The Crowded Marriage of Self-Promotion and Self-Respect

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I feel like these are the words that bloggers chant daily in to the mirror while brushing their hair to stop the creeping sensation that they are massive narcissists becoming too acute but anyway here goes; I am by nature a very private person. Cue eye roll dear reader as you sit there in front of my blog. My blog of stuff about my life and what I do in it. My blog with pictures of me gussied up in funny outfits and lengthy opinion pieces about my favourite things. Well yeah I know all of that, but let’s take it back to the start.

I first wanted to start a blog because I lived in London and went to a lot of lovely exhibitions and events and felt I needed some way of recording these things that would hold me to greater account than a diary. I had tried that for years and it never lasted very long. I thought that a public blog would ensure I kept a record of my escapades in the city that I loved at this, the most free and (presumably) exciting time of my life. I also wanted a place to store the images I carried around in my head. The inspirations from books, the costumes I loved, the art, style and creatures of this weird wonderland I concocted in my mind but could only ever see in reality in fleeting snatches.

So, that was my reasoning. But it took me a while to actually push publish because frankly it all felt a bit vain. Who the hell cared what I had to say or what was going on in my head? Everyone had their own lives to lead and I was only adding to the colossal K-hole of assumed personal fascination that the internet engenders. I was so embarrassed by the thought of writing a blog that I didn’t even really tell anyone I had done it. I think I posted it to my personal Facebook page and let it be. But I had enjoyed the process of writing. I hadn’t really considered myself much of writer beyond essays up until that point but seeing my voice on a page was a nice experience and it felt cathartic to purge some of the similes and metaphors from my brainbox. The people who read what I wrote were also very lovely and seemed to like what I had to say. So I carried on doing it. I found it a fun and healthy process to write and even if no-one ever read a line I didn’t care at all. I honestly didn’t. Truth be told I still don’t. I know that sounds like the trite pseudo nonchalant thing that I am supposed to say but it doesn’t make it any less true. I have no idea if anyone is reading this now (except you Mum, the Vintage Notebook’s biggest fan and pusher, thanks). I don’t check my stats very often, maybe once every six months or so, and I’m not even sure if they are good or bad because I have no frame of reference. I have no idea how many visitors I get a month or hits a day on average. It seems irrelevant.

And that brings us round to my point I guess. Since starting the Vintage Notebook my career has become what could generously be described as ‘portfolio’ in some pretty niche areas. I work as an armoury co-ordinator for films, I am starting a PhD in Roman burial rituals, I give talks, blog about vintage London and have just relaunched my cartoon Coco Malone. I feel like this blog is in some ways the central hub for everything else I do, the King’s Cross St Pancras of my life if you will. It showcases my writing and allows a dollhouse view of my world. It is an online ye olde curiosity shoppe. And therein lies the rub. Do I want it to be any more than that? Do I want it to be brand Chloe HQ? That is what most savvy folk (those marketing chaps that are a decade younger than me and have none of my squeamishness about putting their hearts and souls online because they have never known a world in which they did not have an online presence) would recommend, but I think we all know that I won’t do that. And the same goes for my other social media outlets. I’m sure I could have many more hits/readers/likes/followers/whatevers if I did a bit more in the way of self-promotion through social media, but the whole thing feels a bit, well desperate I guess. Now what I am about to say is purely in reference to me. I don’t judge anyone who is kicking ass at self-promotion online. It is the world we live and I am often in awe of just how well these cats know how to work the system. In fact some of my closest friends are totally killing it with new ventures all over the place and I’m really proud and a little bit in love with their ability to put themselves and their products out there in a very up front way. I also think women should get extra props for doing so because for some reason blowing our own wholly deserved trumpets still seems like a revolutionary move in some fields and frankly if you are smashing it and want to shout about how awesome you are then I applaud you heartily.

Phone Loudspeaker

That being said, I know myself. I know how far I am willing to lean over the void and drop  in fragments of myself for the Sand Burrower below. I know my limits. When I write a new blog post I often post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram letting people know that I have done so. Aaaaaand that’s pretty much the extent of my self-promotion. Sometimes I hashtag like a good blogger, sometimes I forget. I am lucky that I have several really lovely readers who share and like what I write which spreads it a bit further (I am so very grateful for these people I can’t tell you). As for the rest of it well, below are my forms of social media. Over the years I have developed a working relationship with all of them, and now like two previously cautious colleagues who bonded over shots at the Christmas party, we know how to get the best out of each other.

I have a Facebook page for the blog where every morning I will post what I hope is an interesting visual image and write good morning message to the followers of the page. It is a thing I have done for a few years now and I do so not to try and keep my page relevant and active but because there are some lovely people who always like or comment on what I post daily and I like to think that they look forward to opening their laptop at work and seeing my hopefully witty post while they drink their coffee and that it makes them smile.

I have an Instagram account which is probably my most active form of social media but also the one that I find most uncomfortable. My Instagram account started before my blog. It is in every sense personal and was never intended to be some extension of my blogging activities. I have never been someone to post tons of pictures about my life online, even back in the Myspace days of yore. I don’t take a million photos on a night out or every time I meet friends for dinner. I certainly don’t take pictures of my food very often, mostly because I eat it before I remember to and also because my friends are the type of people who would call me out as a bit of a tit for doing so. That being said, I don’t always get it right. I’ve shared personal things on my Instagram page over the years for reasons I don’t really understand but I guess at the time it feel like the right thing to do. It’s not that I regret any of it, but it just gets a bit confusing.

I realised a while ago that social media is an abusive relationship. It will suck the life out of your life if you let it. If you are not careful you will constantly perform/look pretty/bare your heart in the hopes that a token of praise will be bestowed on you by people who may not care about you in the right way. It comes to the point that it isn’t enough for you and you alone to experience a great moment, you have to allow everyone to experience it too or it didn’t really happen. Without their gaze, you don’t really exist: ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’. To try and take back some of the control from Instagram and stop it becoming the worst kind of boyfriend, I made some rules that I follow to the letter. Before I post anything I ask myself three questions; Am I posting this for vanity, to make my life seem cool or likes? If the answer is yes to any of these I don’t post it. I also won’t post any of the following on general principle:

♦ Random selfies because I’m bored.
♦ Passive aggressive or cryptic shit about my love life.
♦ Random inspirational quotes supposedly from Marilyn Monroe that read something like ‘I may be hard to love but  the right person will love me harder’.
♦ Anything while drunk.

Anything I do post has to be either interesting, funny or lovely. I try to keep my Instagram full of things I that I hope are interesting to people who have similar interests as me, from fossils and microscopic images of sand, to nice architecture, history books, make –up, and vintage clothing.

Twitter is the next beast and the one I probably use the least. I just find it clumsy and awkward. I like my social media streamlined and I can’t be faffed learning the difference between a retweet and quoting a tweet. Is there a difference? I joined Twitter because one day my friend Ruth told me that Dita von Teese put up recipe for hedgehog rolls and I fancied a bit of that. Over the subsequent few years as I got more involved in academia it became clear to me that more networking was done on Twitter than at most academic conferences. Particularly in my field, historians, archaeologists and classicists alike are going steady with Twitter, heck they are going to prom and heading to make out point afterwards with Twitter. When applying for PhD funding earlier in the year it occurred to me that my lowly number of Twitter followers might be noted by the funding body. Of course it would! I mean they would be idiots not to check how many contacts I had in the melting point of shared open access knowledge that is Twitter. What to do?! Do I suddenly go on a mad charm offensive, liking, retweeting and following everyone from Mary Beard to Mary Berry in the vain hope that someone would follow me back and push my follower count into triple digits? I toyed with the idea and realised that it made me feel vaguely ick, so sat down and watched four episodes of Archer instead and hoped for the best.

So that is it really. I don’t really have an end point to this but as I said at the start, this blog was the genesis of me having too much in my mind and wanting a place to put it that wouldn’t get forgotten about at the back of a drawer until I inevitably move house again. I feel like it has served its purpose in this instance. The weird dichotomy between self-promotion and self-respect is something I toy with constantly. I know I could have many more followers across all of my social media platforms if I played the game, but to what end and how much of myself do I have to give away to get them, and does anyone give a rats anyway? I am not trying to hold myself up as some exalted model of moral fibre and personal enlightenment in the guise of Plato or Dolly Parton but I suppose I am advocating finding your own level of comfort when it comes to selling yourself, which we all do at some point even if we don’t have a blog to push or a product to sell. We have all sat in job interviews and sold the bejesus out of our skills and experiences, heck even online dating is self-promotion, maybe the ultimate form when you think about it (yeah, deep guys).

So we are all promoting ourselves daily. But just make sure you know why. I know why I post the things I do. I know why I post an outfit post on my blog, which may seem the most vain thing in the world to do and is something I struggled with for a long time, but ultimately it reminds me of when my sister and I used to do photoshoots as kids using clothes from the dressing up box and it makes me smile. It makes me happy to get creative with weird outfits and characters and think of funny backstories and to notice where my inspirations come from. Maybe these things don’t translate to the people reading my blog. Maybe I just look like a wannabe style blogger, and I don’t mind that, because I know that I am not. Be clear on your objectives and motivations every time you share a part of yourself online and always make sure it isn’t to make someone like you. Screw that. Share something because it is funny or informative or creative or wonderful. Don’t give the parts of your life you care about most to anyone who doesn’t care about you. Keep the precious stuff just for you, those moments when you are a bit tipsy and your cat curls up in the hollow of your belly like croissant and it is bliss. Or that incredible 4 am day break over your town when you stayed up all night talking to your best friend or the time a boy you held your hand all night while you slept. Don’t post that stuff. That is sacred. No pics or it didn’t happen, not like it was meant to.




  1. Christine says

    Makes a lot of sense to me. I shall ask these three questions too before I post !!!
    Keep writing your blog I am sure you have many who enjoy your writing.

    Love and herbal tea xxx

  2. Sheree says

    Just keep doing what you do…I love reading your blog. In a world full of ‘fluff’ it is refreshing to read something with a bit more substance and intelligence ;-)