With over 60,000 Youtube Subscribers and over 100,000 Instagram followers, a successful blog and winner of the InStyle UK ‘Travel & Lifestyle Blogger of the year’ in 2016, Lifestyle blogger Em Sheldon has made a name for herself discussing beauty, fashion, travel, lifestyle and fitness on her online platforms. Based between Leeds and London, Em shares a great deal of her life online. Speaking to Lifestyle Deputy, Ciara McCormack, Sheldon shares her journey to becoming a social media influencer and the struggles with being so open online.
As we are a university paper, I thought I would ask some university-based questions. How did you find your time at university, what did you study?
“I went to the university of Leeds and studied broadcast journalism. In my first year of university I had a lot of fun. I always wished I got involved with more societies and tried to socialise with new people. My university was quite cliquey as lots of people came from the same areas in London. My first year was mainly focussed on my blog, my boyfriend and my housemates instead of expanding my horizons as much as I should. In my third year, I did a year abroad where I met some incredible friends and had the time of my life. I would always say to people you don’t have to meet the friends of your life within the first week, you never know when it might happen. My best friend was on my course for three years and we only became friends after we graduated. The universe has a funny way of figuring itself out.”
Do you think your time at university shaped the way in which you have created a career for yourself?
“Yeah, part of me thinks I didn’t need the degree in order to do the job I do. However, in terms of the people I met and the experience gained from being at university I believe it has motivated me within my career. I believe university is a really good thing. It has helped me gain life skills and people skills. Also, doing work experience also helped me.”
What inspired you to develop a blog and your YouTube channel? When did you discover you could turn it into a career?
“When I was in sixth form I originally wanted to study psychology. I spoke to the admissions tutor who suggested I write a blog. I got into a deep hole of reading them and began writing for myself. I get lots of emails everyday asking how to make money from blogging. I politely reply and say if you are starting something to make money you have kind of already failed. I started off going to Tesco and Boots buying beauty products and talking about it and people read it.”
Social media appears to be an ever-expanding platform that has opened up a wide range of careers. What advice would you advise those looking into social media or blogging as a career option?
“Definitely be yourself, you are your niche, don’t try and copy other people, you can stand out enough as you are. Ultimately people are reading and watching your content for you. If you want a job in social media whether it is PR, marketing, running social media accounts), we [this generation] are the best people for the job. We have grown up with social media and are living and breathing it. Our age range are the ‘social media generation’. I would encourage consuming as much social media as possible and be aware of what is going on in the social media world.”
As your job requires to show parts of your personal life online, do you find it tricky determining what to not and what to share online?
“Definitely, people read [your blog] because they like you as a person, want to know about your life and you have let them in. If you are having a tricky time with your boyfriend or family this isn’t something I can share and can affect the rest of my content.
My boyfriend doesn’t like being featured on things, it is difficult as if he is featured on things people think he’s moody but he’s not, he just doesn’t want to be in it. Someone had emailed me after a blog saying that my boyfriend doesn’t treat you right however they just didn’t understand our banter. I don’t think people realise they only see a small percentage of your day. I don’t show us having a really good time as I try and keep those moments private. This can sometimes give people the wrong impression.”
It appears that the blogging and social media has become increasingly difficult for genuine bloggers and influencers due to mediums such as bots, algorithms and buying followers. How do you deal with this and what extent do you think this impacts the blogging community?
“I definitely think it impacts upon the blogging community because it makes us all look bad and makes people question us. There are good tools out there such as SocialBlade that makes it easy to see if someone is buying followers as it shows their historical data. People have become a lot more savvy on whether people are buying followers. It’s about ensuring people are aware and showing people how they can detect them. It’s important to be aware so that brands don’t waste their money on them and people don’t waste their time following people frauding the system. I do think it’s a form of fraud. I have been doing this [blogging] since the start of uni, I have never had accelerated growth. You see these girls who have thousands of followers overnight as they’ve bought them which is just unfair. It makes your hard work not look genuine. I think these accounts will die out eventually as people are becoming quite savvy.”
Social media can be depicted as a platform that is problematic, do you think that the positive aspects of social media are often overlooked. How can we make our social media experiences more positive?
“I think only consume content that makes you feel good, if someone is constantly indirect tweeting or being negative, just mute them. It could be someone who you have a toxic relationship with or someone that doesn’t make you feel good but muting or unfollowing is fine. People can feel down from reading the news. It is very normal to be negative as people can’t be positive all the time. I think it’s dangerous to only consume positive content as life isn’t all fairies and rainbows, but there is always something negative on social media so I think you’re fine with that. Social media can be dangerous however this depends on what you are consuming. There are celebrities such as Kim Kardashian that are promoting hunger suppressant lollies. That is very damaging for people who want to look like Kim, lose weight or are of a younger age. I hope the majority of people speak out about it enough so that people do not go out and buy them.”
You recently wrote a blog post concerning gym and diet guilt and your experiences with it. Do you think that social media has a large part to play in these pressures?
“Yeah completely, even myself with gym addiction. I follow these beautiful, wonderful girls but I do think some of the messages given out can be quite damaging depending on who is reading it. The talk about only working out six times a week is unachievable for most people. I think that we don’t need to work out that many times in a week. I would hate to think that people felt like they had to in order to achieve a certain body. I believe it’s all about balance.”
Your role as a blogger can create much pressure concerning how you look to what you say. How do aim to control stress and do you handle stress differently now compared to your time at university?
“For me going to the gym has always been my stress buster. Also, taking photos or tidying my room, I find therapeutic. I have always been someone that believes in going and grabbing some fresh air or having a laugh with some friends. I also find priority lists useful. In my final year of uni I struggled juggling dealing with clients, going to lectures and writing a dissertation. Balancing priorities taught me the importance of segregating my days. My lists are even time allocated. I also find locking my phone away helps with productivity as I can sit and scroll on my phone endlessly.”
As a blogger, you work for yourself, what have you found most rewarding and challenging about working freelance?
“The most rewarding is being able to treat my family, I was able to take my brother to New York after we have had a tough year. My brother and my mum both work for me. It is nice that I have built a business that is a family-based where my family and friends can help. Blogging has helped me build a community too. A lot of my followers have become my friends and bloggers have become my best friends. The not so rewarding part is how difficult it is to run a business. People seem to think it is very easy and we [bloggers] stand around taking selfies but there is so much more to the job. Online trolling is also something that everyone gets and is relentless. I think people should try to be a bit nicer!”
How do you manage work, social life and keeping fit and healthy as a blogger? Has this changed much from when you were a student?
“When I was a student I found it a lot easier to keep fit, as I could fit my spin classes around my lectures every day. Now I find that I eat out a lot, as we all do as millennials! I’m either at events or in a different city or country so I struggle to get into a routine. I try and go to the gym when I can and try not to beat myself up about it when I can’t. I try to do three sessions minimum a week and anything extra is a bonus. If I have a busy day of meetings, I will walk in between them if I am unable to work out at the gym.”