Belfast Telegraph

Social spotlight: Meet the Northern Ireland stars of Instagram


Launched in October 2010, Instagram was designed as a fun way for people to keep in touch through the use of photographs. Now, it has 700 million users worldwide. Lee Henry talks to four Northern Ireland people who go online to promote their ventures and give glimpses into their lifestyles.

Estelle Wallace and her family posts about faith, fitness and food

Fitness professional and nutritional therapist Estelle Wallace (44) lives in Rasharkin with her husband Russell (46) and daughter Charley Mae (13). She says:

The most important thing about my @shrink_coach Instagram page is that, as a born-again Christian, I come across as real, fun and full of joy. I never hide my faith. At the same time, I don’t preach or push religion down throats. Instead, I encourage and champion people.

My page is about spirit, soul and body wellness. I was a late starter to Instagram because I was so busy with my Shrink Coach Facebook page, which currently has nearly 15,000 followers. Just over two years ago, though, I ventured onto Instagram and to be honest, it took me a little while to enjoy it.

Now that I understand hashtags, commenting and liking, I love it. I’m a big fan.

I have 2,500 followers and they are ever so kind.

I’m always careful to reply to every comment because it would be rude not to. Faith has a place in health, and health a place in faith.

Instagram has helped Shrink get to where it is today.

I had no knowledge, for example, that I was being observed on Instagram by SuperValu for a few months. (Thank goodness I behaved!) I was then contacted by their marketing representative and I’m now the Northern Ireland wellness ambassador for SuperValu.

I guess my mood on any particular day determines what I post about.

I try to post daily and I love Instagram stories. They keep me amused and I often find myself laughing while sitting on my own in a coffee shop.

I love to see people’s personalities come through. When I’m on holidays or attending a special event, I find myself posting numerous times a day.

I post workout clips often and I love teaching fitness, so these days I see Instagram as a joy, not a chore.

I love pilates and weights and these are the things I focus on the most in my videos. I post some of my meals too, but I tend not to overload in this area. It can be boring.

I eat what I say I eat. I adore wholesome, natural, nutritious foods and eat lots of the right things for health and well-being. I also allow myself treats and I don’t live in a bondage of “I can’t have”. Instead, I enjoy a little of what I fancy. That way, I don’t feel like I am being controlled by food in anyway.

My motto is: Be real in your posts and your real life will be a good life.

So many people are searching for happiness in the wrong places and most lead to dead ends, but my faith allows me to have hope. I trust in the Lord even when times are stormy.

I am very open and honest on my page and that’s the way it should be.

After all, what is the point of portraying what looks like a perfect life on social media when behind closed doors the house is a bomb-site and the family are at each other’s throats?

Let’s be real with one another. Portraying perfection doesn’t make people feel better about themselves.

In fact, the opposite is true and often leads to disappointment.

My faith is a big part of my life and my heart is to share the love of Jesus, not through preaching, but through simply being real, honest and open.”

Nadine McCallum and Leanne McCandless post about fashion and style

Style queen: Nadine McCallum

Fashion boutique owners Leanne McCandless (33) and Nadine McCallum (23) both live in Lisburn, where they run Rose & Poetry. They say:

We started our @you.pretty.little.thing Instagram page in 2015 while on holiday in Italy. We’ve always loved fashion and we started the page because we found Instagram fun. It’s grown into something we now use to help promote our businesses.

Our Instagram account may have been what sparked the idea of starting our Rose & Poetry boutique in the first place.

It was shortly after we set it up that we started toying with the idea and now we operate our boutique from Railway Street in Lisburn.

We like to keep a degree of separation between our businesses and our Instagram. Instagram for us is different to Facebook, which is a big platform for selling. Instagram we use more to show people how we style our clothes.

For us, it’s like a online look book to help inspire our customers to be adventurous with their styling.

Style queen: Leanne McCandless

We love colour so we have tried to create a page that’s colourful, fun and aesthetically pleasing.

In our posts, we wear pieces from our own boutiques mixed in with other brands. We also like sharing places or things we have found pretty or interesting, like new restaurants or cocktail bars.

We try to post a picture a day, possibly two, one around midday and another in the evening, but we don’t have a regimented plan. We just do it when we can and when we have a nice image that we want to share. It’s a collaboration between us. We try to take pictures when we aren’t together and when we are, we make sure to get a few pictures of each other.

We learned as we went along that there isn’t a right or wrong way to use Instagram. Eventually, you discover that there are certain times when you will get a better response from your a posts, and which hashtags will get more views, but it takes time.

We tend to use #styleinspo #fashionblog #styleblog #fashiondiaries and variations of these, as well as making our own up, such as #roseandpoetryboutique or #rsvpbyroseandpoetry. We get the best responses from #northernirelandblogger #niblogger #niboutique, as Instagram users seem to like to seek out local bloggers.

The reach on Instagram is amazing and we have had sales as far afield as Australia, but Facebook is better for us, sales wise. Snapchat is brilliant for instantly connecting with people and getting feedback. We feel that people use Instagram more for inspiration and ideas.

Our three personal favourite accounts to follow are Blair Eadie Bee @blaireadiebee — she’s super stylish — Margo & Me @margoandme — she flies all over the world and is effortlessly chic — and the colour blocking queen, My Life in Colours @mylifeincolours_. She’s a major inspiration for our Instagram.”

Laura O’Connor with husband Ronan posts about travel

Laura O’Connor with husband Ronan posts about travel

Microsoft technical account manager, Laura O’Connor (27), was born in Lurgan but currently resides in Singapore with her husband Ronan. She says:

Ronan and I moved to Singapore in October last year. Moving internationally had been a goal of ours and we had been looking at the US and Asia as potential places to settle.

After a lot of networking and job-hunting, I got offered a role in Microsoft Singapore and we moved one month after we got married.

Ronan continued with his job for a few months, working European hours into the Singaporean night. This was quite tough, but he was lucky enough to find a job with Microsoft too, which was really the last piece of the puzzle in helping us get settled.

I started my Instagram account four years ago, when I was finishing my Masters at Oxford.

At the beginning, I was a pretty inconsistent poster. I didn’t really know many people on it and even marketing brands weren’t very active then, but that’s all changed now.

Today, I use Instagram as a scrapbook to keep track of all the things I have done, places I’ve gone to or people I’ve met. A lot of my followers I actually know in real life, so it is useful to let people at home know what I’m doing. That way, my parents always know where I am and that we are both safe.

The content has definitely evolved.

As I began to travel more, my eye became better at looking for pictures that weren’t necessarily of people but things that evoked a place or a mood.

I try to keep the tone upbeat, because that is what I enjoy looking at on Instagram.

I think a lot of social media is really negative these days, unpleasant things that can become really vitriolic sometimes. However, I find Instagram quite refreshing in that you can dip into it quite easily for some positivity. It’s minimalistic, it’s more about the images and less about your timeline covered in gifs, memes and other people’s opinions.

Asian culture is like trying to pin down what European culture is.

Life’s a beach: Ronan and Laura O’Connor enjoying one of their many trips

Singapore is very different from Korea and Korea is very different from mainland China, which again is different from Hong Kong. In Singapore particularly, I like the juxtaposition of the old and the new, the skyscrapers and the shop houses or hawkers centre. I also particularly like snapping pictures of street scenes in whatever city I am visiting, because the streets look so different from what I have grown up with.

I also take pictures of temples, because to my eye they look so exotic and colourful, yet a lot of people I have met here who have visited Europe think the same of the churches there.

With regards to popular posts, most people remarked on my boomerang of North Korea, which was taken from the edge of the demilitarized zone in South Korea. I think a lot of people think of North Korea as somewhere dystopian and impenetrable, so it is very jarring to see a video of it, even if it is mainly countryside and some towns in the distance.

I follow lots of different kinds of accounts. My favourites are probably @honeycombers, which is a great resource for all things happening in Singapore, @booksactually is my favourite bookshop in Singapore, and posts lovely clips about what is happening in the arts scene here, and @connectedmachines is a Singapore-based fan of everything to do with air travel, which is super niche and interesting.”

Belfast Telegraph


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