Here's the thing.
Reading of the spectacle that was Revolve's influencer event at Coachella this past weekend, I was inspired to pull some words out of the drafts folder. I held off on this post for a long time in fear of offending people. Odds are, it still probably will, but at this point, I have let go of my incessant need to please everyone under the sun. I'm truly not here to be a #hater or any other misguided label. TO EACH THEIR OWN. I still work in the field of content creation. I'm simply just sharing my perspective from the aftermath of my own tumultuous journey on this subject.
Working in the digital marketing world and having a personal appreciation for social media, the term "influencer" is projected as frequently as its defining generation "millennial". On one hand, I think it's incredible how creatives have harnessed the power of social media to build massive, online communities. On the other, beneath the surface, it has reared an ugly head of negativity within so many people.
In 2013, I started writing simply because I was interning in NYC and wanted to document my experiences. The blogging/ content creator world was merely on the cusp of turning into a mainstream industry. I was a newbie just wanting to share my story with family and friends.
As years passed, the game began to change fast. Flat lays became the golden standard, brand ambassador positions skyrocketed, and products to "boost likes" flooded the app store. Personally, I had already loved fashion since I was a kid (truly ask my family and friends). I decided to step into the ring. This is also where I treaded into deep waters. My life suddenly became a production; a show I was unknowingly allowing to destroy my personality and self-confidence.
By 2016, I became so engrossed with trying to fit the standards of being an influencer, I lost a grip on reality. I obsessively spent HOURS on social media fangirling over accounts I deemed #goals. I purchased clothes knowing I should've been paying off debt. Went to dinners WAY out of my price range, so I could get the "perfect" shot. Laid down like a doormat to fit in with groups rooted in exclusivity. Battled with body dysmorphia. I became obsessive (Be the prettiest, trendiest, coolest). It was repulsive. I WAS REPULSIVE. It wasn't until breaking down in the backseat of my best friend's car that I realized:
YOU ARE IN IT FOR THE WRONG REASON.
YOU ARE TRYING TO BE AN INFLUENCER, BUT YOUR INTENTION IS ROOTED IN VANITY METRICS AND AN UNREALISTIC FAST TRACK TO "FAME".
I was disgusted with myself and I wanted nothing to do with it anymore. But how do you suddenly realize you've been living in a bleak reality for so long and adjust back to normal? I lost friendships, work ethic, self-esteem, valuable time, my identity....practically everything.
Fast forward a few years and here we are. I'm not writing this for a sob story or to act like "I'm so cool now". I'm writing this because too often people don't like to shine a light on this side of what being an influencer can turn into. What happens when you take the wrong fork in the road. I simply want to be real because the creative community shies away from conversations like this. Here is how I feel about it now:
Influence starts with contribution.
How are you contributing to someone's life? What is your purpose behind wanting a million followers? Is it to be able to live with the clout/perks of having a million followers, or because you actually want to help a million people live better? The perks are great and sure life is about having fun, but be aware of when it starts to be the leading factor in your ambitions.
Influence continues with understanding it is a responsibility.
You as an "influencer" are helping SHAPE THE MINDS AND PERSPECTIVES OF PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW YOU. Every time your picture shows up on their screen, people out there are processing information and taking that in. What are you helping people to see for their life, or believe about themselves?
Influence lives inside all of us.
There is no type-cast model of who can be an influencer. If you are passionate and want to use your voice to impact lives in a positive way, do it. It doesn't matter what brand you're wearing, how much money you have, or how "cool" your life looks. You have a right just as much as anyone to contribute to the world. And you don't need a million followers to do it. People use their personal influence daily in a variety of ways. You can be a genuine influencer in one person's life and it still counts.
That being said, I know sooo many beautiful influencers who are doing it the RIGHT way. I salute you, support you and encourage you to keep going! I personally still see a variety of avenues to make an impact throughout my lifetime outside of the content creation sphere. Yes, I will continue to do collaborations and partnerships, but now it's genuinely because I enjoy the process of creating. There's nothing wrong with being confident and having a passion for it (Trust and believe I'll always be the friend who's down for a photo adventure! lol). I just plan to never let it derail my life or character again as it did in the past.
As with every industry, there are highlights and lowlights. In terms of influencer marketing, it is growing and evolving. More people are starting to crave authenticity and see-through blinding vanity metrics. I interact with and see communities growing daily where people are using social media for the greater good. It is inspiring to witness and take part in. I just hope that in time, more people start to discover their individual potential to influence, rather than always searching outwardly for validation or approval. Because we all are capable of influencing in this lifetime, digitally, physically, and everywhere in between. <3