The boom of social media has expanded the reach for many people to influence others. Now, we have social media influencers who use their platform in various ways – from showcasing their lives to inspiring others, and everything in between. In this episode, hosts Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen dive into and dissect this new wave of influencers, probing into why a lot of people are drawn and want to become one. They take on this topic under multiple perspectives, naming the great things it does for ourselves and others as well as the underlying negatives that affect our egos and the way we perceive things. We’re in this time where becoming a social media influencer has become desirable. Before you jump into the wagon, it helps to reassess the meanings we put into it. Join Jason and Whitney as they guide you in this timely conversation.
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Social Media Influencers: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
I was thinking of social media influence as an interesting topic.
Influence in a general sense or influencers of those who are wielding or the whole enchilada?
Probably all of it.
The red sauce, the beans, the rice, the whole enchilada platter. That’s a big platter. Where do you want to start on that platter?
I was thinking about how I don’t like to use the term influencer for myself but technically, based on the work that I do, I’m an influencer. If you have an audience and you create content, they respond to it. If people buy things or do things because of your suggestions or because of things that you’re doing, then you’re considered an influencer. Do you think that’s an accurate definition?
An overall assessment of probably the commonly held definition would be somewhat fat or a person in a specific niche. That is if we’re thinking about from a brand perspective that has the ability to influence their audience to purchase a product or take a specific action.
It’s a similar definition.
I subverted it. Folded it up and made it into a quesadilla.
You’re into that metaphor.
I don’t think that people were expecting us to dive into the dissection of influencers, which we are and we will, but also for me to make references to Mexican food early in this episode.A lot of people want to be influencers because it's a career path that is self-driven. Click To Tweet
I’m trying to get back into this state of mind that I was saying because I thought that this was interesting. I was thinking about why people are drawn to being social media influencers. I was reflecting on people that I meet who seem unhappy in their work and people who say things like, “I wish I could do that.”
People have said that to you?
Yes, it’s common. I was driving home from my PO Box and I had a conversation with one of the guys that work there about how I get stuff delivered to me. Sometimes, I don’t know what it is. He was telling me there are a lot of social media influencers that get their packages delivered to the same PO Box. I could tell you he is fascinated by it. I started thinking about the contrast between his job where he’s at this corporate place. He doesn’t seem incredibly happy and a bit of a curmudgeon. I was thinking about how it seems like a lot of people want to be influencers and I started thinking about why. I was reflecting on a bunch of things.
A lot of people want to be influencers because it’s a career path that is self-driven. You can work for yourself, be your own boss, make your own hours, and work wherever you want. We’re in this time where it’s cool to be a social media influencer. It’s trendy, hip, and desirable. It’s interesting because Jason and I both started our careers before this term influencer was around. We’ve both been doing our work for many years. It’s also funny to see how social media has evolved so much. Several years ago, people weren’t taking Instagram seriously and now it seems like Instagram rules the world.
I feel like since I’ve been doing my work blogging and been on YouTube, that’s been growing, but now it’s massive. It’s something that teenagers are pursuing before they even graduate high school. Some of them dropped out of high school and some of them never go to college. They can make a lot of money and they can get all these followers. The reason I wanted to discuss this is that it’s also tied into pleasure. We talked a lot about the pleasure trap and what draws people to different things. Social media influence feeds our ego so much. Getting people to comment on our lives and approve of our lives, appearances, decisions, and everything. It becomes this strong desire.
It’s fascinating because I would love to know about your experience too, Jason. For me, I’m like, “This is an interesting day.” I’m picking up packages at my PO Box at 1:00 in the afternoon. I’m driving down the street to get packages of products that somebody sent me for free, and then I’m coming home and recording a show and making YouTube videos. This career that we’ve each created for ourselves is amazing. It’s also like unknown Wild West, so it’s also fascinating because we’re making it up as we go along. I often think about, “What happens if I stop? What happens if I don’t do certain things? Don’t post on Instagram or something?” It’s almost this fear of like, “People are going to stop caring about my life.” I start thinking about, “Why is their approval matter so much to me?”
We’re getting into the important questions.
That’s why I wanted to discuss this. I have a lot of thoughts and I was thinking about them.
Why does their approval matter so much? There’s a thing called the Four Dual Basic Urges. When we call about Dual Basic Urges in terms of human psychology to levels of degree, they affect every human being on the planet. On the one side, we have things that we want to avoid. We want to avoid being rejected, disapproved of and being misunderstood. We want to avoid a lack of significance or meaning in our lives. These are the things we resist. All of those things we push away, we avoid those things.
People don’t want to take risks. They don’t want to be courageous because they might be rejected, misunderstood, or they lose their significance or importance. The other sides are the urges and the things that people want in the sense that people go out of their way and sometimes kill themselves to get attention, approval, significance, and validation. We have the things on the one side we are desperately trying to avoid and the other side of things that we desperately want to get. The question is, “Why?” We get into the human psychology of what is driving a person to be an influencer.
In my framework, I feel that being an influencer is a subversion of the same desire to be famous. Because if you think about where most of the influencers are, New York and LA. Most actors, musicians, and entertainers are in New York and LA. There are several people we know. Quite a few that I think about who took the route of being an influencer, whether it was a yoga teacher, chef and or myself included. People always ask me and I’ll use myself as an example, “How did you get into the food industry?” I’m like, “I moved out to LA when I was 27. I was acting, going out for auditions and singing in bands. I wasn’t making any money.” It was like, “It’s 2005. I’ll take a much more secure career path and become a vegan chef.” That wasn’t secure at all. That was another level of insanity.
Many people came out to do one thing. We both went to film school and sometimes, the things that we think that we were going to do in entertainment, performing or artistry don’t end up being the things we did. I pivoted because I loved acting and I still do. I love comedy and music, but I wasn’t making enough money to subsist as an adult in Los Angeles on those artistic endeavors. I became a chef and this idea of becoming a celebrity chef because I didn’t achieve a certain level of notoriety and fame full disclosure. Was I doing it because I wanted to help people heal their bodies, heal the planet, protect animals, and all the reasons I became vegan? Yes. If I’m being radically honest, it was some version of my desire to be famous. It was like, “I couldn’t be a famous actor. I couldn’t be a famous musician. Maybe I can become a famous chef.”
To whatever degree, I did become that. That is what drives a lot of people. A layer deeper to get super real about it. The reason that I wanted to be famous or was chasing fame, was going back to this idea of, “If I’m important enough, significant enough, and I have enough approval and attention, which are all substrates of the idea of fame, validation, all those things, then I will protect myself from pain because I didn’t get the approval, validation, and attention from my father.” My father left when I was young. I never had a good relationship with my dad and I barely knew him. If I’m honest about it, what motivates a lot of people who are chasing a career in the entertainment and fame is they didn’t get the love, approval, attention, and significance in their childhood. They think that that is going to be a substitute, whether they’re willing to admit it or not, but I’m admitting it to myself.
Becoming a social media influencer is a lot safer and easier than becoming an actor. In acting, you have to go and audition and you have to get the part. It could take you years to ever get a role and you may never. Whereas in social media, if you look a certain way, it’s quite easy because beauty or an interesting appearance gets a lot of rewards on social media. Whatever your definition of beauty is, or something physically enjoyable for people to look at. That’s an easy path. Most influencers tend to be the standards of beauty or the opposite standards of beauty in this because they’re different than it is easier for them to stand out. If you’re talented, if you’re a good photographer or videographer or your creative, it’s easy to stand out online and become an influencer.
It’s much harder because Jason and I both pursued careers in the film industry before we started doing our work. It wasn’t just talent alone. It was who you knew and who you knew depended on luck many times, or networking enough and then following a path. It was a long path for most people or it was sheer luck that you became successful as an actor or filmmaker. The same thing with musicians. It’s a long path for all of that where social media is a shortcut. We talked about shortcuts a bit in our other episode, where you talked about supplements and pleasure. Digital media, in general, tends to be a shortcut because I remember when I went to film school, I’m seeing how YouTube was developing and I’m like, “I can put my movie on YouTube.”
It was different than growing up and having a completely different concept where people weren’t seeing your content. If I would make movies all the time when I was little, it was for my friends and family. Maybe I’d submit them to a film festival and then writing the script and all that. You had to go through all of these traditional routes of making that happen, getting an agent. People don’t even need agents. They have social media followings and they could end up getting a career. They could be discovered. Discoverability is what it comes down and is shifted with everything online. It’s so much easier. If you use the right titles for your videos or you use the right thumbnail, photo or hashtags, that’s how people get discovered.
I have many thoughts on this and my mind is racing. I want to break down a few things in terms of that technology, which we talked a lot about. It comes back around if we think about before the ubiquitous nature of personal computing, smartphones and all the things that we take for granted. Let’s take it back a few decades. Before we had the ability to record this show on a laptop computer or a phone or these mobile audio and video recording devices that have allowed musicians, actors and entertainers to record and distribute their content easily and quickly. If you are an author, musician, entertainer or artist of any kind. If you’re a musician, you’re not going and recording in a studio at home. You had to get a record deal to get into a studio and record your music. If you were an author, there was no self-publish. Maybe you had a small printing press but a tiny percentage of the population, you had to get a book deal. If you were an artist and wanted to get your work seen, you needed an artist rep or a gallery owner that believed in you.
Decades ago, since there were many fewer people, especially artists and entertainers getting their work seen, the competition level was such that only the most talented people or most connected. What is happening through the distribution and radical availability of these technologies is everyone is getting their content out there. Henceforth, there’s a lot more noise. There’s a lot more stuff to cut, swipe, look, read and listen through, in my opinion, to get to this stuff that is moving and talented. To be honest, it’s worth listening to, reading or seeing. There are tons of crap out there. There are mountains of crap content, crap everything.
I don’t want people to be like, “Here’s old man Jason getting on the thing.” In social media culture in general, talent is not valued as much as the ability to get attention. We always talk about Kim Kardashian. She’s just one example of many. People who have mastered the ability to generate massive levels of attention for themselves, which has nothing to do with talent. It’s about how you look or it’s your beliefs, your political stance. In my opinion, two things, being a great digital drug dealer and the ability to polarize people. Attention comes down to two things. If we look at how much sex is a driver of content still.
You swipe through the feed and it’s like, “Who is this person who has eight million followers? I’ve never even heard of this person.” They fit the standard of beauty or maybe they’re not wearing many clothes or the people that have radical political stances. The people who are getting the most attention henceforth, most followers, are the people that have the ability to rile up the masses and get lots of attention for themselves. In many cases, I don’t think talent has much to do with it at all anymore.Social media can bring out the worst of us in a lot of ways. Click To Tweet
It’s very much stimulation. Looking at a beautiful person is stimulating. That’s why selfies and pictures of people scantily clad are very attractive because you’re thinking, “I like the way this looks.” It’s like when you flip through Instagram that is similar to a magazine. When you think about what you’re drawn to on YouTube, for example, it’s much about drama like, “Is it entertaining to you?” That’s why someone like the Kardashians are successful because it’s the drama of their lives. It’s a person that’s different from you. It’s a voyeuristic thing. It’s like, “My life is nothing like the Kardashians, so I’m fascinated.” That’s why reality TV has done well for so long. It’s a glimpse into somebody else’s life and we have an opportunity to escape it.
A lot of influencers have found ways to manipulate their lives. We talked about the highlight reel of Instagram. It’s also human nature and psychology to compare ourselves to others. That’s what we do as human beings. You go on social media and you immediately start comparing and contrasting yourself against these people. It’s easy to judge somebody and most of our judgments come out of insecurities and fears within ourselves. We project the things that we don’t like about ourselves and we don’t want in ourselves and other people. We become judgmental and that feels good. It feels good to dislike somebody, criticize somebody, especially for feeling envious of them or inadequate.
Social media can bring out the worst of us in a lot of ways. It connects us. It’s wonderful and Jason and I love that but I don’t post much on Instagram. I do stories, but I don’t enjoy the process of posting on Instagram in my life because it feels like I’m shaping. There’s pressure in a weird way and it feels uncomfortable to me. It’s like, “I have to make sure that this photo is socially acceptable. This caption conveys something meaningful, significant and stands out.” I feel like I don’t want to put a lot of effort into it, but it requires effort. It’s a weird pressure thing. Personally, Instagram feels uncomfortable and I also feel uncomfortable oftentimes on Instagram. I unfollowed thousands of people. I tried to get it down to a low amount of people as possible.
Every once in a while, I’ll hear from somebody. Maybe it’s only happened once. There’s one time I can remember that somebody took it personally that I unfollow them. I thought this was interesting that they were afraid I no longer like them in person because I didn’t like them online. It becomes this blurred thing. It’s hard to know the reality of things. In one of the episodes, we talked about online dating. It is also the highlight reel and it’s the superficial thing. How are you ever supposed to know if you like somebody when the first date, first impression, and the first while you’re with them. It’s somebody showing you the best of themselves.
A lot of the times, you get to the harder parts, the roots of that person and then you say, “This doesn’t work for me anymore.” We wonder why divorce is happening more where people are struggling in their relationships. I was talking about this with somebody on how it’s tempting because this has happened to me in a relationship when things got tough. The person that I was with decided to go on an online dating app to make themselves feel better. I asked him, “What are you doing? Why are you on the app?” His response was virtually, he was looking for an escape route. It’s like, “We’re struggling, so I’m going to escape the struggle by finding more pleasure and looking for somebody else who’s showing me their highlight reel.” Social media is conditioning us to feel that we can only present the best of ourselves and we can never show the hard parts. It’s very refreshing. I’m finding it more interesting to hear the challenges that people go through, whether it’s being drawn to the drama or feeling refreshed to hear reality.
The impression I get from what you said is it harkens back to the Dual Basic Urges. By and large, on a cellular and chemical level, humans do not like change. Our physiology does not respond well to change for the most part. By avoiding the challenge of rather than digging into inquiring asking questions trying to heal the situation between you and your former partner, it was like, “I’m going to escape and date someone else or I’m going to be on this app or check out.” The growth medium in life for us is the challenge, but most people do everything we can to avoid those things. Why? Because first of all, they’re hard and uncomfortable. What do we want to do? We want to stay as comfortable as possible.
Anything that challenges us or challenges our sense of being or who we are, we avoid that at all costs. We’re generally speaking about humanity, not Whitney and I. All of us do it to some degree of, “This thing is making me super uncomfortable. It’s challenging who I think I am. I’m just going to avoid it.” We play many avoidance games and to your point, the reason that many people present themselves online as they do as a microcosm of this behavior in dating. There is a parallel there. If I show the world or this person I’m on a date with who I am, there are fear and risk of being rejected, not being approved of, and going home alone.
It’s a deep primal tribal mentality of, “If I do something that upsets someone, I will be cast out of the tribe and in the wilderness alone.” There was a time that in our small tribal societies as humans, if you did something in the tribe that went against the code or was massively disapproved of, you may be shunned from the tribe to the degree where you are in the wilderness to fend for yourself. That primal fight or flight response is still in our physiology. We present this perfect version of ourselves to get the approval, attention, and significance that we desperately crave.
I relate to that a lot. That’s probably part of why I struggled to post on Instagram in this stage of my life. I feel like I need to make everything that I do Instagram-worthy if I’m going to post it.
Who cares? When that thought comes into your mind, when you say, “I need to make an Instagram-worthy.” For who? What does that mean when you say that?
I’ve been using Instagram towards the end of 2012. Jason and I started dating and then evolved into a friendship afterward. I remember your Instagram and you only had a few posts on there because that was back in late 2012. I could easily go through your entire feed. You probably had ten photos or maybe less. I could tell you what those photos were. It’s vivid whereas now, most people when you go through their Instagram, it’ll take you half an hour or hours to go through their entire feed of how frequently they post. Back in 2012, I would just post everything. Back then, it was more stories. I gravitate towards Instagram stories because it’s unfiltered and I never think about it, but there’s a permanency to putting up a post.
Even though you can delete them or archive them, in my head, it becomes this pressure. Because over time, given Jason and I have been working in this field for so long professionally, it’s this idea of, “I need this to look right so that I get the likes. If I get enough likes, then I will look good to get sponsors. I will be socially accepted.” Because Jason and I live in Los Angeles, a huge part of our crowd, the people that we spend time with, most of our socializing is with other “influencers, content creators,” whoever. There’s a big desire, at least within me, to be accepted by those people. To be radically honest, there’s this fear of mine that if I don’t present myself in a certain way, then I will not be accepted.
Every time I go to an event, I feel like I have to look, act and talk a certain way to be accepted by that crowd. If I’m not accepted by them, I’m going to miss out on opportunities that may be vital to my career success. This happens a lot, especially in Los Angeles. Life is different out here and in big cities than it is elsewhere. It also goes back to my training as a filmmaker, which was all about networking. Networking is about who you know, meeting the right people, establishing relationships with them, having trust, and finding people that you can ask favors of, all of that. That still applies in the influencer world, but it’s like, “Are we going to collaborate so that if you mentioned me on your social media, then I’ll get some of your followers? If I get more followers, then not only am I more socially accepted, but then maybe I’ll get sponsored or maybe I’ll be invited on a cool trip or sent cool products.” It’s this desire for more.
You’re touching on something that is way deeper than just the idea of social media and social media influence. It’s wonderful that it seems this is a consistent theme in our show of getting down into the deeper, darker and examine parts of human psychology and what motivates human behavior. All of this is a microcosm of our conditioning, our behavioral patterns and what we truly desire or truly try to avoid as human beings. This is a window into greater human behaviors and the struggle of what it means to be human. If I may go down that path, they intertwined with all of this on social media. In general, there is an idea of, “I won’t approve of myself, love myself or feel worthy until I fill in the blank, get a million followers, make six figures or I’m friends with so and so.”
We play this game of, “I won’t be happy, content, fulfilled, and approve of myself until X happens.” That happens all the time on social media. It’s indicative of a lot of the human thought patterns that are driving consumerism and materialism. It’s this externalized illusion of, “Once I get a certain number in the bank account, a certain number of followers, and have these materialistic tokens of my worth and value as a being, then it will be okay.” The downside and part of what is contributing so much to people’s decline in mental health, depression, anxiety, stress, and suicidal behavior is buying deeply into the solution. I’m using this from influencers and celebrities that have taken their own lives. There’s a bill of goods that were sold in society.
Once you have a certain level of fame, followers, the right car, the big house or all the money, then you have solved the puzzle. You’ve won the game, but what happens when you win that game, you’ll realize that it hasn’t made you love yourself more? You still don’t approve of yourself and you still think that you’re worthless. There are a lot of people who end up on the other side of “winning that game” and still don’t feel content and joyful. The real madness begins because then it’s like, “This is what I was told would make me happy and I’m not happy.”
It becomes this chasing of wealth like, “I have to get more of it.” Jason and I have a whole video series about this topic. You can sign up and watch us talk about this more in-depth and give some advice. A lot of our advice is tailored towards people that are pursuing a career, have a career as influencer or marketing. If this is resonating with you, because like us if that’s your career or you want that to be your career, I encourage you to check out the video training we did. It’s completely free. You can go to Wellevatr.com, and you should find it easily there. We could probably end up talking about all the same things in that video, but there is a lot of pressure.
I witness this with you, Jason. Jason and I have known each other for many years. We’ve dated and been great friends, we see the true sides of each other. I remember who I thought Jason was before I got to know him and he’s much the same person. I still remember seeing you as this guy who had this incredibly successful career. Getting a TV show is such a big deal. We started dating right when Jason got his TV show on the Cooking Channel. That was such a magical time to date you because it was exhilarating. I had taken a break from Los Angeles for a little over a year. I came back to LA and saw everything as such a new light. That was before Instagram became a huge deal.
I’ve seen an evolution of Jason’s career as part of my point. From the outside, as unbiased as I can be, knowing Jason, I see so much success. I hear you talk about your successes a lot, but then there are times where I see your raw, vulnerable part of when you feel like nothing’s going right. You get into some dark places and I’m somewhat used to it because it is frequent. It still surprises me because of how I perceive you and I know other people perceive you. I’m curious, and readers would find this interesting, what is it that takes you to those places?
One of the big things is the gap between where I want to be and think I ought to be, and I’m not.Social media is conditioning us to feel that we can only present the best of ourselves and we can never show the hard parts. Click To Tweet
Is that real?
No, it’s an illusion but it’s a potent illusion. It’s an illusion because I have attached. I’m still unraveling the idea of associating the amount of talent and hard work that I perceive to put into everything that I do and expecting that to equate to an outcome because I judge other people and say they’re not as talented as me. They haven’t been doing it as long and they haven’t put as much work, why do they have all this money and success? It’s a judgment and a comparison thing. That brings me a lot of pain that I still struggle with.
I watched the Whitney Houston movie and it’s called Whitney, that came out 2017 or maybe early 2018. There’s an interesting moment in this movie. It’s a documentary and it wasn’t a recreation of her life. This is all footage. It was incredible seeing her story because it shows her entire story from the beginning of her life to the end of her life. You see this enormous talent and how her career unfolds. It’s a remarkable movie. Jason has a good knowledge base for musical artists. There’s this footage of her and it was either after a concert or she was hanging out with her mom. She was complaining and judging artists like Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson. She’s bad-mouthing them. She’s like, “These people are getting all of these record deals and so much success. They’re high up in the charts and their songs are not as deep as mine. They’re not as talented as me.” She’s going on this whole rant, but you could tell that she felt threatened by them.
In my head I’m thinking, first of all, they’re all fairly talented. Paula Abdul was maybe the Britney Spears of that time zone. Janet Jackson, I always thought that she was talented. The difference was that Whitney Houston was about deep, soulful pop. You could tell when you see the history of her life. She put so much into her music and her talent. There’s also the story of how she crafted her voice and she perceived people like Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson as similar to what we see on Instagram. The difference between a talented actress that we see in a movie versus social media influencers who get a movie deal simply because they have millions of followers and they’re pretty. I brought that up, Jason, because it’s amazing that Whitney Houston felt threatened by that.
First of all, it’s fascinating to think of that and another way of breaking all this down that I thought to myself as well is the value standards we set for ourselves because it’s all about value standards. One of the best examples we talk about music since we’re riffing on music, pun intended. This example was brought up in Mark Manson’s book that I like, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. He talks about Dave Mustaine who was the originator and leader of the band Megadeath, and he was the original guitarist in Metallica in the early ‘80s. Right before they went in to record their first album, Kill ‘Em All. They fired Dave Mustaine and sent him on a bus back home. Dave Mustaine’s mission in life to seek revenge on Metallica for firing him. It was to not only form a new band but have it be more successful than Metallica.
A couple of years go by, he forms Megadeth and it hits the charts. They’re a huge metal band from the ‘80s. In an interview, in the Metallica documentary that came out, they interviewed Dave Mustaine. First of all, the guy has sold tens of millions of records. I’ve seen awesome cars, Ferraris and Aston Martins. Dave Mustaine was one of the most successful musicians on the planet, but he doesn’t feel like he’s accomplished anything because his metric of value was, “I need to sell more records and be more successful than Metallica.” He still feels miserable and still feels as if he is not enough because that was his standard of value and he never achieved.
It doesn’t matter if he’s got millions of dollars, sold tens of millions of records, fancy cars, a big house, and tours the world. None of that matters because he never achieved the goal. This is a slippery slope. The big thing on social media is goal setting #Goals, hustle, and grind. There’s a fine line psychologically between motivating yourself out of not-enoughness versus motivating yourself out of joy and contribution. It is a razor-thin line because I do feel that a lot of people, myself included, are oftentimes motivated by a sense of, “If I accomplish X, then I will feel a sense of self-worth.”
I still struggle with that and I know what the sources. A fractured relationship in a sense of abandonment with my dad and family issues. As a young child, it was like, “I need to be the best at everything to feel worthy.” I have a psychotic work ethic at times because I feel like if I outwork everyone, then I’ll be the best but that’s another misnomer. It’s not just about hard work. This standard of value plays into, “If I work, grind enough, and hustle enough, then I’ll win the game. I’ll be enough.” It’s a constant chase that never ends.
The question for me is, enough for who? I finished a great book and I’ve recommended it to Jason. It’s called Choose Wonder Over Worry. That book hit every pain point that I’ve been experiencing. It’s concise, I read it fast and I highly recommend it. She’s a relatively young writer, but she’s wise. It all came down to, you have to be happy with yourself. You have to accept yourself, have self-acceptance. That is the core of this all because social media influence is driven by validation from others. When I broke down, this mindset is like, “What does success mean?” A lot of us tie success to how many people know who we are. That’s why people are obsessed with followers, but followers are tied into something like, “How much we get paid?” It’s like, “I want to get paid enough money.” We think about, “Why is that important?” Because we want security. We want to know that we can pay our bills. We want to know that we can put food on the table. One of the reasons why I wanted to do this episode is because in our field, it runs rampant. It’s like a desire to help and shed light because I don’t know how many people step back and examine these things. Even if you’re not in this influencer world or trying to be in this influencer world, you may still feel not enough based on social media.
How many people would be willing to admit that?
If we’re willing to admit it, maybe other people would be willing to admit it.
We want more reality and we want not just lip service to transparency and vulnerability. I feel like that has become a mechanism to try and sell stuff online. People are like, “I’m about to get super vulnerable here.” It’s almost as if, “I want to encourage people to be more real and be honest about what’s motivating them and honest about what they’re afraid of. If we were to be more honest, we’d find that those things are similar.” I also see on social media that vulnerability, real talk, and all the hashtag becomes a marketing mechanism. That turns my stomach. How about honest to God? Realness. It’s not like, “I’m going to announce that I’m getting vulnerable.” If you have to announce that you’re about to be vulnerable, you’re not being vulnerable. You’re manipulating people by announcing you’re about to get vulnerable. I’m sick of seeing it and I try and have compassion because those people are still trying to chase approval. It’s manipulative like, “If I’m vulnerable, I cry and I feign being authentic, then I’ll get people to like me.” It’s a slippery slope.
It comes down to this too, Jason, it’s like, “For a long time, I felt shame about the fact that I didn’t post frequently.” I still do this. I haven’t posted a photo on Instagram for a very long time. There’s nothing that I feel posting. I like doing Instagram stories, those are casual, but in a post-post, there’s something that I’m like, “I want to post this on Instagram.” I feel some shame around that because I think, “I’m not a real influencer.” People won’t take me seriously because of my followers, all that stuff. I started thinking about it in a different light, maybe there’s something great about the fact that I don’t feel the need to constantly post because I don’t need to get people’s approval of my life and every move that I take. I don’t need to share everything I eat, everything that I wear and everything that I experience. The important thing is that you can be vulnerable offline.
You don’t have to prove to people that you’re vulnerable by posting about your vulnerability. Chances are when people are writing about their vulnerability or showing a photo, they’re still editing it in some way. There’s a trend on Instagram where people do side by side photos, women especially. This is Instagram and then the other photo is real life. I don’t know if someone was making this up or assuming or whatever, but people force themselves to look worse than they look to try to be like, “I’m chubby.” After that, they push out their stomach and in the first photo’s them sucking it in. Neither of them is real. At first, those photos are refreshing because you’re like, “That’s true.” Everybody does show their highlight reel, but then when you force yourself to make yourself look worse or sound worse, this could be a polarizing comment. I have felt this way. This is an honest feeling.
There’s a trend like the #MeToo Movement. When the movement and all of these women were coming out with #MeToo, it was like as a woman, “Amazing to see women sharing their vulnerability.” Sometimes I repost and I’m like, “Are you trying to come up with a #MeToo post?” I don’t know the answer and I’m not judging, but I would wonder that. Maybe I was wondering that because I sat for a while wondering if I had a #MeToo story. Not that I can think of unless it’s a repressed memory but I don’t have a #MeToo story. That sounds like it should be a great thing, but yet I felt I wasn’t participating because I didn’t have a #MeToo story to share, which is weird. My point with that is, are we forcing ourselves to do things because it’s inclusive? Also, the Ice Bucket Challenge years ago when everybody was doing that. Jason and I, we did an Ice Bucket Challenge video talking about why we weren’t doing it. Part of the reason we did that video is it was a way of participating by not participating.
It’s the same mechanism. I don’t want to compare #MeToo to anything in terms of severity in depth.
I’m not comparing #MeToo. I’m saying they’re both in a way their movements.
I was about to jump in the same thing. It seems that there is a lot of self-imposed pressure to keep up with the Joneses. Intrinsically, social media is not bad. We’ve said it many times.
We both use it. Maybe people who are following this show because of social media, there are great elements.
It is a tool for you to channel your energy, your intention, your sense of self and it is a reflection of that. There are so many things, but since we’re on this subject, if we go back to this standard of value or this pressure to fit in or keep up with the Joneses. Where else is that showing up in your life? It’s not on your online profile, it’s a mechanism, a thought form, a way of being that is perpetuating probably a lot of different areas of your life.Social media influence is driven by validation from others. Click To Tweet
For me, my lack of self-worth doesn’t only show up on social media. It shows up in other areas of my life too where I’m like, “I need to give myself more love.” I need to find out how to independently continue to radically love and accept myself no matter what the external conditions are because as long as I have a certain amount of money in the bank and things are going well, and I’m in a relationship and my health is good and I’m killing it, I love myself.
What happens when a relationship ends? What happens if your bank account or your investments suddenly plummet, which happens every day? What happens when you get a health scare? Those are the moments when we get to see truly, not only how much fortitude we have, but how much deep love and compassion and acceptance we have for ourselves when we “mess up” or “bad things happen.” It’s easy to feel good about ourselves when everything’s going great.
The challenge, the growth mechanism, the most powerful mirror for us is when we get thrown one of those curveballs in life. I started noticing for me when that would happen, I would start to beat myself up and take the blame and feel like, “I was responsible. I’m the one who did this.” Social media is a good mirror and a good reflection to show us how we’re operating in our lives and areas that need healing and attention. These people are aware enough to see it.
It’s important to examine your relationship. I have a love-hate relationship. I feel resentment towards it. When you were saying how it doesn’t show up online, one of the things I struggle with living in Los Angeles and being in this influencer world is socializing. I don’t like going to influencer events because I feel everyone’s there to network with each other so that they can potentially grow their following. Are they there to make deep connections? Everybody there, probably at the root of themselves, is there to connect, but their default behavior is driven by, “What can I get out of this to feed my ego?” That is uncomfortable for me, everyone taking photos.
I used to find so much joy in taking pictures and making videos. That was where my career started. I documented everything. I was the odd one out. I was the weird one that would take pictures at dinner. I remember back in 2009 after I started my blog, it was weird. Men that I dated were annoyed when I took photos at dinner. Now it’s given that you’re going to do that if you have a blog or Instagram. People look at me and they wait for me to take a photo, I’m like, “I’m not going to take a photo of this meal.” I rarely take photos of my meal, unless it’s something special.
First of all, going out to meals with anybody who’s posting online, it’s got to the point where it’s annoying to me. Out of some resentment, it doesn’t feel original anymore to take photos of food and I’m like, “If that person is taking a photo of their food, what’s the point of me taking it?” The food is already captured. When Jason and I go out to eat, your Instagram story everything. When Jason is posting away on his Instagram Stories, I’m like, “It’s redundant for me to be posting about the same thing.”
The thing happens at a lot of these gatherings that we go to of influencer events, summits and conference, all this stuff that we go to. A bunch of people sitting around trying to figure out how they can grow their influence and how they can make more money. I’m always interested in making more money, but I want to do it in a way that’s deeply authentic and deeply rewarding. I don’t want to make it all about some strategy, it’s a little hard to verbalize this. I love strategy, but there are certain types of strategy that put me off and those are usually the ones that feel they’re not authentic, like, “I’m going to buy followers. I’m going to somehow artificially inflate myself as a strategy.”
It comes back down to that shortcut thing that we’ve talked about. Shortcuts make me feel uncomfortable because many people are taking shortcuts and I’m like, “I don’t want to take shortcuts but I feel like I’m supposed to be taking shortcuts. I feel like I’m supposed to be artificially inflating things. I feel like I’m supposed to be superficial.” All of this supposed to stuff. It was like what you were saying about online dating. You were feeling pressure to online date. That’s how you’re going to meet your partners if you go online. Deep down, at least not now in your life, you don’t want to do that. That’s similar to how I feel sometimes as an “influencer.” It seems like the mass amounts, the average influencer is doing and it’s working for them and I’m sitting here going, “I don’t want to do those things, but they’re working.” I feel like if I don’t do them, then I’m not going to be as successful.
Let’s take this mentality as a microcosm of a macro way of how we’re living in other areas of our life. If someone were to say, “Whitney, I can make you $1 million. I’ve got this app that allows you to siphon a penny out of tens of thousands of people’s bank accounts, but they’ll never know.” Would you do it?
To me, that’s the same mechanism. If people are giving to get, if they’re buying followers, being strategic from a manipulative sense of using someone because the means justify the ends, which I feel like a ton of people in our industry are doing that, I don’t want to be a part of that.
Am I a part of it in some way? I’m trying to be real because you are on social media differently than me, I’m curious about your mentality around it.
I remember I sat down to do a post because I was feeling I wasn’t getting enough attention. I wasn’t feeling my numbers were high enough and I started writing this post. I realized that I was not doing this to give anything of value. I was doing it to get something. Every time that I sit down to do a post, I take a moment to get still and think about, “What is it that I want to convey here? Is this for me?” On some level, of course, it is. The ego is always going to be present. It’s not under this mentality of I’m lacking something, so I’m going to try and manipulate you on an emotional level to get something from you.
You post a lot, so how are you able to do that? Do you completely real talk every single Instagram story? Do you go through that mentality, that checklist in your head?
Sometimes it’s about like, “I’m hanging out here. I’m eating at this place. I want to show you guys.”
Why are you doing that? If you guys don’t follow Jason’s personal account, you are known, at least your good friends. We know that you’ll post 50 separate Instagram stories in one day. Whereas maybe for me as a contrast, I’ll maybe post 3 to 5. I don’t post that many Stories. From my perspective, you’re sharing ten times as much as I am. What is it that drives you to share that much?
For me, with the context you’re talking about, it’s a fine line because I want to give people a glimpse into what is bringing me joy and what I’m experiencing. I want to invite you into my world so you can see what I’m seeing and feel what I’m feeling.
Why? This is the stuff that I’m fascinated by when it comes to influencers. I want to know your answer, but as you’re contemplating it and I see what happens a lot with social media content. There is this desire to hustle and post, be consistent. You need to be posting all the time. You can’t let anybody forget about you. You need to share everything because every piece of content has an opportunity to be seen. Maybe this person will see you and like it or maybe this brand will recognize you. The more we put out there, the greater the chance we’re going to get of being seen and validated and successful.
At my core, I don’t want to be doing that. I feel weird that I don’t do that. I feel like, “Is there something wrong with me because I don’t post as much as a lot of influencers do?” That’s interesting for me to examine. It’s also fascinating when I see people like Jason, who posts so much more than I do. I’m curious, what drives that? Is there a purpose behind it or is that possibly a knee-jerk reaction? Are you buying into this world of more and more? Maybe you’re more open than I am.
There’s also a personality difference between me and Jason. In addition to being different genders and completely different people, even though we’re similar, one big difference between the two of us is that I tend to be more introverted and Jason’s extroverted. I suppose maybe that’s an outlet for your extraversion. You talk a lot, you share a lot, whereas my introversion is a little bit more internal and I don’t feel the need to share as much about my life. It’s not that I’m trying to be private. It’s that I don’t feel the need to share every detail of my life all the time.The expansion of our being and our growth is beyond measurement. Click To Tweet
Part of it is a desire to maintain relevance of, “I’m here doing stuff that matters, everybody.” That one specifically is significance.
You want to make sure that people don’t forget about you so that you stay significant in their mind. When you get low, do you feel you’re not significant? Are you overcompensating perhaps?
In the moments that I’m posting, I don’t feel sad or depressed. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction to a current emotional state. It’s a subconscious thing that I’m bringing to the conscious. This idea of looking at the people that we admire or respect, how often they’re posting things, how consistent they are and feeling like, “I need to keep up with that output or I’m going to lose significance or I will never reach the heights that the avatars and the gurus that I respect are.” It is not only a significant thing, but it is a comparison thing of, “If they’ve achieved what I want and they’re further along on the path, then I need to somehow emulate the amount of content, the type of content or the work ethic I’m not going to keep up.” It is pressure.
It’s self-imposed pressure. I’ve been studying social media and entrepreneurship, all this work for a long time. In addition to creating content, I’m also a coach around all of this. I study constantly. I’m always reading. One thing that keeps coming up is there are formulas. The information I see is, there are some people that are into strategy and formula. First of all, strategy and formula are constantly changing. Sometimes on a week to week, month to month, at least a year to several months’ basis, things are always changing. You can’t stick to any strategy long.
There also is something to be said about doing things differently. I feel that the common thing for social media influencers is to lock into one strategy and everyone starts doing it. Who is it that breaks out of that mold and start doing something different? I don’t know. There’s somebody doing it this way or that way. At the end of the day, I wonder there isn’t only one path to success, and just because somebody is doing it, doesn’t mean that that’s the way and the only way. It doesn’t mean that they’re successful because of all that stuff. They may have already been successful. My point being, like Richard Branson, is it the fact that he does blank that made him successful or is he already successful? He happens to do all this other stuff but that has nothing to do with his success. That’s why to me, it’s dangerous to do something because somebody else is doing it.
You and I talked about this all the time, the willingness to experiment and try new things over and over. Sometimes when our expectations get wrapped up in those things, that’s what can breed disappointment and this idea of, “I’m going to give up.” There are specific people we knew that came into social media, had massive followings quick, and they got right out of the game. They’re gone.
Instagram again, coming back to that since that’s the big network. It was probably somewhere between 2013 and 2014 when people started to become Instagram famous off of having 50,000 followers. At the time, 50,000 was huge on Instagram and now that’s nothing.
That’s what they call a micro-influencer.
At the time, it was a big deal. Remember when you cross 10,000, it was a huge deal on Instagram. It’s funny because the “average person” has maybe less than 100 or less than 1,000. In terms of the influencer world, if you have under 100,000, you’re a micro-influencer. The stakes are getting raised and raised. It is fascinating to have longevity and see the people that felt important and the measurement of success, those people either are not as relevant relatively, or they’re not even doing that anymore.
That’s why it’s important to not be attached to comparing yourself or copying, emulating somebody all the time in the way that they do things because you’re not them. You’re your own person. Success becomes too attached to formulations. Coming back to what drives us and what we define as success. I don’t think most people even know what they think of as success. It’s a vague idea, it’s a feeling. As you were saying, you’re chasing that feeling of success, but never quite getting there.
What they think they want isn’t what they want, because they’ve observed what other people have achieved and they subvert those achievements and make them their own. The question becomes, what is your own thought versus someone else? What is your program versus a program that was installed in you? Is what you want actually what you want? Have you created your own? Have you defined what happiness, contentment, fulfillment, and success are to you? Are you taking the blueprint of what other people have done and co-opting it as your own? I’ve fallen into that trap many times, until it’s like, “What if I answer that question for myself? Can I strip away any of the conditioning or any ought to’s, supposed to’s or thou shalt and answer honestly what that means to me?” Most people go through life never asking the question and certainly not defining it of what happiness, contentment, fulfillment and success means to them.
They’re also always chasing something, a future feeling. This is something I was journaling about. I did morning pages where I sat for ten minutes, journaled, and it felt good. I want to start doing that regularly. It’s a habit I want to build. In that, I started reflecting on the fact that I was stressing out about how I was going to make money. I have a gig, it’s temporary and it’s paying me well. Yet, I’m concerned where the next income is going to come from. I was laughing at myself because I’m sitting going like, “Why am I feel stressed? Where’s this tension coming from?” It was tension about the future.
I’m fascinated by finances and I feel driven to learn more about that for myself. I want to do more coaching around this stuff. I feel that’s a pain point that I want to address, not only in my own life but for other people. I feel many people get stressed. I know you do too, Jason, we talk about this all the time. In my journal, I started writing out how things were in that moment. I looked at this list and thought, “Do I have money?” “Yes.” “Do I have money coming in soon?” “Yes.” “Do I know where my next paycheck is going to be?” “Yes.” “Do I have money to pay rent and pay my other bills?” “Yes.” I started thinking about the things that I am doing or the things that I’m doing in the near future. “Are these bringing me happiness?” “Yes.”
When I started to write it all down and evaluate it, it’s also similar when people do a gratitude list, which is in all my studies of success, happiness, fulfillment, that is one of the most common recommendations. I will recommend this to everybody who’s on this search of feeling satisfied, which is probably why people are reading. We’re all looking for personal fulfillment and happiness. Oftentimes, we’re looking in the wrong places as we’ve been discussing. One of the greatest things that we can do for ourselves is to write a daily gratitude list, whether it’s at the beginning and/or both parts of your day. When you sit down and you become present to what you’re grateful for in that day, in that moment, then you can say, “I am happy. The reason I don’t feel happy is because I’m attaching my sense of happiness to something that hasn’t even happened yet.”
When I check in with myself, that’s one of the motivators for meditation is that you have to become still and connected to the present moment. What happens to us so much on social media is this drive for more and this ongoing feeling of not-enoughness. Often the reason that we’re in that state is because we’re connected to what we don’t have. If we become focused on what we do have, most of us have so much. Anyone who’s following this show has a lot. You have an internet connection and you have a device that allows you to read this. You have the time to spend to read, wherever you are.
Appreciating simple things like that and also appreciating the big things and all the great things. The more we can focus on that in our personal lives versus always measuring ourselves up against what other people are doing, what other people have. That is honestly one of the biggest challenges in our lives online is that constant measurement and the measuring stick never ends. To your point too, Jason, there’s always going to be somebody who’s younger than you or older than you that looks better than you, that looks different than you, that has more money, who has the relationship that you want. We have no context over how they got those things, how long are they going to have them?
To me, another book recommendation because what this brings up to me is the game that we’re playing. Attention approval, significance, validation and avoiding the things that make us uncomfortable. There’s a great book called Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse. He talks about all of these things, sports, fame, money, beauty, worldly success. These are finite games. These are things that we judge based on our value metrics that are winnable or reusable. You get into a finite game. There’s a winner and a loser. We set up metrics to determine what winning and losing mean.
Infinite games in his point and I agree with this. The infinite game is growth because there’s no ceiling and there’s no winner or loser in the growth and evolution game. For me, the context to contain this entire show, a lot of the things that I try to remind myself of is to disconnect from the finite games that we are all obsessed with as humans run our culture and society to the higher-level infinite game of, “I am a being who is here to grow, expand and learn on earth while I am here. I’m hopefully going to take those lessons and experience and growth into wherever I’m going next.”
That’s what I’m more interested in and becoming more interested in the growth, evolution, and expansion of our being. Not getting obsessed and focused on these finite games that on the highest level, it’s not that they don’t matter, but it’s important that we shift our focus into things that are beyond measurement. The expansion of our being and our growth is beyond measurement. That’s the things that I’m interested in focusing on more and I encourage all of us to start focusing on.
I love that term. That is a wonderful way to encapsulate the big message here. I’m sure you as a reader have a lot of thoughts on this and we would love to know your thoughts. We hope that you communicate with us somehow. If you go to Wellevatr.com, you can find our contact information. You can choose your method that feels most comfortable: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, email, there are so many ways.
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