My job is to please you
The power of influence
Last month, I found myself scrolling through the NYT, as one does. Another influencer’s story─this time, that of Elle Mills’─had hit the opinions page. She’d written an essay about quitting YouTube after becoming one of the biggest influencers on the platform.
I read the piece from my couch feverishly, gorging on the words, letting them fall down my throat and slam against my insides on the way down. I related to everything she wrote, and it felt so validating to read about her experience in a publication like the NYT.
It’s hard to put the experience of your life’s work being tied to digital numbers, algorithms, and the whim of the ‘public opinion of the day’ into words. The pressure to perform, the fear of losing it all overnight, the fear of being perceived the wrong way.
“Instead, I was constantly terrified of losing my audience and the validation that came with it.”
And yet, all I wanted was to be perceived and to be perceived well. This usually transpired after posting a clip where I thought I looked “hot” or some manifesto-like sermon on self-love. Both of which produced a high that made me feel like I was truly on drugs. Imagine the sun shining on your smiling face as you dance to your favorite song. You have no worries, the ocean breeze gently blows through your hair and you’re sipping on your favorite beverage. That’s how it felt whenever I’d post something “good” (which usually meant a lot of likes).
Elle has it right when she writes that “[t]he validation is an addicting high, but its lows hit just as hard.”
The lows… oh, the lows. Before I stepped back, when my livelihood depended upon an app, a negative comment had the power to put me into a depressive state. I’d sleep off the anxiety of online discourse, favoring unconsciousness to living in the discomfort of knowing one person in the world didn’t like me. If you have ever put your work out into the public domain, you know the feeling: there can be one hundred sweet comments of support, but that one nagging comment from an anonymous account sticks in your mind.
The love I got from my followers could make me feel on top of the world, and, just as quickly, a mean comment could make me feel like a meaningless piece of fungus that was infecting the Earth.
But it was a chase, a cycle. I was always chasing the high, the original high of going viral and likes flooding in. But at some point, you realize it is a fool’s errand. The likes will never be enough.
By nature of the job, as an influencer, your core responsibility is to please. Even if your brand is #pissingpeopleoff and making outrageous remarks that stir the pot, you’re still fulfilling your niche’s duty.
Your job is to fill a hole in the market, to make sure you, the product, never run out of stock or hit “supply chain delays”. If you disappear, your product disappears. Stepping back is a huge decision. After I’d tell people how much I’d make per post, some people would say, “I’d never leave if the money was that good.”
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