve discovered talented makers crafting beautiful things, built fruitful professional opportunities, made genuinely meaningful connections, and nurtured a passion for photography that had never previously had an outlet. I’ve also stumbled across countless invaluable words of wisdom in the form of captions, podcasts, courses and blog posts: through these, I’ve learnt to believe in myself, to live life on my own terms, and to call my work by its real name.

    For all of this, and so much more, I will be forever grateful.

    Last week I met an Insta friend – Eleanor Cheetham of Creative Countryside – in real life for the first time. It was a little like how I imagine it would feel to go on a blind date, and I was pretty nervous. The fears that had gripped me when starting my Instagram account in the first place resurfaced: what if she doesn’t like me, or we actually have nothing in common? With a face-to-face meeting, these doubts are only compounded by the thought of an actual person sitting across the table and the prospect of an awkward silence ensuing. Moving a relationship from the digital world to the real one is a scary thing.

    But, of course, I needn’t have worried. We both arrived fifteen minutes early, bumped into each other by total coincidence on the way to the café where we’d arranged to meet, and were already chatting away merrily before we’d even ordered our pancakes. (Because all great friendships start with pancakes.) From following Eleanor on Instagram and reading her beautiful magazine I’d already formed a clear picture of her in my head, and I was relieved and delighted when she turned out to be exactly as I’d imagined. There’s something so magical about a connection forged online being translated into a tangible human encounter – even more so when it turns out that the person who has materialised before you shares so many of your own interests and beliefs. From ordering the same thing to eat to nodding in wholehearted agreement as each of us described how at odds we feel with the mainstream version of the life we’re all ‘supposed’ to lead, everything about our meeting filled me with joy. Eleanor even once spent a year living in a canvas tent, as I’m about to do: it’s not every day two people can say they have that in common!

    So, how do you get from double-tapping someone’s Instagram post to talking tents over pancakes? I’m far from an expert, but I’m half way through writing a list of the ten things I’ve found most helpful in finding my tribe online and you’ll be able to read it here tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve set up a Facebook group – The Slow Adventure Club – in the hope of bringing more people together to share stories and make friends. I’d love to see you there!

    What are your thoughts on the Instagram community? Have you met any of your online friends in real life? Come over to my profile and let’s talk about it…


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    To Instagram, With Love