(Photo credit: Andrew Max Levy)
From Perth, Western Australia, to New York, these individuals have found joy and connection in being real, and they’re engaging customers and selling their work in the process: they post about messy moments, hard times, and funny things that happen in their lives. They stand alongside women like Bando founder Jen Gotch, who has opened up about her mental health; Sarah Nicole Landry of The Birds Papaya, who posts real body photos, to American blogger Jess Ann Kirby, who reveals the real moment behind a perfect picture.
Their conversations show us we have more in common than we think. They leave us with an important question: how can our collective wellbeing benefit, if we’re willing to be real about our lives?
Julia Hladkowicz, Comedian: ‘I Post Because I Want To Tell The Truth’
Location: Toronto, Ontario
YouInc: I would imagine, given the work you do, that it comes naturally to be open about your life online. Why do you share?
Julia Hladkowicz: It’s for me to get out there. But it’s also to show that this is a hard industry. I don’t want to be artificial on social media.
I’ve been doing this for so long, and I wish I had seen more authentic posts when I was coming up. We didn’t come up with the same amount of social media. I found it helpful when I talked to veteran comics about their struggles. It brings us closer together. That’s why I post, because I want to tell the truth.
I want people to know how hard the industry is. You never think when you’re watching a TV show and someone comes on with a one-line role, that this person has been acting for 10 to 20 years. You don’t know the amount of auditions they’ve had, the struggle they’ve experienced to get a manager, and then to even get the audition. It’s interesting to pull back the curtain and show, “this is not a glamorous lifestyle. It’s hard work like anything else.”
YI: It’s being real about what the process is like.
JH: Instagram makes life look easy. For some people they might see a post and think, “things come easy to this person.” Well, you don’t know what went into that person getting something in life. Of course, I’ve done that to people too and been like, “OMG, your career is on fire.” I want them to know they’re doing great. I messaged this comedian and said, “By the way, I’m proud of you, you’re doing so much.” She’s like, “I honestly don’t feel like I do. I still have to work a Joe job.” I said, “from an outside perspective it looks like you’re doing well and you should be proud.” And she’s like, “yeah, when you put it that way, I should be. You’re right, I have done a lot of stuff.” Sometimes It’s a nice reminder from someone on the other side.
YI: How much do you think about what you’re going to post?
JH: It depends on my mood. If I want to post a fun photo, I think, “what would go best with this photo?” Or, if I’m feeling tender and sentimental that day, it will change what I’m saying. I also don’t want to lay it on too thick all the time. Sharing is good, but like anything, too much of it is overkill - I don’t want to post every detail of my life or mental health struggles at every moment of every day on Instagram.
There’s always going to be people who don’t like your jokes or don’t vibe with you.
I don’t want people to know every aspect of my life. I still like to keep private in some ways. If I’m feeling like, “okay, this could be helpful to someone and I can do it in a funny way,” then I’ll post. I’m a comedian, so that’s ultimately the goal. Or, if there’s a picture where I look good and I’m in a bathing suit, I feel like I have to post something stupid with it, “Oh, I can’t be too confident or cheesy.” We’re quick to judge Instagram models as bimbos or dummies, and they’re probably not, but that’s my perception or people’s perceptions. I don’t want to be that; I want to be a funny gal in a bikini.
YI: Do you question the value of Instagram for your work success?
JH: I question it sometimes. It’s the same with Facebook and a lot of apps. I took Facebook off my phone for a bit. With Instagram there was a time where I got obsessive with it because depending on the time of day and the algorithm, I would find a post that would get no likes. I’d think, “I have X amount of followers, how is this only reaching 20 people?” Then I’d get upset and become more upset for being upset about it.
Why does this matter to me? Why do I care? If it doesn’t matter to me, why do I have it? In those moments, I have to step away. Matt is good about it. He says, “post what you want. People will come around. If you like it, and you stand behind it, leave it up and who cares. If other people don’t like it, that’s up to them.”
It’s the same thing with stand-up comedy. There’s always going to be people who don’t like your jokes or don’t vibe with you. The people who do, will come around and you’ll find your niche. I think that’s important with staying true to yourself and posting what you want, versus what you think others are going to want to see. When you start doing that, then you drive yourself f-ing crazy.
YI: What do you think of Instagram’s trial to remove the number of likes on posts?
JH: It’s a good idea, because who cares? We put these numbers in our head and tie them to our self-worth and likeability. It’s silly. It’s a good idea, because I hate that there’s a spike of serotonin when, “OMG, this post got 300 likes.” “Oh, people like me.” It’s a gross feeling, because even though it feels nice, it also feels fake and weird.
It’s hard because of the industry I’m in. I have fans, and I want to put out content to keep them interested. When I go on tour, I want them to come to see me, because that helps me in my career. It’s hard to find the balance.
Matt makes a lot of videos. He’ll be like, “I spent a week putting this video together and nobody seems to care.” And then he’ll post a month later and he’ll get a lot of likes and people will say, “Dude, this is so funny.” You almost have to share on multiple channels and multiple times for people to see it, because there’s so much content out there. It’s not like we’re bad or people don’t like us, there’s only so much that humans can absorb.
YI: I worry sometimes, if Instagram were to disappear, that people’s self-worth would be at risk. It begs the question for each individual, if this platform disappears, how are you going to feel about yourself?
JH: My parents came to visit me in LA for the first time. I posted a few pictures and it was fun. I talked to my mom when they were home in Ottawa and she said, “oh yeah, the neighbour dropped by, and we threw the pictures up on the TV.” They shared their experience with the actual neighbourhood. I took a recent trip to Thailand and my friends have seen the highlights. My mom is like, “no one makes photo albums anymore. Everything is online. I never see photos of you kids.” That’s why she got Facebook. It’s one of the only reasons I have Facebook - to post things so my mom can see them. It would be nice to go back to something that’s less surface-level.