2022: A Year in Review, and Why I Came Back to Instagram

I don’t think there’s ever been a year in my life that has represented such a dramatic change as 2022. At the start of it I was facing a long road to recovery after the worst year of my life, while still awaiting a consultation with rheumatology I was absolutely dreading. In the middle of it I was enjoying some of the very experiences I’d missed during the pandemic and getting stuck in with our family renovation project. At the end, I’ve been able to get some stuff done in my own home that had been waiting for years and enjoying a Christmas holiday in much better health than this time last year.

I started the year with a huge clearout operation at home to try and give myself that fresh start I badly needed. Eventually in February that letter I had been dreading about my next appointment arrived, and I had a complete nervous breakdown about it. I was a nervous wreck, but I was told in the appointment that my condition was officially under control. I could then begin to move forward once again and try to put the horrors of last year behind me once and for all.

One thing I really wanted to get back to was events. I wrote about the Festive Insta Mingle at the end of 2019 blissfully unaware of what was about to hit us all. One of the organisers from that event put on a very similar event in March this year, but I decided it wasn’t quite the right time as I was still too weak for a long distance trip and it was right before the aforementioned hospital appointment. I didn’t have to wait too much longer for my next opportunity – the Housewise Brunch in Rookery Hall, Cheshire, where I was reunited with the incredible Lauren after four years apart.

Lauren was hugely supportive with me coming to the event. It felt like such a big thing for me to do, considering most of last year I was too unwell to even live in my own house, and those messages we exchanged on Insta made me feel so supported and welcomed. I’ve already written about this event in detail, and I hope next year I will be writing about it again and other events like it.

Full blog post: Housewise Brunch (Rookery Hall 2022)

As I recovered, I helped more and more at our renovation project, started blogging about it, and expanded my socials to be about all of us and the properties we worked on. My posts on insta became a mix of two houses, switching freely between them. I wasn’t sure how this would go as it’s very unusual for a home account to do this, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing about the experience of practically living out an episode of Homes Under The Hammer and doing something I always wanted to do.

Blog posts about the renovation can be found in the Project Gallery at the top of the page, clicking “View Blog Posts” under the “Project 2” header.

This renovation dominated our priorities for much of this year and so addressing a maintenance backlog in my own home that built up during the pandemic had to come second. There were a few things I was able to do myself before some help arrived later in the year. Some I’ve yet to write blog posts about, or even reveal anywhere at all.

One was the renovation of the Rockery out the front. This was how most of the summer break was spent, and it was great to be able to take this on myself, coming up with an idea that would work and putting my thoughts into reality.

Full blog post: From Mockery to Rockery – A Pinterest-inspired Garden Renovation

Another was a much needed redecoration and refit of my home office space. It badly needed a refresh and the space needed to be put to better use in order to accommodate a planned air con unit to make working more comfortable during heat waves. I haven’t really covered this yet anywhere as I am still trying to source a shelf to run across the width of the wall where the built in desk is, so it’s not finished. However, here is a preview.

Full blog post: Upcoming

I also retired my sofa, which was starting to show its age as it was getting on for a decade old. The old one was donated to charity. This new one has really transformed the space, as over the years my taste has moved away from black furniture, which in my opinion now takes away some of the light in the space. I considered this a good opportunity to take some of the weight out of the decor. I’ll show this another time, as I’m still trying to sort out a mirror to go above it.

Finally, there was a major new addition to the kitchen, which came to be called “the breakfast island”. It was a double-ended breakfast bar that was made to be the same height as the kitchen units. While not technically an island as it doesn’t offer storage, it is a big improvement on the tiny bar table that was here before, as it fits in with the surroundings so much better and allows adequate space for two people to sit and eat.

I’m especially proud of the fact that I thought of the design and built and painted it myself, and I’m pleased to say it works brilliantly.

Full blog post: Upcoming

Lastly, Christmas. The tree at my house made a reappearance after last year when it didn’t go up at all. Following my illness, I wasn’t feeling up to dragging the tree out from the Laundry Room cupboard and up the stairs, along with all its decorations. I was also planning to spend pretty much the entire holiday with family due to how tough the year had been, so putting the tree up felt a bit pointless.

I decided to get it out this time, mainly as an assertion to myself that this year is different and I am also in a much better place with my physical health now. I arranged the decorations black at the top and white at the bottom, with a gradual change working downwards.

As per tradition, I also helped mum do theirs. Christmas Day was lovely – it’s the one day my dad doesn’t have to worry about work so the time together is precious.

I took a break from social media for a few days at this point as I wanted to be in the moment as much as possible, so I haven’t really got any more photos to share, but Christmas Day was just a relaxing day at home for the four of us having a nice Christmas dinner, enjoying each other’s company, and watching some great telly.

That about sums up the highlights and achievements of 2022. I also wanted to put into writing some thoughts about why I came back to Instagram after my ordeal last year.

Some Thoughts On Instagram, and Why I’m Here

I’ll be honest, getting back into Insta after my Annus Horribilis has been hard. I’ve struggled to put that much energy into it as while I’ve been building up my physical health again, I’ve found myself often lacking the energy or the headspace to think about posting regularly, especially as the emotional aspect of my recovery goes on. I’ll talk about why that doesn’t matter to me in a bit, but first, a bit of history…

I discovered the home interiors community on Instagram in 2017 after browsing hashtags related to smart home technology from a now disused personal account. I was looking at Philips Hue lighting and found someone’s account of a home I was completely inspired by and fell in love with. I really felt like I could do a lot more with my home, which was just a series of magnolia boxes lacking in character or soul, and my love of interiors was born.

Some people might think, “How come you only have about 1,200 followers if you’ve had your account for nearly six years?”. In fact, I was once part of a Facebook group for budding influencers and someone really did say something like this to me. Also, when I was speaking to brand representatives at the first Housewise Brunch I went to in 2018, some of them literally turned their noses up at me, but I was unfazed by their rudeness. I think the answer to why I don’t have a big account on Insta has several factors, and I’ll talk a bit about how I really feel about followers later (clue: I’m not that fussed for several reasons). But firstly, one big reason as to why I have never really attracted that many people is simply because in my early days, my content was honestly quite boring, and I feel like that was the best opportunity to really establish myself on Insta.

To begin with, my house was bland. It had extremely basic decor. The main bedroom in particular had a dark bed, dark curtains and a dark feature wall and it really didn’t work with the magnolia walls either. It took a long time for me to find my identity when it came to home interiors, and I just settled with something to get myself living in there as quickly as possible.

Secondly, I didn’t really know how to conduct myself properly on the platform to begin with. My account is in good standing, but Insta does have some quite complex standards when it comes to posting and the general etiquette of the place, and I didn’t really know what people wanted to see, or indeed what I should be doing. I’d lose followers about as quickly as I’d gain them.

I’ve also had some quite negative experiences that have heavily knocked my confidence with using the platform. I’ve unfortunately come across people on it over the years who were not so nice and I have been badly hurt in the past. Not just me at the receiving end, but I’ve seen other people targeted by bullies too. My confidence in any friendships that came from Insta was badly damaged and it knocked me so much that I went a good six months or so dealing with major anxiety that stopped me posting or even really going on it at all. Sadly, as is the case with anywhere, not everyone is nice, but fortunately I’m a bit older now and I’ve found that with that has come a thicker skin.

Unfortunately, Insta does penalise people quite heavily after extended periods of activity and that’s certainly the case with me at the moment. There was a very good reason why I was off of it for a whole year – I was going through a serious relapse of a debilitating autoimmune disease in the middle of a pandemic that meant I was too unwell to even live in my own house. Sadly, the algorithms don’t care about that and now I’ll be lucky to get 15 likes on a post. While I was going through that ordeal, I was off of Insta for such a long time I doubt my engagement level will ever get back to where it was, and becoming an influencer with a big account is pretty much impossible.

And you know what, I’m fine with that.

People don’t join Instagram to become influencers. They join to integrate with a community and be inspired. They join to talk about their ideas with other people who have a common interest. They join to express their creativity and pick up a few friends along the way. I’ve done all those things in spades.

I came back to Insta because I wanted to have those things in my life again.

Becoming a big influencer with a “k” in the follower count and working with brands to promote their products is a bonus. It comes second to the things I mentioned above, which are a lot more important and what being a part of a community is all about.

Getting big on Insta is like becoming a pop star. Everyone works hard, but some people just get that big break and they sell records and go on tour, while others don’t go any further than singing in pubs and clubs. That’s just how it is. Everyone’s journey is different and success means different things. It may mostly be hard work, but some of it comes down to luck. It comes to some people easier than it does others.

I’m sure some of those performers in the latter group would, understandably, become demoralised if only the same two or three people were watching them on stage every time. When it comes to expressing creativity, there is a natural desire to be seen. That’s why I think there is a perfectly valid middle ground between wanting to be famous on Insta (whatever that means) and not.

On that spectrum, I’m somewhere around that middle ground, or maybe just below. If I could get to maybe 5k one day, that would be nice, but it’s not the be all and end all. It’s a “nice to have”. There does tend to be a bit of a culture on Insta where high-profile accounts with lots of followers like to big each other up and also celebrate the big milestones where accounts get shared in stories with a caption like “Let’s get this account to 50k” or something. I really dislike this and would rather not get too deep into it. Put simply, I want to keep Insta fun, and I’m not prepared to get obsessed over vanity metrics. Life is too short for that.

Especially after going through a serious illness twice by the age of 30, the things that matter most to be are being healthy and being able to make memories with great friends. Thankfully, the friendships I made on Insta before my life collapsed are still as strong as ever, even if I did miss some pretty major life events. They know what I went through, and they get it, because they are true friends.

I personally don’t think being Insta-famous would actually make my life any better in any way, so is it really worth investing so much effort in?

Especially after what life has thrown my way the last few years, I just want to keep it fun, above all else. A few more followers would be nice, but it isn’t exactly high on my list of priorities.

That’s all for this year. See you all in 2023.


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