Hey, gidday mates! Following on from my conversation with Kat Irlin last week, I sat down with my friend and fellow blogger Justin Livingston to chat about the reality of life as an Instagram all star. Besides Kat, Justin is probably my favorite account to follow on Instagram — he has this unique ability to make you feel like you’re right there in the photo with him; something he attributes to shooting his fashion content in the same way that the best food bloggers shoot their table settings. Justin’s career has skyrocketed since I first met him back in 2012, and he has a unique perspective on this social media world in which we’re living. So without further ado…
What are the biggest misconceptions about being a blogger?
People think it’s a walk in the park, and it’s really not. People only see the small 5% of my life that I put out there, but they don’t see how much goes into a single Instagram post or a single blog post. The thought process behind a single picture isn’t so spur of the moment.
True. People think it’s a hobby, not a job.
People see all the perks, but they don’t see the hard work. Plus, we deal with the age old issue of being a freelancer: Every client thinks they’re your only client, and we end up doing a ton of revisions and reshoots because they don’t realize that they’re hiring your creative mind and not just your talent.
And not just your audience.
The other issue is that there’s so much friendly nepotism in the industry, so people don’t just get by on merit alone. And that sucks because there are certain things that happen where it’s like, damn I really wish I’d gotten that job, but some other shitty person got it because they’re roommates with the person who’s hiring. But I’ve benefited from it too, so I can’t complain, but it sucks because you’re surrounded by people who’ve faked their way to the top.
Out of all the bloggers I know I feel like you’ve experienced the fastest growth. What do you attribute that to?
I get asked that question all the time. I would say that I’m always myself, no matter what, so honesty is a really important part of my online presence. The biggest insult to me would be someone meeting me in real life and saying, “Oh you’re way different than I thought you would be.” I want to be the same person in person than I am online.
Interesting. I’ve always thought my personality was much bigger in real life than online.
The difficulty is that you don’t want to give away too much of yourself because there’s only so much privacy that you have, and then I get to a point where I feel like I have nothing that’s just mine anymore, I have to share it on Instagram or Snapchat or wherever else. And then you’re collapsing under the weight of your own expectations.
I sat down with you at the end of last year, and you were pretty burnt out from traveling nonstop for months on end. How many flights did you take in 2015?
I think I took 57 flights. Maybe more. At the beginning of the year, I told myself that I might never get this opportunity again, so I’m going to take as many of these travel jobs as I can, and every trip I went on begot another two or so trips and on it went. I ended up traveling constantly and it really affected my personal life because I started feeling like my friends stopped inviting me to things because I was never there. And I don’t necessarily get FOMO, but I do get upset when I’m not invited; even if I couldn’t be there it’s nice to be thought of.
Speaking of FOMO, comparing ourselves with each other is a natural aspect of this job because we can all see which jobs everyone else is doing 100% of the time. How do you deal with it?
You just have to not care. I’ll be browsing through the feed and it’ll be like, ‘Damn they did this, I wanted to do that…’ I try not to focus too much on what everyone else is doing because it’ll only negate what I’m doing myself. I learned a while ago that it would not be wise for me to constantly worry about anybody but myself because I would spend too much time thinking about where I was in the ranking of social media globally, so I stopped worrying about what my engagement was like or how many followers I was getting because I just wanted to enjoy the process.
It’s hard not to get caught up on this stuff because it’s right in front of our eyes every day of the week, and the comparisons are hard to avoid.
The nature of the industry is that it’s a bit like a non-violent Hunger Games — we’re pitted against one another.
Whose content do you look up to?
For the sake of not making myself crazy, I try not to follow too closely with other bloggers beside my closest friends, but I love curatorial accounts like @Kinfolk or @CanelleVanille or people who put effort into their food and lifestyle setups, and that’s what I try to put into my fashion stuff too so it feels very in the moment.
Because you’re a food and travel guy…
Favorite taco in NYC?
Tacombi in Nolita — I love how they serve everything out of a VW bus.
This little hole in the wall on Mott Street. But my favorite Italian is Lil’ Frankies in the East Village.
Favorite drink spot?
Pouring Ribbons in Alphabet City, it’s very Mad Men.
Almond in Flatiron, they have really great Americana food.
I LIKE YOU!