'I had to walk away': Why one body positivity blogger called 'time-out' on social media

Image via Yahoo Canada.

Introducing EveryBody, a series by Yahoo Canada highlighting the people and organizations working to end weight stigma, promote size inclusivity and prove that everybody and every body has value.

Rini Frey is a writer, social media strategist and the creator of the Own It Babe blog and podcast. She has grown an online following of more than 165,000 people drawn to her take on mental health, body image and self care. In May, Frey announced she was walking away from her online following - unsure if she would return. In August, Frey returned to the blogging world and shared with Yahoo Canada what she learned during her break from social media.

Rini Frey. Image via Instagram/OwnItBabe.

The other day I said something to my husband I didn’t think I would ever say out loud, “I haven’t checked my Instagram in over 3 months.”

There was a time not too long ago, where my entire life revolved around this little app. I was a content creator, meaning I was on my phone and laptop 24/7, sharing content, connecting with my followers and clients, creating online programs and marketing them, but most of all being “on” all the time.

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Whenever I was out and about, I thought about how I could share it to my platforms in a way that connects with my audience. When I was on vacation, I was stressed out about not working “enough.” When I was watching a movie at night with my family, I was secretly catching up on emails and DMs on my phone.

Rini Frey. Image courtesy of Rini Frey. Photo by Kirstie Jo Photo.

That being said, it was what I chose to do for a living and at first, it was really, really fun.

I met amazing people that became friends of mine to this day. I built an incredible community of people that supported one another. Most of all, I did what I loved doing, which was sharing about my life in hopes that it makes someone smile or look at things differently. My goal was always to encourage other people and make them feel less alone in whatever they were going through.

The first year of this career was an absolute blast.

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I remember waking up every single morning being so incredibly excited to create content for my website, Instagram and podcast and grow the vision that I had for this business. I was on a mission, constantly thinking about what I can do to have a bigger impact and to turn my account into the community that it is today.

However, what I didn’t know when I started my Instagram account was that the more my account grew, the more pressure I would experience to “perform” and cater to people. I realized very quickly that every single word I would say or write could potentially be misunderstood and used against me.

I remember reading my first hate comment.

“You look disgusting,” it read. “I’m sure your husband has somebody on the side. No one would want to be with someone like you. Gross.”

Truth be told, it wasn’t great to wake up to a message like this, but I was surprisingly OK with inappropriate comments about my appearance. I knew that these people didn’t have any power over me. I was at peace with my body and could brush off the negativity.

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Over time the negative messages I woke up to changed in content. All of a sudden, the comment sections of my posts were getting heated and political. Probably because I was sharing openly about some internal work I was doing recognizing my privileges and being more mindful about the content I shared. It’s challenging to discuss this topic without offending people or coming off as defensive. The more I tried to have productive conversations and learn, the more I realized that most people online aren’t there to have productive conversations.

I started getting harassed and bullied on a daily basis. I’d wake up to hateful DMs, comments and emails every single day.

Image courtesy of Rini Frey. Photo by Kirstie Jo Photo.

These messages weren’t about me being “too fat” or “too ugly” to speak up, but rather about me being “too privileged.” That I couldn’t possibly understand what it feels like to go through a hard time, because “I had it too easy.”

I understood where some of these people were coming from, because there certainly is a lot of work all of us need to do to address our internalized biases and to realize that some things we say may be problematic.

I am working on this every single day and I am very far from perfect. However, there came a point where all of these messages became an overwhelming noise in my head that was cancelling out my own voice. I couldn’t hear myself anymore. I’d wake up ridden with anxiety about what I was going to face that day and if I was going to be okay by the end of it. The motivation and inspiration I once felt when creating my content was fading away more and more each day.

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So, on a random Tuesday in May of 2019, I had a moment of clarity: I need to step away from the noise. I need to start taking care of myself again. My message was about self-care and self-compassion and I wasn’t walking my talk anymore. I felt defeated.

I knew then and there that it was time. I had to walk away, at least for a while. So, I did. I haven’t been on social media for almost three months. During the first couple of weeks the FOMO was real, not gonna lie. But the more time I spent away from the noise, the more at peace I felt about myself.

Image courtesy of Rini Frey. Photo by Kirstie Jo Photo.

Living my life offline and connecting with more people in real life has been incredibly soothing for my soul.

Even though I miss my online community dearly and am thinking about returning to my account every single day, I feel as if I am not quite ready. Not yet.

I need a bit more time to take care of myself and recharge.

Being a somewhat public figure on the internet can take a serious toll on you, especially if you are an empath and people-pleaser like me. It can be a double-edged sword in many ways and if you don’t look after yourself, there’s a big risk you’ll burn yourself out.

Here are my takeaways:

  1. Being a content creator can be fun, fulfilling and liberating. It can also be isolating, depressing and extremely anxiety-provoking. It’s not as glamorous as it seems to a lot of people. In fact, a lot of content creators suffer from anxiety that is directly related to their online presence. It’s important for us to be okay with taking longer breaks or stepping away for good if that’s what we need to do.

  2. If you are a content consumer, I highly encourage you to support the creators that mean something to you. Invest in them, comment on their posts, DM them and let them know how much their content means to you. Share their account with your friends and spread their message. You have more power than you think and you might be the reason they continue doing what they do.

  3. Don’t be a jerk to content creators. We are just doing the best we can with whatever we’ve got, just like you. If you have something important to share with them, do it respectfully. If not, a simple “unfollow” will suffice.

I do think I will eventually return to my account once I feel ready. However - and this is something I suggest all of us do - I will be setting some major social media boundaries for myself.

There is a lot of negativity online, that’s for sure. If we look for it, we see it everywhere. On the other hand, if we start looking for inspiring content and meaningful conversations instead, we will find those, too.

Image courtesy of Rini Frey. Photo by Kirstie Jo Photo.

Being intentional with the amount of time I spend on this app, as well as who I choose to engage with will be the most important part of my new “strategy.” If I feel I need another social media hiatus down the road, I will definitely follow through with it before my anxiety takes over again.

The other day I listened to a podcast by Gary Vee, where he talked about the importance of having empathy and respect for other people’s (negative) opinions, without judging yourself as a result.

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This really resonated with me and I believe that this is the only way to move forward in life, without being crippled by other people’s opinions of us. What matters at the end of the day is what we think of ourselves.

And let me tell you, it can be a serious challenge to silence all the noise and hear your own voice above anyone else’s. But it’s a challenge I’m willing to take and do my best at. I hope you do, too.

This story originally ran in August, 2019.

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