Everyone who follows me on Instagram thinks my life is perfect. But I have ups and downs like everyone else, I just rarely revealed the “downs” on social media. Recently, I suffered from an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the embryo implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. Thankfully, the doctor discovered it before any harm was caused.
But as I was sitting on my couch recovering, feeling emotionally wrecked and alone, my mind went to my followers. How many of them had experienced similar struggles?
Losing a pregnancy is incredibly common, as studies show 10 to 25 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage and an additional 2 percent are found to be ectopic pregnancies, but sharing the story of the loss is not. Many women don’t even tell their best friends. Why was I hesitant to share? I felt ashamed that I had lost a pregnancy. I was afraid of people judging me in my moment of vulnerability. And even though I try to share my life with my followers, I wondered if it was inappropriate to share such a personal topic with thousands of strangers.
But I realized that if I felt that way, irrational as it may be, other women have surely felt this way as well. And even though I would be vulnerable, I thought it would be no worse than sitting on my couch feeling lonely.
I always wanted my blog to inspire others and genuinely represent myself and my life, for better or worse. Maybe sharing “for worse” could help me and other women not to feel alone, as we all endure our personal daily struggles. I thought about whether sharing this struggle felt right for me, but also for my audience.
The question of “how much is too much” to share on social media recently became a hot topic. When I launched my blog, ExcessoriesExpert.com, I used social media to drive traffic to my website, where the bulk of my content resided. I wrote with a neutral voice and rarely shared personal information or opinions, aside from my views on how to style over-the-knee boots and shoulder-duster earrings. My website only had a single photo of me, on the “about me” page.
Little by little, over the years, I inserted more of myself into my content. I realized that pieces written with a heartfelt or humorous personal tone performed better than other posts. I started to share how Judaism defines my life. I talked to my followers about how Shabbat helps me to reset and keep my priorities in check, and I brought them along on my trip to Israel to show them how important heritage and spirituality are to me. Eventually, I featured photos of myself and my family. From that point on, there was no turning back — I had let my audience in, and my family was my audience’s family.
When it comes to blogging, sharing one’s daily life comes with the territory. But there can be consequences for oversharing, including doxing or online bullying. It is important to draw personal boundaries on these social platforms, but I constantly struggle with where to draw the line.
After a couple of years on Instagram, I felt there was an element of realness missing from my constant stream of captioned photos. If I was going to share myself with my audience and ask them to trust me, I wanted them to know who I really am. Last year’s introduction of Instagram Stories allowed for authentic self-expression. I can now bring my followers on my daily journeys with videos and photos that vanish after 24 hours. Although my official blog content largely revolves around accessories and fashion, with Instagram, most days, my followers know where I am, who I am with and what I am wearing. They regularly message me with questions about my outfits, motherhood, my exercise regimen and kosher restaurant recommendations. There is a constant dialogue. My follower engagement is higher than ever, which is incredibly fulfilling and empowering.
As is to be expected with a public platform, I encounter criticism frequently. I knew when I put myself out there, I opened myself up to the scrutiny of the world, but the criticism does affect me. Most of the disapproving comments are petty, but I have received a few shockingly vile anti-Semitic messages. However, more often than not, the criticism that hurts the most comes from my fellow Jews. I am incredibly sensitive about my Jewish observance because I didn’t grow up religious; I chose to become observant in college. I feel very protective of my Jewish identity. That being said, I never claimed to be a role model for Orthodox Jewish living. But for me, Judaism is central to my life, so sharing myself means sharing my Jewish pride.
I still struggle with authenticity, worrying that I am misrepresenting real life by presenting only the good. Social media is a breeding ground for jealousy, because people naturally show only what they want the world to see. We follow a childhood friend on her exotic honeymoon to Greece, and we drool over what our cousin ate for dinner last night. We sit at home and feel bad about ourselves and our seemingly mediocre lives, thinking that everyone else lives in a fairytale based on their social media posts.
But everyone endures hardship and heartache—they just don’t usually share these with the public. Is it because vulnerability is unattractive or weak, or because struggles should be kept private? Even with my avowed attempts at authenticity and candor, I still have to make the choice of what to share and what not to share. In the end, I decided to share the loss of my pregnancy on my Instagram Stories, because it felt “right” for me and my followers. But I did it my way — raw emotion expressed via Instagram’s puppy filter to camouflage my puffy eyes.
Opening up about a personal struggle made me feel better, but more meaningfully, the feedback I received taught me that my followers felt closer to me and more engaged by being let into my world. Where one draws the line on setting personal boundaries is a private decision, but in my experience, authenticity is the key to connectedness between influencers and followers (except with a filter to cover my puffy eyes).
Elizabeth Savetsky is an NYC-based wife, mother, and accessories blogger who defines her style by incorporating over-the-top pieces into everyday life. Through her blog, ExcessoriesExpert.com, and social media channels, her mission is to make accessorizing accessible to every woman and encourage mamas everywhere to embrace their inner glamour girls.