Instafriends: Making Connections and Meeting IRL

Have you met my friend Tara aka @taralaferrara? She's a really cool girl, and just what you see online is what you get in real life. I first connected with Tara a few years ago through Instagram and we met IRL last year.

When I tell people I've met a lot of my friends through Instagram I get one of two reactions:

People think that's really amazing!

Others are perplexed with the look of 'you can't meet people in real life?'

That's not the case at all; I'm very social and do make friends in a real-life setting. But in today's day in age, the way we connect has shifted. I think it's a fantastic tool we have because it can put you in contact with interesting, like-minded people all around the globe. For many people, their online lives are an extension of their offline ones.

Tara hasn't been the only person I've met on Instagram.

There have been plenty of other amazing women that I've connected with on Instagram and later met in real life like my good and close friend Maxene (aka @MaxenesTrail) we were brought together for our love of food, cocktails and mutuals friends; Jo Encarnacion (aka @gofitjo) during a Barre3 retreat in Portland; Aurora during a trip to her home-base in Mexico City, Cristina Ricci (@addictedtolovely) an LA-based blogger and podcaster that is from the same area where I grew up. There was also my dear friend Bernadette (aka @petiteandtoned) also from San Francisco that came out to visit me in Portland.

We often associate online friendships as weaker or less genuine than those offline. But making friends online doesn’t mean they will not turn into real friendships. According to an article in the CyberPsychology journal, some people who meet online do eventually meet in offline settings. It is only natural that this happens because of the more profound connection and bonds made through shared common interests.

Making connections online is just like making connections in person but a bit better! Let me explain... We know everything there is to know about people's lives via our news feed on Instagram: what they ate for dinner, who they are dating, what products to try. Because of this, it helps to figure out whether you have similar interests that you can build a friendship on. 

Instagram in many ways helps us establish the shared interests and passions all of you shared. Mutual interests promote connection. Even though you barely knew each other, merely being authentically YOU and sharing your vulnerabilities that others can relate to help create a deeper relationship with others.

Making friends online, and maintaining these connections can essentially form an online emotional safety net. When people encounter struggles, they often want to talk about it and feel heard. Having these online friendships provides a safe space where people can discuss how they feel. It's not any more different than in real life and when you meet people in real life.

Have you made connections on Instagram and then met IRL? Share it with me on Instagram - @valeriefidan!

Valerie Fidan

Valerie is a San Francisco native who gave up the comforts of home to travel the world continuously. Now based in Portland, OR, Valerie is a Social Media Marketing Consultant, helping solo entrepreneurs and small business owners DIY their social media by teaching them the in’s and out’s of SMM. She enjoys health hacking recipes, a good cocktail, yoga, hikes, live shows, puns & dad jokes.

A Break From Instagram: It’s Not Me; It’s You

PSA: I'm taking a break from Instagram. 

Say, what?

Yes, hear me out..

I'm taking a break from the 'gram.

As ironic as it may sound, I have always had a love/hate relationship with "social." I love how it can connect people and like-minded professionals. I have met and exchanged ideas with some fantastic designers, bloggers, and influencers with whom I wouldn't otherwise have connected with. I've found incredible connections through it and even all of my clients.

But then there's the negative side. The constant need to see what everyone else is up to and getting lost and worked up about the algorithm, stats, analytics, engagement rate... Let me keep it real; it's mostly the algorithm and drop in engagement that has been driving me crazy as each day I see my follower number drop, my engagement drop... basically as volatile as watching my cryptocurrency plummet by the second. But that is the thing... engagement and analytics... it's taken the fun out of this social platform.

These last 6 months have been chaos in the 'gram world for me, to the point where I need to take a break from my own social account to help me regroup, recharge and refocus. I've lost sight of what my blog and feed are about. I need to find my focus and stay true to it. But hold up -- clients and work -- don't worry... I'll still be here for your accounts. I merely need to take a step back from mine. It's almost even made me wonder if my account has gotten hacked again? Is there some crazy bot associated with my account that IG has flagged me? Not sure. My engagement rate has dropped drastically. A photo that used to get over 1k likes and plenty of comments is now 1/4 of that. Drastic and frustrating!

You Might Also Like: The Ultimate Mind-Detox 

There are the insta-famous, the insta-influencers, the insta-models, the insta-travelers, the-insta photographers, the insta-fit, the insta-foodies, the insta-writers and on and on and on. I'll agree, it's a great platform especially if you have something to share with the world.

When I first joined Instagram back in April of 2011 it was simply a visual diary. The first photo I believe was a photo of coconut water or Coachella or possibly coconut water at Coachella. Instagram was fun, but I didn’t think much about it. I occasionally posted pictures of myself and my friends out at night, food photos with a filter, where I was off traveling to, or my dog. Maybe a landscape or a pretty sunset with a short blurb, no hashtags. It wasn’t a particularly mind-blowing feed. (Obvi.) But it was fun. 

I'll be the first to admit, using Instagram to leverage my blog was the best tool for reaching a greater audience and working with brands. Somewhere along the way, I fell completely and madly in love with photography as well, improving my skills more and more when it came to snapping a photo with my camera and using post production to clean up photos. Early on, I was savvy enough to never capture photos with my phone, but instead with my camera, text or email them to myself and post on Instagram. It took my heart whole and refused to let go. But the tide slowly started to shift, and the fun of it all was no more.

The day that Facebook bought Instagram is the day that part of my Instagram soul died. New changes happened after Facebook bought them; the algorithm began to change... constantly. This rad, scrappy start-up would soon face what every acquisition faces, the bureaucracy of change, monetization, and ads. 

Instagram became very saturated with micro-influencers, bots, and those trying to cut corners to gain a substantial "following" for brands to recognize them. The idea of working with brands was very appealing and making money off of my posts that I shared with my audience was more appealing than getting sponsored posts for my blog. Plus, one instagram photo was less work and highly more valuable that writing 500 words and 5 photos about a product. It was much more organic and more native than a direct ad. This slowly started to take a toll on me. It made me lose sight of why it is that I post on Instagram and my blog. Every time I'd post, it had to be super strategic to the time of day. Then I waited to see how many people would like my posts as if that was a reflection of my worthiness of a creative.

However, as time rolled on, I found myself getting sucked into a world that I was not always so enamored about. I found myself comparing my work to that of others, and left with a gnawing sense of my inadequacy. I found myself doubting images I wanted to post, as perhaps they were slightly dark or different, strange; doubting myself and comparing myself with my peers. They wouldn’t “fit-in” with the rest of my “feed.” I wasn’t sure how people would respond to them. I felt the constant "need" to double my follower numbers and engagement rate to get noticed by brands. It wasn't until I reached 10k followers that brands started to reach out. Getting to 20k then 30K then 40K and almost 50K was impressive. The engagement and sharing of brands but also getting paid up to $500 per post was mind-blowing and something that I quickly had my eye on. And rightfully so, since my efforts to build my audience was of value to brands. Like other influencers and bloggers, I had an audience that they wanted. My audience was one that listen to me and my opinion. They trusted what I had to say. Brands and advertisers want that. This is why I always tell people to never post for free for a brand. Whether you have 1,000 followers of 1,000,000 followers -- if they are very engaging, they are valuable assets to you, and brands want a piece of that. Never work for free. I'll talk about this another time.

Then 2017 happened and the algorithm changed drastically, effecting everyone. Since then, it's been a constant battle of keeping up with the latest changes and staying true. This in return caused a domino effect and started to effect brand work, brands not renewing their contracts, decrease in traffic to my blog, decrease in email subscribers, a decrease in affiliate link purchases, and so on.

It's pretty easy to get all caught up in this vicious Instagram circle. As a blogger and influencer, these things matter if you want to work with brands. With that said, I've noticed that the last 6 months I've lost my focus on my feed, my blog, and the type of blogger I am. A few months ago I made it a point to decline every single brand opportunity that presented itself -- paid or not paid. (Sorry, I do not work for free.)

In recent months I've stayed true and have only worked with brands that I absolutely LOVE and use in my daily life, brands that I believe in and enjoy and happy to recommend and shout them out on stories. They are the constant brands that you see within my feed, stories, and blog. I realized I need to stay true to myself and my audience. I think this is something many bloggers and influencers disconnect from. It's funny... in the 90's this is what people would refer to as a "sell out." It makes me wonder, are we all "sell outs" and how does this play into transparency of what people are endorsing and what they actually like and love?

With that said, I really believe that taking a break from it will help me regroup and find my focus again.

Have you taken a break from Instagram? How did you feel after? Share here!


Valerie Fidan

Valerie is a San Francisco native who gave up the comforts of home to travel the world continuously. Now based in Portland, OR, Valerie is a Social Media Marketing Consultant, helping solo entrepreneurs and small business owners DIY their social media by teaching them the in’s and out’s of SMM. She enjoys health hacking recipes, a good cocktail, yoga, hikes, live shows, puns & dad jokes.

Body Positivity and Social Media

Can we talk about body positivity for a sec?

square organics sports bar

Last week I shared a very personal part of my life with you all, and I was so touched by the overwhelming messages and comments of support. The messages that flooded my inbox from others that have either been through the same or are going through something similar were mind blowing. For the first time, I feel like I'm not alone. I never expected this type of support. When I pressed the "publish" button, I just asked the universe to be kind and not to send negativity my way.

Want to know another little secret? I’d be lying if I said I could rock this sports bra message 100%.

It’s more like an 80% truth.

And, I’m not ashamed. 

When Square Organics reached out saying they wanted to send me a sports bra, I never in a billion years would I have imagined that they'd be sending me one that read in all caps: "YES, THEY'RE ORGANIC." When I opened the package, I couldn't stop laughing.

In my early 20's I decided to get a breast argumentation. It wasn't out of a whim. When I was much younger, growing up I had always wanted boobs. So, at 24 I got them. I went from a small B to a full C. Not a drastic difference or ridiculously huge. I did it for me and no one else to be slightly more proportioned. 

Do I regret this decision? Sometimes; Only, because they get in the way while I'm working out. Now looking back, if body positivity had been an open discussion, I don't think I would have gone through this change. I would have been able to learn to love me the way that I am and accept my body for what it is.  

This is why it is so important to not body shame people. It's important to have an open conversation about body positivity and accept people for who they are not what they look like. We must pave the way for the younger generations of females to let them know what they are beautiful the way that they are.

In the age of Instagram, it's difficult not compare ourselves to others, especially when it comes to how we look. But for all the insecurities social media can provoke, it has also given us a platform to be proud of our bodies no matter what our size is. The body-positive movement isn't about thin-shaming or encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle; it's about supporting everyone in their search for more self-esteem and self-confidence.

Instagram can be as encouraging or discouraging as you make it. If you only follow models and celebrities, you'll be bombarded with photoshopped images and unrealistic expectations every day. That's why you should mix a healthy dose of body positivity into your Instagram feed. Some of my favorites? @gofitjo, @MISSGEOBURKE, @healthyisthenewskinny, @movemeant, and @dulceida.

What are your favorite #bodypositive accounts to follow?

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