So, it feels a little weird to come back and write on this blog after taking so much time off. It seems to have become a reoccurring theme with ellamaygarrett.com that I write then disappear for weeks and come back again. If you haven’t been around for a long time, you won’t know why I started this blog. For me, 2 years ago, I was in a bad place and I needed somewhere that I could write and be myself. It ended up becoming my little personal gateway into a community of friends and amazing people that inspire and influence me every day. It completely lifted me up and the support I found was unprecedented in my everyday life. I think when you believe the world is against you, finding a stranger that takes the time to tell you otherwise is a dream.

Since then, things have changed a lot. I have just finished my last essay for university and I’m going to be graduating in July this year. I’m packing up my life in Cambridgeshire and I am moving permanently to the place that brings me the most happiness in the world with the person that makes me the happiest. I have only ever really fallen in love with 3 geographical places, Yangshuo, Barcelona and York – and to get to move to York is a big old scary venture that I can’t wait to dive headfirst into. Lastly, I accepted a job offer to work in Social Media and Marketing. It is my first ‘real adult’ job and to think that I got the position because I took on things such as this blog is crazy.

Ellamaygarrett.com has completely shaped me as a person and helped me grow in ways I never thought writing could do. Anybody who has ever messaged me about starting a blog has been inundated with replies from me urging them to do it over and why I have loved it so much. With that, I have personally and mentally grown away from why I started and I think this new chapter of my life is hopefully one filled with happiness and not one filled with the darkness it once was.

Without this blog and certainly without the amazing people I have got to know because of it, I certainly wouldn’t be starting work in this industry. I wouldn’t have realised how much I love learning about social media and its benefits and how some connections on Twitter can make all the difference for a business. As cheesy as it is, finding this space probably saved me from a lot of sadness that I didn’t see an end to.

I want to write more and I still find myself thinking about posts I could do but I keep failing to prioritise it as something to do. I think I can no longer consider myself a ‘blogger’ but rather someone who owns a rather public diary who shares their thoughts from time to time. You never know, I may drive right back into blogging after I’m settled in York and who knows, maybe it will become an even bigger part of my life than it was before but, for now, it is a little break for it and I. Hopefully I will be hit by some new inspiration and I will be doing this again three times a week, like I used to, but until then… see ya soon!

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You write up your post, add a few photos, do all your checks and finally click publish. Your post wooshes off into the digital atmosphere and that’s it. Your little piece of writing is out there for anybody to digest and have their opinion on.

However, on a blogger’s end, other than stats and the odd comment, you don’t necessarily see any direct impact from your writing. For me, it is like writing a public diary. I don’t really expect it to get read by people most of the time and nor do I expect it to affect them in any way.

What you don’t get told about when you start blogging is how, in reality, people you never expect to interact and read your posts will. I definitely got “the fear” when it came to publicising my blog on my previously private platforms. It wasn’t until I was over a year in and my engagement had suffered from going self-hosted that I took the plunge and began mentioning posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Honestly, I was nervous about people outside of the blogging world mocking me for what I do. I know I know, I really shouldn’t care, but these were the people that I grew up and went to school with, and, like most other school kids, they had no qualms about taking the piss out of each other. The whole slightly bitchy playground scenario. I have no problem with anybody I grew up with. At all. But I had definitely seen similar reactions when we were younger and I didn’t want to be next. This is why I eased myself into promoting what I had written and didn’t expect much in return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blazer (similar) | Jeans

What I never believed would happen has slowly happened. I never thought that people I worked with, my friends even from my primary school and family friends would take the time to engage with what I had written and even take the time to comment back to me. I presumed when I did a cheery little post on social media that the odd blogger might hop on over but never someone I worked with over 4 years ago or a friend from 5 years ago, at that. I never thought what I would be saying would be of any interest. Over time, I have been overwhelmed to get a message from someone here and there that what I was saying was really interesting, they really enjoyed it and even the odd one saying it was inspiring. I actually both cringe at myself and light up saying the latter half of that sentence. There is no way on earth I would ever associate myself with such a characteristic… but I’ll take it and run, thank ya!

There is nothing quite like the joy of knowing that a friend has sat and read through my Ultimate Gift Guide For Her to find out what to buy his partner, or that family have read about my Wine Tasting Experience. Something about it makes me so eternally grateful and happy.

So what I am saying is, have faith in yourself. Trust that people will enjoy what you can do and there is no shame in saying it. I encourage everyone to write and when I have been asked to give advice it is generally to just go for it. Like me, you’ll probably be utterly surprised by who takes an interest and it means the absolute world to see something you have created go down well with others.

To the people who have ever sent me a little DM on Instagram, messaged me on Facebook or spoken to me in person: I cannot even thank you enough for how it makes me feel. You might not know but this blog was started to escape a debilitating and all-consuming mental health diagnosis and the little compliments have helped so much in overcoming some of the hardest points in my life. It is impossible to explain how much it means to someone who writes a blog post to hear some encouragement and I cannot stress enough how amazing it is for people to go out of their way to drop a little message to do just that. Thank you to everyone who has ever messaged me or another blogger to say something nice. And hey, it doesn’t need to be a blogger. Anybody on social media or in person. Are they wearing a cute dress in their photo and look fab? Tell them! If they’re trying something on in Zara and you think it looks hella fine. Tell them! Kindness makes the world go round.

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As I find myself stuck in an endless Instagram scroll through an unbelievably gorgeous model’s page, double-tapping on each and every classic beach bikini photo, fruit breakfast on a balcony with a view and candids, I feel bad.

Somehow, and for some reason, I can feel absolutely horrible about myself and my appearance, just by scrolling through someone’s page. Ella, you shouldn’t compare people’s lives. Obviously, this is something we all know to avoid but it doesn’t stop it happening. It doesn’t stop adults, and it definitely doesn’t stop teens, from comparing and contrasting every little detail in our own lives to that of a 200k-followed goddess.

This is often when I know I need to close Instagram and do something different. Instagram is, unfortunately, a perfect tool for procrastination, happily eating away at our boredom. That is what makes it so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of comparison. However, it is so important to know when to stop and walk away.

Also, my form of comparison may be the examples I have used, but, it equally works for artists, musicians and other people alike. Your talents, looks, and personality all shine through in their own way and overusing Instagram can be way too toxic for our own good.

Now, I’m not doubting the clear advantages to Instagram. It is, undeniably, a great social media platform in many aspects. It allows those with a creative flair to showcase their work, for bloggers and influencers to interact with others, to be a personal photo diary and more. However, with all great things, there are the disadvantages that have to be addressed.

There are countless reports on the detrimental effects of overusing Instagram on people’s mental health and honestly, I don’t think it stops there. Young people, especially, can vouch for friendships and relationships being tested by a partner’s choice to like certain photos, for example. Friendships can be damaged by others feeling left out too. When I was doing some research for this post I saw countless articles on “how to see what your boyfriend has liked” and advice articles about “what to do when your significant other isn’t liking your photos”. Obviously, this isn’t healthy and doesn’t lead to happy relationships.

None of this is something that should be taken lightly. Any negative impact on someone’s mental health should be discussed and it should potentially start with addressing our unhealthy addiction to social media, particularly Instagram. For example, “The UK’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement surveyed nearly 1,500 people ages 14 to 24 about how social networking sites and apps impact their mental health, including anxiety, depression, self-identity, and body image, and found that Instagram has the “most detrimental” effect on young people” (Vogue 2017).

Now that doesn’t look great.

Undoubtedly, this is all about finding a balance and learning to look behind a photo. Try to avoid spending countless hours flicking through photos of your ex-best mate who is now buddies with your current best mate, comparing your figure to personal trainers or Victoria’s Secret models, or even feeling jealous over someone’s material possessions. We all know that none of these actions have happy consequences. So, first things first:

  • Learn to unfollow the people that bring you more sadness than goodness. If you’re worried that you might offend someone, just message them if needs be (the unfollowing on social media debacle is a whole other blog post).
  • Their skin probably isn’t that smooth, their tummy that taut and their body that flawless. That is just what the photo is showing you. Heck, if it is, good on you pal, I’d show it off too.
  • They might be posting that amazing summer holiday photo while they’re in bed in pjs and scruffy hair. There are two sides to every photo!

And, thankfully, there are some people that show us that Instagram isn’t to always be taken at face value. There has recently been a huge influx of various different models posting reality photos in comparison with the edited or heavily posed ones they may normally post. This is the type of normality that I really appreciate in influencers and I’m sure others do to. There is nothing wrong with aspirational photos of great abs and killer legs but I also want to see that other people don’t have washboard stomachs when they sit down. It is just relatable. And, more often than not, what we need to be able to decipher between Instagram and reality. You may have come across Essena O’Neill, for example, who recaptioned all of her photos with the behind the scenes reality (news story here) or fitness model, Imre Çeçen, who shared posed v reality shots of her figure (news story here) – both I totally recommend checking out.

I don’t want any of these thoughts to suggest that I don’t love Instagram, because I do. I love seeing other people’s photos and sharing my own, and that is what makes it such a successful platform. However, I want to encourage everybody to remember to put your mental health first and sometimes have a break from the pitfalls of social media. Teen Vogue phrased it perfectly, “Look, at the end of the day, it’s simple: if makeup makes you feel good, wear it. If you think it’s fun to apply and play with and test new techniques, by all means, do so. But double-tapping a photo on Instagram and thinking your life would be better if you looked like a girl thousands of miles away doesn’t have anything to do with the makeup that’s on her face” (Teen Vogue 2015).

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When I hit 1500 followers I was asked by … if I would consider doing a blogging advice post. I never considered myself qualified enough or with enough experience to make this post but I thought I would share my personal “swear by” blogging tips with you guys.

Keep things polished

Nothing puts off a reader like a page that is hard to navigate, looks unfinished (I’m talking about where it still explains what a text widget is.. things like that) and is pretty inconsistent. Yep, these things are totally guaranteed to be present when you start up or go through changes but it is important to keep things as clear and consistent as possible. I recommend having some sort of theme to keep things polished. This could just be colours you use, particular layouts to each post, the same sign off at the end or similar header photos. All these things are important to keep people clicking on over and wanting to actually stay and browse your blog.

Interact

Arguably, one of the most important pieces of blogging advice anybody can give. This doesn’t just mean replying to comments in a relatively quick turn around (you do miss some here and there and you’re obviously going to be busy but 3 weeks is a bit too long if you ask me!) on your blog but also engaging with other bloggers. Sometimes it can be really hard to come across blogs and content that you enjoy so start with just reciprocating any appreciation others have given you. We are all here to support each other and ultimately, without that, blogging and the community wouldn’t exist. I have also found that interacting on social media helps so much. Tweet links to your posts, chat with bloggers in blogger chats and use Instagram to find some amazing bloggers.

Post regularly

I found that I was posting whenever inspiration hit me initially but I have since realised that a schedule, personally, works so much better. People know when to expect to hear from you next and it helps with the consistency point previously mentioned. Also, nobody is 100% inspired to write posts every single day – hence why I admire people like Angela and Cheila that are so damn present on WordPress – you people are goals! I often block write posts when I am really inspired and then when I am lacking I focus on making the pictures for the posts or browsing other people’s blogs. This also helps balance your timing between your blog and others, I find.

Keep it personal

This doesn’t necessarily mean make very personal, autobiographical posts but heck, why not? I mean do exactly what you want to do with no shame. Don’t choose to review makeup products when you don’t really feel passionate about it because it is so obvious when people aren’t 100% in to writing about something, honestly. Also, decide what works best for you in terms of long posts, short posts, 4 times a week updating us ‘day in the life’ style or once a week with a polished picture heavy post? It is all up to you and is ultimately the little bits that make your blog personal and unique.

What is the blogging advice that you swear by?

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I have been self hosted for a few days and I have to admit it was one of the most stressful and nerve wracking things I have ever done to my blog. I have had ellamaygarrett.com for over a year now and the thought of losing everything that I had worked for was my biggest concern and something that prevented me from taking the plunge before.

As I mentioned on my last update post, other people’s experience posts really helped me throughout the whole process so I thought I would share mine in the hope that it helps anybody else out there thinking of making the leap to being self hosted.

Where Do I Start?

I hopped over to Site Ground where I purchased a plan that was a little over £30 for the year. Their website is reasonably easy to navigate so it doesn’t feel like a daunting process. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t research any companies and I went with Site Ground purely on the recommendation of others in their own experience posts so I have little to compare it to. Site Ground migrated all my WordPress content over for me so that was a nice easy thing that I didn’t have to worry about. Honestly, during this bit, just do some research or chill out. Let them handle the moving process for you. They will let you know when everything is ready for you to take over and make your own edits. I was sent a link when my site was ready and I could begin making changes.

I would totally recommend using the Site Ground help pages as I did find them really clear and useful to use when going through the various steps to becoming self hosted and having a fully functioning site.

The Complications

When you know nothing about this type of venture it is super daunting and you do fear losing everything at points. Because I already had ellamaygarrett.com the mapping from here there and everywhere got quite complicated and I was worried it wasn’t going to work. The best advice I could have is just to be as patient as possible. By this point, I had already been making the transition for a few solid hours and every time I tried to customise my new self hosted site I was kicked off and my old WordPress site would reappear in its place. I was massively frustrated as I kept losing all the changes I made so I decided what was best was for me to close my laptop down for a bit and just come back to it later. Honestly, this made the world of difference and probably benefited the Site Ground support team that I just kept hassling about this that and the other.

Theme

I went to pipdig for my theme as I knew it was a site a lot of reputable bloggers use and love. I will admit that I dived in to buying one very quickly without actually checking out other places so I would recommend finding a theme you love (if you’re going to buy outside of WordPress) before making the whole transition as I was left worried about a half finished site going public and being on some default theme. I chose the Firefly theme and it cost me £39 but was quick and easy to download and looks good (well I think so anyway!). I would say that if you want something very individual to you, pipdig probably isn’t the best source as you will probably see several blogs that are variations of similar themes from them.

Migrating Followers

This is something that I am still attempting to work on. I followed the guide on the Jet Pack help site which was definitely super easy and ensured I didn’t lose the 2150 followers I had. Although, this is something that I am still working on. Yes I now have the followers I had before but I have 11 followers some how still lurking on my old site who followed after I made the migration. If I attempt to migrate them over again, does this replace the ones I have already migrated? I don’t want to attempt to move 11 people and lose over 2000. That is a lot of work to gain back! If anybody knows, I would really appreciate the help!

What’s Next?

I am now attempting to learn the ropes of SEO (I am useless at this stuff!), ads, DA and more. This is all totally outside of my comfort zone and I am thinking in time of doing beginner guides on each of the topics to make the self hosted journey a little easier for each and every person that decides to make the switch and didn’t know very much – like myself! Let me know if you would like to see more when it comes to a beginner in the self hosted journey as I cannot begin to say how much other people’s experience posts helped me and I would very much like to do the same!

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