Mixed Feelings with Naomi Shimada

Last week, model, influencer and spokesperson Naomi Shimada launched her new book Mixed Feelings: Exploring Modern Life and the Internet at The Standard, London. Co-written with journalist Sarah Raphael, the book explores the emotional impact that digital habits and social media has on our minds and bodies through a series of essays, statements and questions. After the launch party, we seized the opportunity to talk to Shimada about self-awareness, being honest online and where she hangs out in London.
Naomi Shimada

Mixed Feelings is a funny, raw and uncensored look at the world of social media. Why did you and Sarah decide to write the book?

I was approached in 2017 about writing a book and when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to explore and this subject matter kept coming up. We kept overhearing conversations – or eavesdropping – about how much social media affects our lives, and how it has changed them more than anything in the last 10 years. We wanted to discuss both sides of social media - positive and negative - and the huge impact it has on daily life. We wanted to lift the lid on that without seeming like we have all the answers, so we wrote the book from personal experiences to make it as honest as possible.

There are essays in the book from Phoebe Lovatt, Stephanie Yeboah, Ruby Tandoh and more. How did you decide who you wanted to feature?

The whole book is basically an insight in to my brain so I wanted to talk to people who I respect and look up to. We wanted an honest collection of different voices because social media isn’t just one voice and we wanted to reflect that. Social is such a big subject matter so this is only a drop in the ocean, but the aim is to reflect a myriad of different opinions that would make you question everything.

"Being honest and vulnerable is scary, especially when you make a living through social media." - Naomi Shimada

One of the problems often mentioned with regards to social media is the lack of honesty and transparency. Did you have that in mind when you were writing the book and asking people to open up?

Yes, exactly. Honesty is so important, and I just want people to be honest with themselves. There are huge influencers who I know personally who we asked to contribute who weren’t quite ready to talk yet – and I totally understand that. Being honest and vulnerable is scary, especially when you make a living through social media. Creative lives are so intertwined with social media and even if we wanted to leave that sphere, we can’t.  I pay my bills and have a roof over my head because of social media, but it’s so important to open a dialogue about how it’s affecting you.

You have over 75,000 followers on Instagram and obviously have a deep understanding of social media. Has the book made you view that world differently?

It just made me realize that social media only amplifies things already in us. It’s a reflection of who we are and our innate human qualities. Since the Stone Age we’ve been curious about other people and have always compared ourselves to others but now we’re doing it on a global scale. There’s so much wealth on show on Instagram – it’s a machine for capitalism and that makes people feel bad because how is anyone’s life meant to match up to Kylie Jenner driving around in a Bugatti? Who is to say that’s the best life? Not me.

Have you learnt anything about yourself as a result of writing the book?

It has taught me to be more chilled. We live in a world where everything is based on productivity and self-worth is measured by how busy you are and what you’re doing next. You’re not allowed to just be still.

It’s nice to not have these high expectations and just to roll with it and see where life takes you, so I am trying to live day-to-day. I think part of the reason everyone feels so shit is because you spend the whole time comparing yourself to others. You think everyone is succeeding apart from you. But our perception of success is totally messed up. I want people to work out what they really want as an individual, versus what they think will look good to other people.

How can you do that?

Question everything. If you feel bad when you look at Instagram, question it. If you judge someone else, question why you are judging them. Educate yourself and take ownership of your reactions. I think there’s a unified hollowness going around where people do amazing things but still feel empty. But by avoiding specific ‘goals’ and just living in the moment, life can take you by surprise.

"A key factor is removing social media from my phone. The irony of that is not lost on me but sometimes it feels like work and I need some physical space away." - Naomi Shimada

The world of social media never sleeps, is it ever possible for you to switch off?

I do practice self-care and I try to make it an important part of my day. I relax by cooking - there’s something satisfying about cooking for myself and knowing I’m worth putting in the effort to make something delicious and nourishing. I also love dancing and going for walks. A key factor is removing social media from my phone. The irony of that is not lost on me but sometimes it feels like work and I need some physical space away.

You’ve been an unofficial Londoner for 12 years now. What do you do with a day off?

I love parks, so I make sure I get to a park every day – be it Hampstead Heath, Victoria Park or Walthamstow Marshes. If I have a free afternoon I head to a museum like Tate Britain, V&A or The Serpentine Galleries.

Mixed Feelings : Exploring the emotional impact of our digital habits

Where are your favorite places to shop in London?

I love Pages of Hackney, they have an amazing selection of books and brilliant events. I love the Turkish green grocers in Newington Green. I love Liberty. And Alex Eagle is amazing, obviously.

Which is your favorite The Standard?

Obviously the new London one. It’s beautiful. I’ve lived in London for a long time and the capital has been yearning for a space like this - cosy enough to hang out and so aesthetically pleasing. Every room has something worth seeing and the food in Decimo, the new restaurant, is incredible.

Mixed Feelings: The emotional impact of our digital habits can be purchased here.


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