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{#TransparentTuesday} Social Media “Influencing”

I’m a person who markets my business on the internet.

I’ve always found social media to be a rich source for networking and connecting with clients, customers, and peers.

The social media landscaping has changed lately, and I’ve been thinking a lot more critically about its place in my life and business.

Here’s the thing: a few years ago, both Facebook and Instagram were used as a way for people to connect with each other. Then Facebook became a place where businesses, gurus, and marketers could “reach people,” and everyone could share articles that support what they believe politically.

In short, Facebook became a place where people were constantly trying to convince you of something, and it didn’t feel good. People stopped being excited to go there. Facebook caught on and changed their algorithm to down-play businesses and articles and videos (in an attempt to bring people back to organic connections) but it was too late.

Instagram is now becoming very similar.

What once was a cool place to connect with people as equals has now become a place to be marketed to, a place filled with sneaky ads, and a place where “influencers” go to sell products they don’t use to make money based on other people’s insecurities.

Personally I’ve never thought of myself as “an influencer” because I’ve never been sponsored by a brand or hawked goods that I don’t actually use, but still. I’m a business and as the landscape has changed, I’ve invested in things to “keep up,” like a better quality camera and fancy lighting for better photos.

I’ve changed with the times slowly, and only recently have I started to consider what these changes mean.

First of all, the algorithm changed a while back, to promote and support posts that are already popular, based on engagement. This means that a post that gets a lot of likes and comments quickly will be shown to more people, while a post without a ton of fast engagement will not be shown to anyone, including your followers.

Do you know what kind of post gets lots of comments quickly?

Pretty girls who show a lot of skin, are super done up, pose for the male gaze, and generally look “hot.”

People are verrrrry quick to post comments like “so pretty!” and “damnnnn!!” on a post like this, so it attracts tons of quick engagement and it’s shown to many people.

A woman who wants to sell beauty products or flat belly teas or fitness/nutrition guides can do decently well for themselves, by playing into societal beauty norms and creating a fun and sexy persona. Whereas thoughtful, non-sexy posts on something like gender, body image, or self-acceptance might make people go “huh, I never thought of that!” but it won’t attract engagement, so it just disappears into the social media ether.

I’m not cool with where this is going, ya’ll.

Second of all, social media (Instagram specifically) started churning out “aspirational lifestyle” accounts.

It started years ago, when we all became obsessed with those young, thin, beautiful people having epic adventures and living out our collective bucket list, and a person’s social status became inherently tied to their ability to be an “influencer” and get followers. (And if you wanna see how out of control and dangerous this social-status-chasing can get, go watch the Fyre documentary on Netflix.)

Influencing all feels like an extension of high school to me. Social media influencers are the cool kids, who set trends just by being themselves, and the rest of us are constantly scrambling to buy the right stuff and earn our ticket to the “in-crowd.”

I get the desire to be an influencer. Who wouldn’t want to make money by just looking cool? What I don’t totally get is why we follow them when scrolling through such content causes us to feel depressed, anxious, lonely, and insecure (all things that have been proven).

I suppose it holds the promise of a better life— which says a lot about what we’re desperately hungry for right now, as a culture.

The rise of social media influencers changed the way we all use the platform. Suddenly everything was a marketing strategy, where professional photos and aspirational lifestyles are the standard.

Instagram is now drowning in pro photos of people looking beautiful, happy, done up, fulfilled, successful, fit, and in love. It’s also swimming in “inspirational” content about how to level up everything from your smoothie game to your skin care game. (Note: the answer is always to buy something.)

Instead of being a place where people can genuinely connect, instagram has become a place where people are either trying to influence, or trying to be influenced.

And influencers can’t just look like people, either.

Oh, no. They have to be GURUS. They’re selling a lifestyle, after all.

A woman who sells skin care products has to always have perfect skin. A health coach needs to be lean, thin, and glowing all the time. A marketing guru can only talk about his smash successes.

There is no room in this landscape for humans to just be human. We must be walking embodiments of our brand. We must inspire people!!

This “polished professional guru-branding” strips us all of the ability to genuinely connect as humans.

It makes the influencers feel like imposters (because they’re not being totally honest) and it makes the influenced feel shitty about themselves because it seems like everyone else’s life is better than theirs. And people are starting to feel it.

As this division between influencers and influenced continued to grow, people aren’t feeling more inspired and motivated. They’re feeling isolated and overwhelmed.

When one person you know is crushing it at life you might feel inspired to work a little harder. But when everyone you know is crushing it at life, you’re a lot more likely to feel depressed, anxious, and like you want to just go back to bed.

I don’t have any answers, but I wanted to share what I’ve noticed and open up the floor to you. I’m still processing and working my way through this topic, and what it means for me as a business, but I know I don’t like the direction Instagram is going.

Even though I know my work is life-changing, people are bombarded with “life-changing” promises on Instagram daily, about everything from beauty balm to hair oil to green powder to crystal water.

Also, while I have nearly 20k followers, most of my posts only get shown to 100-200, and garner very few public comments. This is because people typically feel uncomfortable discussing body image, confidence, gender, sex, and shame-related stuff publicly, and prefer to privately message me, but this means IG might no longer be a good fit for my work.

As always, I’ll keep you posted with what I decide. But for now I’d love to hear from you.

Hit reply with your thoughts! (No advice please, I’m just curious about your experiences with social media!)

<3 Jessi

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