Photo Credit: Stacey Babcock @everloraphotography
I stepped back from posting on social media a few months ago for a well-needed reprieve from its demanding toll of expectation—any time I experience the pull of conforming, I know it's time to take a break from that demon's control. The time between then and now provided space for me to slow down and, once again, reflect on how I want to show up on this ominous platform that lacks the very thing it advocates: social engagement.
Time and time again, I wrestle with whether I am compromising my integrity as I attempt to fulfill my role as an influencer while sharing my interpretations of current trends, topics, or opinions while relating them to past and present experiences, including those in my memoir, Around the Table. Apparently, I am a mere Nano-influencer with one to ten thousand followers; I barely scrape in with 1, 042. The fact that I participate in anything whereby I am ranked worthy or unworthy based on how many people I may influence creates a wave of hierarchal hypocrisy that I cannot ignore. Being labelled with the word Nano is even more degrading.
But that's my ego talking, being triggered unworthy and feeling less than as ranked at the low end of the spectrum of hierarchy. It's not surprising because hierarchal trauma is the central theme of Around the Table—of my life really. The social media Gods count on my worthiness-deficit programming, so I will get sucked into spending hours of precious time day after day attempting to find just the right content to motivate thousands of people to follow me and comment on my posts. Because if I do, I will reach the next level of 10,000 - 50,000 followers, and the algorithms will automatically provide me with the title of Micro-influencer. My egoic self-centred self says, "What a glorious moment that will be!!" But my humble self tells me that my definition of influencing has nothing to do with keeping score or measuring where I rank compared to others. If my followers suddenly deem me as a more worthy influencer because I am placed higher on the totem pole, my question to them is, "What am I worthy of?"
There are social media accounts whose mandate is solely to recruit followers for others' accounts; they are found in comments in my posts with "Promote it on @......." They solicit Nano and Micro-influencers, requesting payment in exchange for recruiting followers for them with the goal of reaching Mid-tier influencer status ( 50,000 to 500,000 followers) and then the ultimate, Macro-influencer status (500,00 to 1,000,000 followers). When I discovered this, my 5-minute initial struggle was whether this practice aligns with my value of integrity and perception of worthiness... It does not.
These recruiting accounts feed off the psychological mindset of the wanna-be influencers who want to achieve the top level of followers and influencer status for the sake of being considered better than those below them—more worthy because they have attained an abundance of followers who rack up taps and comments that they seldom respond to—I tested this through my respite. The only responses I received were from other followers, with the influencer appearing to have disappeared off the social media grid until their next post. Why bother responding to comments or questions when programmed not to focus on their initial purpose of sharing information to motivate followers to be the best they can be by engaging with them? The goal has shifted to counting followers, likes, and comments; that's it. Somewhere along the line, making a difference through connection became secondary if anything, and that's disappointing. I don't want to be part of that disingenuous shift.
I'm no one special—like everyone else, I am worthy simply because I exist. Period. Second, within the realm of being as authentic a person as I can be, given my level of self-awareness at this time, I have done the work, put myself out there and shared my truth. Third, as a coach supporting those wanting to recover from emotional trauma, I have accumulated the knowledge, education, life and coaching experience, and wisdom to feel confident that I am positively influencing others who are struggling to do their self-discovery work, moving forward from small-t trauma to recovery.
The point I am making is that I am worthy of being labelled a Macro-influencer just as thousands of others are, but do I want to achieve this based on how many thousands of people I influence, or is positively impacting just one person enough? Also, how will having hundreds of thousands of followers support my purpose, and more importantly, will that number actually influence my followers the way I intend to? Continuing to do the deeper work, I reflect on whether conforming to this numbers game will provide the authentic worthiness my followers and I seek and what I might be willing to do to fulfill that. I am certain that reaching the hierarchal influencer status on Facebook and Instagram and especially buying followers does not play a role within my global significance.
The only way the number of followers is significant to me is because it increases my intention of inspiring as many people as possible to dive into the world of self-discovery to determine what their authentic state of being looks and feels like so they can confidently step into that. In other words, to inspire more than just that one soul. The difference is that I do it without the fake accolades of a social media presence that stunts who I truly am. My process doesn't include the infliction of an algorithm's expectation, and I move through it in a way and pace that fits my roller-coaster level of comfort and discomfort tolerance—that's being human.
As a coach and person, I gained clarity that I needed to reframe influencing others to inspiring them, i.e., not being pulled into the goal of reaching a high following status and also releasing anyone from following me unless they are motivated to do so for their own well-being—choice is empowering, and those who resonate with what share will be inspired. Others seeking only to be part of an influencer who has achieved top billing will find who and what feels right for them.
There are some at the top who have high influencer ranking and seem to remain balanced and unaffected by their status: @brenebrown @gabormatemd @danielbmate @estherperelofficial. Alternately, an example of one who ranks as a Nano like me, @radieantlifeproject, inspires me even more than those towering over her. She does not seem phased by them while having established a sincere and gracious approach to posting.
These last couple of months of making space to watch other influencers from Nano to Macro has provided me with the clarity that the term influencer and how I perceive social media's general end-game carries the weight of manipulating followers by using them to feed account holders' egos with irrelevant follower-number status, which is determined by climbing the ladder of hierarchy—if you've read my book, you know that I am not a big fan!! So, in the end, my time stepping back reiterated that I will continue inspiring my followers. It feels integral to share my perceptions and give my followers the freedom to process and comment about what they mean to them. I will always respond to their comments because isn't that what social engagement is about?