I had a discussion with the Mrs last night about something that has been floating around my mind for a while. I told her that I wanted to quit the whole food-blogging and Instagrammer thing and immediately, I saw this face of concern and anxiety wash over her face.
Now, it's not that she didn't support my decision, in fact, almost immediately after the expression on her face had settled, she said "whatever you want to do, you've got my full support" however, her concern was that I had been doing this for so long that the "Mr Chopsticks" persona had fully become an inseparable part of my identity (she felt) and so, I went about explaining what made me feel like quitting and what finally sealed the deal.
I distinctly remember starting this journey with the Mrs (before she officially became my wife) on the blue couch at her parent's place after we had eaten and had a wonderful experience at a restaurant in the hills area. The experience left such an impression on me that I decided to commit to an on-again-off-again hobby of mine which was food-blogging. Through the support of the Mrs, I was able to stay consistent about it and eventually, even started transitioning my personal Instagram account into a joint one for our food adventures.
So, at first, it was a her-and-I kind of deal...just an extra step to record a memory of our dates online and share our experiences with the world. Then, through Instagram, I started to get exposure...people started commenting on my posts, liking them. I started putting more relevant hashtags on my posts and it ballooned from there. We started being invited to events and I felt like we had been accepted into a wider community of the Sydney Foodie scene. So in short, I got hooked on the attention and positive affirmation.
See, I've never been one to stick around with my hobbies or passions long enough to see results. This was the first of my hobbies where I had actually commited effort into getting better, learning and making it work. If anything, one of the positives I got out of this experience was that I learned the value that was hard-work, commitment and persistence.
So, if it was relatively positive, why am I quitting? Well, to be flatout honest...I'm burnt out. I have been for a while and I no longer get enjoyment from the experience. It all started when my Instagram follower count hit the 1500 mark. Getting from 500 to 1500 felt like a breeze (not in actuality but it was a fun time so I didn't mind) but I felt like I had platued at roughly 1500 and every subsequent plateau was getting harder and harder to organically hit. Instagram is unfortunately a "pay-to-win" model where if you want to take it seriously, it's almost always that you would need to pay for followers or pay for people to go around liking/following other people to get reach. And then once you do attain that superficial level of influence, restaurants and PR companies will then invite you more often therefore compounding your investment and hopefully translating your purchased followers into real ones. I'm sure there are trail-blazers out there who have done it all organically but the amount of effort you would need to put in to get there just isn't something I can give.
So, to summarise, the first reason is that I feel like I can't organically grown beyond my current follower count of 1966 - 1969. I know it's shallow but at some stage, this did become about the numbers and how many people I could reach and seeing the stagnation or my follower count drop depressed me. It literally made me feel sad.
The second reason which is somewhat related to the above is that I don't like the person I've become when Instagram is involved. So, through the years, we've been invited to a few events and at each event, we've managed to meet a number of friendly and like-minded foodies which has been fantastic. Sometimes, this even eventuates in further foodie events, dinners or meetings which really boosted my confidence and told me I was doing the right thing. But somewhere along the line, you see this ugly side of you come out...you start comparing. You tell yourself not to and try to convince yourself that it's not a competition or a race but you inherently start comparing yourself to people who started later than you, do about the same thing and get more followers and get to go to more events. You start to feel jealousy, envy and things that you just shouldn't be feeling.
On top of that, the bonds you build when you're out networking and mingling rarely extend beyond that...a network. Once you turn down one invitation and show that you can't keep up, they start to drift away because they realise you have nothing to contribute to their influence. And that's the key word there...the entire experience has become about "keeping up" and frankly, it's gotten REAL exhausting. On top of that, you do also come to realise that the whole "community" is web of utilitarian relationships...it's all based on assessments of what you have to give and what you can get out of the other person. Once you come to that realisation, it's hard not to become a paranoid person. I can probably say with confidence that in this time I've been a foodie, I've only ever met maybe two people who I would truly consider a friend.
Finally, the Mrs and I have been doing this for years and a lot of things have changed in our lives. When we started, we were uni students with part time jobs and nothing else to pay for cause we lived at home. We could afford to eat out often and eat well. Then I proposed, and we decided to get married (best decision of my life by-the-way) which means saving towards a goal of paying for a moderate wedding, honeymoon and eventual financial independence. We achieved that and moved out to Parramatta and lived a comfy, newlywed life for two years before finally becoming homeowners this year. We're ticking off boxes in the "stable life" checklist one by one with the intention to continue on and hopefully expand our family further in the future by having kids. In short, we've grown up, moved on and our priorities have shifted...we can't really financially support or justify the "foodie" lifestyle anymore. Additionally, this lifestyle has had it's health impacts on me in that I've gained a significant amount of weight and will need to start cutting down and being more healthy to reduce risks of later health complications.
So, what does this mean?
Well, we ain't giving up the "Mr and Mrs Chopsticks" nickname. It's far too cute and meaningful for us to suddenly just drop it. But it does mean that we won't be committed to blogging or posting on Instagram anymore. We will still eat out (cause, we gotta eat) but it won't be my first instinct to flip out my phone an take pictures or to get it online. I'll only also maybe use a select 3 or 4 l hashtags so as to make it easier for me to identify my posts rather than use them to increase traffic. This also obviously means that we are no longer interested in going to events, collaborating or meeting new foodies.
The Instagram profile will serve as an archive for the history between the Mrs and I and I'll slowly transition the account back into being less about the food and slightly more about us as a couple and a family. The blog will stay around for me to go back to if I ever get sentimental.
As a final piece, I'd like to thank everyone who's ever spent the time to read our posts. As jaded as I am about the experience now, there is no denial that for a long time, being a foodie has enriched our lives and I do hope that at the very least, someone somewhere has gotten a little bit of enjoyment out of reading.