An often over-saturated and contentious topic of conversation, social media has become a staple aspect of modern human existence. With over 3.8 billion users worldwide flocking to thousands of different social media platforms on a daily basis, the act of logging on is amongst the most fundamental. While social media started out as an innocent way to connect with people via the internet, it is obvious that it has grown to mean much more than reaching out to a buddy and saying hey online. A place to learn, to argue, to show off and express, social media is its own microcosm of the 21st century world that created it.
No one is more well-versed in the perils and triumphs of social media than Yan Yan Chan, the Sydney based, Hong Kong born creative renowned on social media for her unapologetic charm, great sense of style and artistic self-expression. Forging a name for herself in the fashion and creative industries by recognising the power of social media in its early years, Yan Yan has learnt to navigate and thrive in the undoubtedly weird and intriguing online world.
CELINE bra and jacket; R.M WILLIAMS jeans.
Creating a career on social media was never part of Yan Yan’s plan, with the stigma around bloggers and the early iteration of the influencer heavily perpetuated in traditional media.
When I started off online, monetising and making a career out of social media was still relatively new. It was back in the day when people just started writing blogs… I’ve had my blog since I was 16, and from there it grew onto Instagram. I was interning a lot, I thought I wanted to have a career in fashion PR, and then I moved into styling and then I eventually moved into creating content.
I’ve always wanted to work in fashion, and have people take me seriously - I think this comes with being a young person, a young woman and also a young Chinese woman. To have had a platform to be able to pave your own way is not enough to ensure success - something that I’ve always had to remind myself is that I am deserving of being in the position I am today because it came with hard work, and bumps in the road.
LOEWE dress; TOD'S shoes.
"When you look at the influencer and digital sphere, the majority of the people who are leading this industry are women, and I think it has given us the opportunity to flourish and give us a platform to create our own identities without having the male gaze or the control of a male dominated industry."
LOEWE dress; TOD'S shoes.
But did we ever stop to think why social media was so heavily stigmatised, and why influencers are still the recipients of backlash, mocking and judgement from audiences and traditional media worldwide? Yan Yan sheds some light:
When you look at the influencer and digital sphere, the majority of the people who are leading this industry are women, and I think it has given us the opportunity to flourish and give us a platform to create our own identities without having the male gaze or the control of a male dominated industry. It is one of the only industries where women are making more money than men. And it’s because of the influencer role, which is really unique.
Influencers are so heavily criticised because for such a long time, women have had to monetise off their looks, and in a way it is still like that but we have an opportunity to manoeuvre aside from that - we can now monetise our physical looks and our other skills in a way that we control.
Left: CHANEL jacket, pants and earrings. Right: BOTTEGA VENETA Salon 01 dress.
The social realm has provided a safe place for women and under-represented communities to control their own narrative, while simultaneously providing more people with more access to resources and information our grandparents can only dream of having. But it is important to recognise the toll that engaging with the online world can have.
I think there are so many dark things that are related to social media. I myself have experienced the addictive side to it. I feel like I’m going through an addiction stage right now - I think it's something we need to talk about a little more, especially with the younger generation, because it does cause anxiety.
Earlier in the year my relationship with social media was really toxic. I definitely developed unhealthy perceptions of what I looked like and what I thought I should look like - especially with the rise of plastic surgery and those toxic filters. It’s those moments where you really have to give yourself a reality check and think about what your intentions truly are… and that’s why it’s so important to have a strong sense of self which I think I finally am in a good place with now.
When you put your brain into that practice of only accessing real life happiness through just likes, that’s where depression and anxiety has the ability to develop. It’s hard for your brain to differentiate between what actually makes you happy and the surface level gratification.
BOTTEGA VENETA Salon 01 dress and shoes.
The struggle with addiction is something that almost all active social media users have felt at one point or another. From the need to check our Instagram feed just 5 minutes after the last refresh, to the constant monitoring we do when we post a picture of ourselves on our feed - watching the likes roll in (or not) can have serious implications on the way our brain works and how we gage our own sense of joy and fulfilment.
When you spend an entire day on the internet and on social media, you notice the effects it has on your attention span. I was lucky enough to grow up in the generation where I was able to experience life outside of my screen (especially after school) - to be able to escape when I was home and to have those moments of boredom. I do wonder what the implications will be for the younger generations who have grown up on social media - what type of impact will that have on their mental health and their ability to connect with people.
BIANCA CIPOLLA jacket.
As a professional working on Instagram, Yan Yan has had to develop methods of detoxing and removing herself from social media to preserve her mental and physical wellbeing. Her best tactics for those experiencing social media burnout are:
- Channelling your energy elsewhere
I think it’s important to have cathartic outlets that gratify you physically and mentally. Exercising has such a huge positive impact on my mental state and it is something that takes you away from your screen for an hour or two. I’ve really loved learning about the science of how trauma/ emotions and feelings get stored in your body - even long after you’ve “emotionally” processed it, you still need to process and release it physically. Moving your spine, and doing things like dance or yoga really help with that. I did a lot of that in my living room over Covid (and crying haha). All about the release.
- Regular time away from social media
I make sure I have two or so hours in the morning where I’m not on my phone. It gives me time to connect with myself and reflect - it’s that time of day where I’m not in a noisy environment - I’m present. I used to have my phone next to my bed, and so the first thing I would do when I wake up is look at my phone. I would spend up to an hour scrolling on my phone and before I knew it my day had already started.
- Engage with your support network in real life
It’s so important to be able to disconnect from [social media] and forge an intrinsic connection with something more tangible. Having a strong network of friends and family- a support system, helps you stay grounded. It allows you to create those boundaries between internet perceptions and real life.
- Be selective with who you follow
What you see is what you consume, so I am quite cautious, and like to pick and choose. I prefer to look at content that inspires and uplifts me than has me questioning my self worth.
BIANCA CIPOLLA jacket.
With social media as an inherent part of our day to day in 2021, it is important to know how to manage its control over you - something that every single user, no matter their follower count or years of experience online, still has to grapple with everyday. To the next wave of influencers and social media users, Yan Yan has some sage words of wisdom:
I think it’s still important to have experiences outside of the internet. Having other work experiences, in the workforce, interning, working in the service industry, it allows you to connect with people you normally wouldn’t and ensures you are well rounded.
Also, try to really figure out your identity without attaching your identity so closely to who you are online. The way you project yourself online is not a direct reflection of who you are in real life - it's just a one dimensional part of you that I think people need to figure out prior.
CHANEL jacket, pants and earrings.
At the end of the day, we’re all still learning to manoeuvre the ever-changing social world, with new platforms and settings being introduced every day, challenging us to adapt to the newest social cue. For Yan Yan, her aspirations are offline, in the film industry or the realm of fashion design - as she looks to focus on creating and innovating in the tangible world.
Obviously my career right now is pretty dependent on social media, but at the end of the day I have always had the intention of building up as many skills as possible, so that if it didn’t exist i would still be able to work. The part of my job I’ve always been drawn to and find most gratifying is collaborating with other people. So I’d love to manoeuvre into something else that wasn’t so dependent on posting and sharing that side of me.
PRADA bra and skirt.