Dear Readers, meet the lovely Robin May Fleming.
We first discovered her love for beauty and gift for words through her Instagram @robinmay (which boasts over 460K followers) and quickly reached out in hopes of pulling her onto our team of writers. With two of her articles already published in our print magazine, we wanted to let you into more of her fascinating story—as she even met and married her husband through Insta! She’s quite an intriguing woman. Now let’s hear from Robin …
DARLING MAGAZINE: Who are you in 10 words or less?
ROBIN MAY FLEMING: My Instagram bio fits nicely here: “By bike, by horse, by word, by foot—I wander.”
DM: Walk us through the passion behind you starting your Instagram and how it grew to over 460K followers in such a short amount of time.
RMF: I joined Instagram in August 2011, very shortly after ending my career in the film and television industry. I had been battling health problems and burnout for quite a while, and finally made the very difficult decision to leave my senior management role at a very successful post-production house. It was a dream gig in so many ways, and even as my soul sang in its newfound freedom, my heart and ego were feeling bruised. Plus, I was lonely! In my job I had a built-in social life, ten hours a day. Suddenly I was without colleagues and without anyone else who had the sort of free time that I did. So really it was the perfect moment to join the Instagram community.
I’d initially shied away from the app specifically because of its social aspect. I wanted the cool filters and the snappy interface, but didn’t really understand why strangers would want to look at my photos, or why I’d want to look at theirs. But for me now it’s all about the community. Funny how life works.
From day one I shared regularly, averaging about four photos every 24 hours, each with a caption ranging from a sentence to a paragraph or more. My iPhone’s camera became my constant companion. It wandered my city with me (I was living in Toronto, Canada at the time) and allowed me to share my experiences with people from all over the world. Seeing my life through their eyes helped the mundane to seem suddenly, fascinatingly wonderful. Plus, I got glimpses into lives in Europe, in Asia, in South America, and beyond—even in nearby neighborhoods I’d probably never have otherwise bothered to visit. I was trying really hard not to spend much money because of the whole “no paycheck” thing, and Instagram became my free ticket to global travel and some fantastic adventures.
Over the next few months, with my enthusiasm and regular engagement, my follower count just organically increased. And then a couple of my photos were featured on the Instagram blog, which brought even more eyes to my account. When Instagram eventually added me to their Suggested Users list (a rotating list that can be found in your account settings under “Find & Invite Friends”), the whole thing kind of exploded. The Huffington Post featured my account; I was interviewed by MTV; for a while one of my photos was in the app store and also on Instagram’s Wikipedia page. Now I can see an increase of up to a thousand followers a day. Insane, right? It’s thrilling and intoxicating and wonderful, yes! But sometimes I also lose a thousand followers a day, including some that I now consider friends. Some people say that shouldn’t matter, because I have “such a huge following” or because it’s “just social media.” But I pour my heart and soul into my Instagram account. For me it matters.
DM: What do you think is the main reason people want to follow you?
RMF: My life involves a lot of natural landscapes, photos of which tend to be quite popular on Instagram. But I think my candor is attractive to a lot of people. For some it’s probably a lot like watching a reality TV show. (Admit it! You’ve peeked at The Bachelor or The Bachelorette or maybe even something involving a Kardashian!) But for many others, I think they just plain relate to my ups and downs. They read my captions like a story, and they always know that the next chapter will be there waiting when they next scroll through their feed.
DM: Do you have a background in writing? Where do you find the passion for such captivating captions?
RMF: I have a background in writing in the sense that I write all the time. It’s the most natural thing in the world to me, to express myself through words and to ceaselessly document my mind’s ramblings. But it’s hard to make a living as my kind of writer. We’re notoriously underpaid and more and more often people are willing to (or are expected to) create content for free. The good thing for me is that Instagram is a far-reaching platform, and I have a larger audience than most. I can scratch my writing itch every single day and not worry about the experience being tied to a paycheck (or lack thereof). And I know that my words are actually being read—an important part of the writing process, I think. As for finding the passion for my captions, I don’t need to look very far. The passion for sharing and connecting and creating daily with my words is already there. Instagram captions are simply my outlet of choice.
DM: It’s quite a social responsibility to have that many “fans” per se, how do you deal with that?
RMF: I take the responsibility of being read very, very seriously. If I’m having a bad day I sometimes feel like closing up shop for a while and not posting until I’m feeling better. But I push myself to be honest. And it’s usually those posts that reach the most people. I have gotten emails from all over the world, from people telling me that I have saved their lives—saved their lives, just by being honest about hard it is sometimes to be a human! It makes my head spin and my heart ache, and it reminds me that I never know who is listening or who may need to hear exactly what I have to say that day. And so I push myself to say it.
DM: What is your greatest hope and greatest fear in life?
RMF: Oh my! That’s quite the question. My greatest hope for myself, at this moment, is that I climb all the obstacles I throw in my own way and eventually publish a book. My greatest fear is that I will climb underneath one of those obstacles and just sleep the rest of my life away.
DM: What do you do in your free time?
RMF: I suffer from a lot of chronic pain. Some of it is just part of being me, and some of it is from an accident I suffered a few years back. (I was hit by a bus! Gah!) Because of this pain, I spend more time than I would like in bed, but I make it as good as I can by writing and by reading stacks and stacks of books. And when I’m feeling good I celebrate! I hike. I ride my bike. I cook and I explore and I look for horses to cuddle. I take loads of photos, and, of course, I Instagram.
DM: Tell us about your love story…
RMF: My love story is a good one, as all love stories are! It’s best told here in this short video that Driftwood Visual created for us.
But to summarize:
We met on Instagram.
We fell in love across 2,500 miles.
And then we got married.
DM: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
RMF: I’ve heard it said in so many different ways, from so many different people: You can’t make everyone happy! You really, really, really can’t. So quit trying. I am still learning how to live by this advice.
DM: What is one thing you’d like to tell women in the Darling community?
RMF: Do not tether yourself to people that bring out your worst. If you realize that this is what you’re doing, be kind to yourself. Ask for help. Do what you need to do to be your own best company. And then have a blast! Sometimes you need to turn your life upside down to shake out the good stuff. And sometimes that means being alone for a little while.