Social media platforms were designed to bring out the creativity and the inner DaVinci in us. Indeed, it paved the way for trending opportunities that young and adult alike can participate in. But it’s not always peaches and cream, if you feel the burnout or deterioration on your social media routine, you may have grown an addiction to social media. Joining Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen for a chat, Allison Sugahara, founder of Polygon Market, imparts her social media experience and insights on how our digital wellbeing can be unexpectedly vulnerable. Before you post your next photo or video, join in for a conducive conversation that will improve your social media health.
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Reevaluating Social Media: Finding True Authenticity And Promoting Digital Wellbeing With Allison Sugahara
There are so many directions that I’m excited to take this episode with Allison. I found her through TikTok and any of our regular readers know that I’m into TikTok as both a consumer and a creator. Allison may be my favorite person on the platform because every video that she makes, I get excited to watch. I want to watch it in its entirety. I want to know what she’s got to say because I feel comforted by her true authenticity. The word authenticity gets thrown around a lot these days and it’s losing its meaning. Perhaps we either need to take back its meaning or find a different word, maybe both.
Allison, I’m excited to have you on here and thank you for taking the time. It’s a little overwhelming because I feel that there are so many things I can’t wait to dive into with you. What I’ll start with is something I was going to tell you offline. I figured that I might as well include it in the show. We were talking about tea before we started recording, which brought us to Jason and my friend Adam Yasmin, who has been a guest on the show. He has a big focus on digital well-being. I know that all three of us and maybe some of the readers are on Clubhouse. Adam has been doing some of my favorite Clubhouse rooms. He’s bringing something, as you pointed out in one of your TikTok, Allison, refreshing to Clubhouse.
What we will often see on platforms like Clubhouse sometimes TikTok and a lot of different social media platforms is, focus on perfectionism, focus on fear of missing out, FOMO, focus on hustling. One of the many things that the three of us have in common is the desire to be more tuned into ourselves and less focused on all of these external messages and the pressure. That’s going to be the big theme of the show. We never know where things are going to go. I want to let you know, Allison and the readers that might be in Clubhouse or considering Clubhouse know that there is a community within this platform of people talking about digital well-being and true well-being, not some buzzword.
It’s examining our relationships with technology and I know, Allison, that you like Jason and I have watched the documentary Fake Famous, which has been getting us to think a lot. There’s also the documentary, The Social Dilemma. There’s a lot coming out slowly but surely. I suppose one thing that’s a great place to start with us, Allison, is to hear your perception. Do you think things are getting better or worse? Maybe they’re another version of the same thing when it comes to social media and its usage in the marketing world? Do you think that these documentaries, books and articles that are coming out are opening our eyes to the role that these platforms are taking in our lives? Are they helping us? Are they giving us information but not doing anything? How are you feeling about all that with your observations?
First of all, thank you so much for all the nice words you said about my TikTok because that’s a platform that liberated me in the social media space. It got me to think completely differently about the way I create content. The fact that I’m showing up as myself completely raw and it’s being received by somebody that I get along with or would be friends with is awesome, so thank you. To talk about digital well-being and Fake Famous and if it’s helping or hurting us, to some degree, there’s always going to be that level of inauthenticity. That’s the nature of how social media was created. Even though it was created to share with each other somehow, we all turned it into this big monster and to some degree that will always be there. What I do think is that by having things like The Social Dilemma or Fake Famous, we’ve been able to put into words things that we’ve already known based on being in this industry.
When I saw Social Dilemma, I already knew this was all going on. My husband and I were like, “Now that it’s all spelled out right in front of our faces, enough is enough.” For me, it was another liberation where I’m like, “I’ve got to talk about this. If I’m feeling this way and all these other people are feeling this way, we need to talk about it.” We need to air this thing out because I’m getting to the point where I can’t do it anymore. A lot of us have suffered from comparison, anxiety and a hit on our mental health because of all of the factors that go into trying to keep up.
I started showing up and saying things that I was feeling and not knowing how big of a response I would get from other people that felt the same way. These documentaries are going to start empowering us, the people that feel this way and want to lead the charge or be the catalyst in this new shift in realness and real authenticity like you were saying. I agree, we’ve taken that word and made it inauthentic. Now is the time where things are going to start to shift. People are fed up AF.
Jason is one of them.
I’m in a strange place with all of it. I say strange because I feel that there’s a lot of different ways of looking at this. There’s looking at it in the sense that the social media companies, Facebook who owns Instagram, there’s Google, we could name all of them that are undergoing this level of scrutiny. When we talk about me being fed up, part of it is because, on the one hand it’s looking at it like, “We should impose more controls and more regulations on Facebook and Google at all,” because they’re using AI and they’re using tech to manipulate our psychology.
On the other hand, we can’t blame them fully. They’re highlighting and making glaring magnifications as to what’s already going on in human psychology, which is a social hierarchy, survival of the fittest and lack of consciousness. Also, I need to steamroll everyone and get the highest numbers and highest engagement, be the most popular and the most influential. That’s not a new conversation. That’s been going on in human society since the beginning of time, hierarchy and dominance. They are magnifying it and taking advantage of what’s already in our latent human psychology. The lust for power, the lust for importance and all those things. That’s part of the conversation.
The other part of the conversation is looking at digital minimalism. There are guys like Cal Newport talking about unplugging from all of it or guests that we’ve had like Paul Jarvis and Corbett Barr. Paul is back on Twitter. They’ve taken long extended breaks by removing themselves from the social conversation completely. Where I’m at is I know that as a tool for business and for communication and connection, it is useful.
To your point, Allison, with the comparison trap and the mental health thing, I know that if I track my history with social media and I go all the way back to Myspace in 2003, 2004 and I look at the corollary between how much I’ve been involved with social media. Also, the mental health struggles that I’ve had in my life, it’s not that social media is the causality. There’s absolutely in my mind a correlation between how much I use social media, how many platforms I’m on, the pressure to keep up. Also, the depression, suicidal ideation and anxiety that I’ve felt over the years.Don't be addicted to social media with this idea of getting views because you feel like you need to provide something for somebody. Click To Tweet
Prior to social media, if I look at my health history and my mental health history, would I get depressed? Sure. Would I have bad days? Yeah. Honestly, since the rise of social media in the past couple of years, it has been a lot worse and I know that, for me, it’s been a contributing factor. The question is, what do we do? Do we impose more regulations? Do we take more responsibility for our own level of comparison, not-enoughness and our own mental health issues? I’m at a point where I’m not quite sure how to move forward with all of it.
I can completely understand. I don’t know what more regulations would do because people are addicted to these platforms. They don’t want to have anything stripped away. We’re definitely at a point where we need to establish some healthy relationships because I am noticing a lot of things. Now that my TikTok had a lot more views, I find myself addicted to the stupid platform. I’m refreshing the page and it’s like, “Notification and notification.” I’m like, “Why am I sitting here watching this happen? I’m addicted.”
I am finding myself being pulled from things that I want to be doing in my life. For the beginning of the time that I was on TikTok and I started having success, I went through this, like, “I shot up.” I’m addicted to this idea of getting views because I feel I need to provide something for somebody. I’ve attracted a lot of people and now I feel like I need to keep up with the content. I’m tailoring my content based on what I think people are going to respond to. What got me there in the first place was enjoying myself, having fun and loving what I’m doing.
After I took a complete hiatus for a few months because I was also going through a bunch of stuff in my real life, we were in the middle of the pandemic, we’re still in the middle of the pandemic. There was a lot of heaviness. I was also grappling with living in a primarily white town being the token minority in the height of Black Lives Matter, I felt alone as well. My grandmother died and she was the matriarch of our family. I had all this actual stuff going on in my life and yet I was worried about what was going on social media and I shut down. It wasn’t even that I took a break on my own. It’s not like I’m going to take a break and I’m leaving. I stopped showing up. People were sending me birthday messages on Facebook and I’m like, “I can’t even respond to you for two weeks.”
It helped me realize especially going through the process of understanding what it’s to go viral and have an audience, that nothing matters in my own life other than myself, what are my priorities, what I’m doing to take care of myself and how I want to show up in the world. I’ve started to develop a much healthier relationship based on my own journey because I need to preserve my own joy and my own creativity. It’s how I show up in the world. It’s how I express myself and find joy, creating and sharing messages that could inspire people or not. Everything I create is for myself. It’s mostly messages that I am saying to myself months ago. By being myself, it’s attracting a lot of people that feel the same way.
That mind shift was important for me to go through that, “I’m completely shut off.” My creativity has an off-and-on switch and it is fully off. I don’t even know where the outlet is. I can’t even turn the breaker on. It’s gone for now. Being able to somehow get back to yourself in these times when we’re so caught up on social media especially for businesses, figuring out a way to do it in a way that gives you joy is my best piece of advice. Probably because if you get caught up in the analytics and trying to make other people happy or trying to do something out will go viral, you’re going to burn out.
I feel like this is something both of us can relate to. Jason has certainly expressed that he is at that crossroads. I’ve encouraged him a lot to use TikTok for that reason. Also, for the reason that it feels that the other social media platforms are losing a lot of relevance. I’m interested to see if that happens. When you’re in TikTok, that’s the platform. TikTokers are anti-Facebook and Instagram because it does have a level and we don’t know how long it’s going to last. As in early 2021 and previously, it’s had a level of real authenticity. I need to find some more synonyms for that because
that word could feel like nothingness these days. Unfortunately, platforms like Instagram have capitalized on authenticity. We have a lot of influencers who figured out, as you’re saying, Allison, that authenticity sells. It’s manufactured authenticity. It’s like what you’re expressing. People might read and think, “I need to be more authentic.” Maybe deep down, they’re doing it as a way to get more followers and more likes.
It’s interesting to see the directions that we’re going in. We’ve seen Instagram try to be more like TikTok and it’s not working well. They’re doing that because they’re noticing this. It’s also interesting to me to see people that have spent most of their time on other social media platforms, YouTube included, try to come over to TikTok and feel completely unsure how to proceed. Myself included. I’m not excluded from this because I spend so much time on Instagram, YouTube and all these other platforms. When I came over to TikTok, I was not sure what to do. I’m used to curating things and spending a lot of time on things.
One piece of advice that I found a lot of creators saying is it’s often the videos that you spend the least amount of time on TikTok that do well and the videos that you spend hours and hours on. If you’re going to put that much work into something, those generally don’t do as well. Every once in a while, they will, depending on the content. TikTok plays around with your emotions in a lot of ways. In a way, it’s good for us because it’s encouraging us to not give a crap as much as we have. That’s the reason why TikTokers tend to not like platforms like Facebook and Instagram, which are so much about curating. It’s about, “Let me take the perfect photo.” It’s like what we saw on Fake Famous.
That’s the reason that it’s irritated the three of us and probably some of our readers as well, seeing people spend all this time and money getting ready for a photo that they’re going to post on Instagram and having to do it all over again. There’s a moment in there where it might have been the girl that was featured in it and I don’t remember her name. She was saying, “We’re going to spend all this time and work. We have a photographer, we have a set that we pay for, we have clothing, makeup, lighting and on and on. These photos only last a certain amount of time and we have to do it all over again.”
For those that haven’t seen the documentary, we’re not spoiling anything. This movie is hard to spoil because it’s off facts and observation of influencer culture. When they go on that road trip, the photoshoot road trip, all these girls piled into a van with their luggage and doing their makeup on there like it’s an episode of America’s Next Top Model. They’re all hanging out and taking photos in the same location and posing. There’s that moment where the girls aren’t even satisfied with these photos. I’m like, “What are you talking about? You spent all this time and money and you’re taking photos that took so much effort and yet you’re still not satisfied with it.” That, to me, is where it gets irritating.
Going back to my original point with TikTok, there are certain people that do that on TikTok and myself included. Sometimes I take an hour or so to make a video, I enjoy it though. Maybe that’s a big difference. I enjoy the process of filming something because I have a film background. That’s the way my brain has worked for most of my life and TikTok is a nice outlet. It’s the lack of attachment I’m working on in terms of the results. To your point, Alison, I can create for myself and it’ll impact other people. Whereas Instagram feels like you’re primarily creating for other people and Facebook, it’s hard to say. I don’t even know what Facebook is anymore besides Facebook groups, ads and Happy Birthday messages.
In a way, Facebook is going back to its roots of connecting people personally because few people seem to be interested in creating on there anymore. You then have the opposite side where people use Facebook to run ads to each other. The algorithm is skewed that most people I know are giving up on trying to do anything on there, aside from their personal usage. I’m curious, Allison, with all of that summarized, do you feel like Instagram and Facebook are going to go away? Are they always going to be lingering there? Do you think that TikTok is the platform of the future? Would you advise someone like Jason who’s fed up with all of this? I keep on encouraging him to get on the platform but he seems resistant to it. I’m curious about your perspective of it, Allison. Do you think it’s worthwhile for someone who’s feeling quite burned out by social media?
You and I are such huge TikTok stans. I tell anybody to get on TikTok. I’ve had five friends say, “Fine. I’m on TikTok now because I want to see your videos.” I’ll keep sending them links to my videos. They’re like, “I’ve got a TikTok.” TikTok is awesome because it liberated me during quarantine and the way that I create content. You’re seeing people come through your FYP, which is like your feed on Instagram and there’s so much creativity on this app. Somebody who lives at their mom’s house and had an idea decided to make a video, it took them however long and it’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen or it’s insightful. That’s one of the cool things about the platform. We’re trying to preserve this honeymoon phase still because we do see it turning where people are trying to go viral. A lot of people in the influencer world noticed, “I can’t get as viral on Instagram anymore. Now I want to be on TikTok because I have access to going viral again.”
With that though, you also have the people that are doing stuff for fun and they’re inspiring people by being who they are. Dogg Face, who was skateboarding and drinking Ocean Spray cranberry to Dreams by Fleetwood Mac, blew up and it’s changed his entire life. Where I enjoy the app is that I’ve been able to make real connections like in the early Instagram days where you’re making internet friends with people with whom you feel aligned in your life. They’re people that get you in a way. I almost feel more supported by the strangers on the internet on TikTok than I do in my direct network on Instagram. That was something that I was thinking about when we were talking about manufacturing your content for Instagram.
I never fit in on that platform. I had a lot of growth in the beginning because I am a business owner. I’ve always been fascinated by social media in general. As I started to grow and get into pods, which was hacking the algorithm and I hated pods. For anybody that doesn’t know, that’s when a lot of influencers would get in the DMs together and like each other’s content. Why do we need that? I would meet some of these influencers in real life and it was fake. We’d get together, have dinner and everybody would take pictures. We’re not even interacting with each other. We’re taking photos of what we’re doing and we’d all follow each other. I’d get home and they all unfollowed me. I’m like, “These aren’t real people. They’re jerks. They want to be here for fame. They want to keep their follower count down or I’m not their cup of tea.” I was always the disrupter. I’ve always been a disruptor in this space. Instagram didn’t receive me that well. It’s changing where people are coming from TikTok and following me on Instagram. I was never able to find a real collective or group of friends that I feel like I could be authentic with.
The liberating thing about TikTok is when I started creating content. I didn’t give a crap because nobody knew me on that platform. That’s a fun thing, too. Nobody knows you. Who cares? I almost would not take some of my videos from TikTok and put them on Instagram. I don’t care now. I will do that. In the beginning, I was hesitant because those two worlds were separate and that says it all. Facebook and Instagram will probably be here for a while but it’s going to be a pay-to-play platform. Facebook has turned into a place where you’re feeding ads. We’re overloaded with content at this point. We have access to education but it’s not accessible to them. Maybe they don’t learn digitally, especially the older small business owners. Now that they’ve taken the time to be on Facebook and Instagram, it’ll be here for a while for them because that’s the only place they know.
The new up-and-coming stuff, that’s where everybody jumps. The savvy people will always keep moving forward like the Gary Vees of the world. For small business owners that aren’t as tech-savvy, I see a real disconnect and a real problem. That’s what I saw when Instagram for business started becoming a thing. I wanted to help small business owners. In the town that I lived in at the time, there were a lot of older small business owners. I taught classes on what to do. They were overwhelmed. I’m in-person teaching five people and they were like, “What?” I’m getting hit up every day via my personal text messages going like, “I can’t be your Instagram teacher. This is madness.” Facebook and Instagram don’t have the tools but they are probably the easiest platform for somebody to be on. In that regard, they’ll be around for a long time but I don’t know how relevant they will be.
One thing that I want to loop back to with both of you is something offline. Whitney and I have been discussing, Allison, not only amongst ourselves but we’re involved with a mastermind with a couple of other friends of ours who are in the health, wellness, food industry. We were having a conversation and I brought up the feeling that one of the comments from Fake Famous, Justine Bateman, the actress who was on there, talked about how social media fame isn’t fame. She phrased it as an infomercial host that everyone’s on there to get brand deals.
Allison, you begin to change the nature of your content because you either see a paradigm that’s working and you want to duplicate the success. There’s the pressure to duplicate the success. A part of that is when you do start to get to a point where brands are paying you, not only in product but there’s actual money involved. For years, if I’m taking full responsibility for it, I have definitely changed who I am, how I present and the content I’m doing. I was being paid to do it. I got my first paid influencer contract years ago. It was January 2011 and it was like, “You’re paying me to do YouTube videos and Facebook posts.” It was mind-blowing.
I’m now realizing, decades later, that I sacrificed a lot of what I wanted to say and do. I was doing it the way that the brand wanted me to do it because they were paying me, in some cases, a lot of money. The dark side of this is sacrificing what we want to do in our hearts as artists or creators because there’s the carrot being dangled and, in some cases, big carrots. In Fake Famous, they were saying that Kim Kardashian’s base rate for one post is $500,000. In some cases, the social media managers are paying influencers $80,000 for one Instagram post and two tweets. When you’re working with those numbers, it’s hard not to be yourself when there’s an expectation of a brand and all those dollar signs.
I wanted to loop back at the comment you said at the beginning, Allison, when you start to see content that’s working, it’s the pressure to duplicate your own success. There’s also the pressure of, “I’m getting paid to do this now. I need to do what the brand wants me to do, so they’re happy, so I keep getting paid.” For me, in my experiences, I lost some of myself in that process. I’m trying to reclaim some of myself after being in a mode for more than a decade of, “I’ve got to please my sponsor, brands, TV network and these guys.” I lost some of myself in that and that’s one thing I want to touch on. It’s important as creators when we start to lose ourselves. I’m on a hard road to find myself again to be quite honest because I was excited about the money that I lost some of my realness.
That resonates a lot. This is a weird space on social media in general. Never did we think we would be at a point where you could be getting paid quite a bit to promote this or to talk about this or be a spokesperson or brand ambassador for this brand. It all works together. We’re all human beings and we’re all growing every single day. We’re changing every single day. Especially when you think about somebody, maybe Charli D’Amelio. She’s so young. She doesn’t know who she is fully and she’ll probably change over the course of time.Don't get caught in the loop of chasing after success. It's like playing the lottery, but it toys with your emotions. Click To Tweet
This is extreme but I also watched the Framing Britney Spears documentary as well. It was unbelievable to me how she rose to fame so quickly as a young woman, has two kids, probably going through post postpartum and being bombarded by paparazzi who are making money and profiting off of her exploitation. It was disgusting. It’s gross and that’s the world we live in. Media is prominent in our life. If you take somebody who had everything and now doesn’t even have control of her own life, that trickles down into every facet of every other person who is on social media or is making through social media. There’s some level of losing yourself along the way. I went on a few months where I can’t even do anything. I can’t even get out of bed. It wasn’t directly related to social media but that was a huge factor. There was a huge correlation.
I haven’t even gotten paid that much for sponsorships because I’m more on the business side. I still understand what it’s like to get wrapped up in that entire world and provide something for somebody or some audience based on what you’re known for or what you’ve been creating along the way already. Whitney, I was thinking about when you had talked about Fake Famous when all the women got in the van and did that road trip and took all these pictures. I had an opportunity a couple of years ago to go to New York Fashion Week because I was a micro-influencer. I also had a blog on the side and I didn’t have that many followers at all. My friend was like, “If you can get out to New York City, I can get you into New York Fashion Week. We need more people there.” I was like, “Great.” I spent my own money to go out. I didn’t even get paid to do this. The whole appeal was the free ticket to New York Fashion Week.
I paid with my own money and I hit up a local boutique to see if they would dress me for New York Fashion Week. I was like, “Cool. This is going to be awesome. I’ve never done anything like this before.” It was the most stressful weekend of my entire life and I didn’t understand how people enjoyed getting up super early, doing their hair and makeup, taking photos, the stress of having to take the right photo that they may or may not use and find a random restaurant, change in their bathroom to get your next outfit change.
It was snowing in New York as well. I did not understand how. I thought to myself, “Never again will I do this.” I can understand how, if you’re getting paid a lot of money, you could get wrapped up in that. It’s hard. We’re all human. Going through and growing as a human and understanding where your boundaries are, it’s no wonder that you’ve lost part of that realness because of being sucked into this vortex. It’s hard not to be.
What’s happening now by having these conversations and connecting with like-minded individuals who maybe had similar experiences or who are fed up, it’s going to start to shift where we can all figure out how to cultivate that joy again and share that with each other. I have this prediction that it’s going to swing in the opposite direction. There will always be people that definitely still stay in that vortex that are always going to be trying to promote authenticity, even inauthentically. There’s a whole population of people. It’s the time of the people who have been real this whole time that can help lead the way or help empower us to be more liberated by being ourselves.
It’s interesting reflecting on what has happened in such a short amount of time. To Jason’s point, he’s only been getting sponsorship opportunities for the past couple of years. For me, it was around the same time. My first actual paid sponsorship was in 2012. Back then, it was much more innocent. I was getting paid for my blog. Blogging was the first major wave of influence in the digital world. There are, historically, examples of influence throughout the time of human history. Influence itself is nothing new in terms of influencer marketing, which picked up speed between 2013 and 2015 as Instagram was rising.
Instagram, to me, is the quintessential influencer platform. As we’ve been talking about it, people are starting to move away and into platforms like TikTok. We’re seeing people on Clubhouse, which remains to be seen how that’ll play a role in all of this. It’s fascinating because it hasn’t been going on that long. It’s interesting when you think about it because you can get so caught up in this that it’s hard to remember what life was before this time in our lives. The other interesting thing is that now there are kids that have grown up entirely with access to digital tools that we didn’t have as kids. Their lives are drastically different than ours.
We have people, like Charlie D’Amelio, who are 16 or 17 years old and getting massive fame and reaching more people than most young child actors ever did. We do have the history of seeing what’s happened to a lot of child actors, though. Many of them have had mental health issues as a result. My prediction is that mental health is going to be a massive problem. It is already increasing. These teenagers who are experiencing fame at such a young age and getting money based on their social media at such a young age might not be going to college. The whole college experience is changing anyway because of the pandemic. It’s drastically changed the university experience. Some people are choosing not to do that form of education for financial reasons. A lot of people are also going to choose not to go to college because they know that they can make money online. It’ll be interesting to see how that affects people psychologically.
For me, college wasn’t about the education, it was about the socializing that you experience. It’s the freedom of leaving your home. For many people, it’s going to the dormitories, having a roommate for the first time that’s not your family member and being on your own in many ways. That was the coming of age experience that a lot of people are not going to have anymore and I wonder how that’s going to affect us psychologically. We’re already seeing how being physically distant from one another is affecting us. We’re only a year into that. There’s a lot to be seen about the long-term impacts but that can be equated to the long-term impacts of social media.
Let’s say influencer marketing took hold in 2015. I feel that it had been starting and growing before then. There was something about 2015 that started to drastically change things, which all of us have experienced at some level or another. That was only a few years ago and so much has happened in that time. There are people like us who are getting fed up with that. What about all these other people who have, for the past few years, been watching people like the Kardashians? All of these social media influencers have shown this life, as it was documented in Fake Famous, of luxury that is accessible to everyone, which sounds a wonderful promise.
Anybody from their bedroom can become famous overnight, it’s what we’ve been taught to believe. All you have to do is present yourself in a certain way and you can manipulate the way you look through filters, angles, lighting, clothes and makeup. If you do those things and follow these steps, you too can have all these followers, make all of this money and feel happy. A lot of people have been hesitant to discuss the side effects of all this. It’s a lot like taking a drug. When you watch an infomercial on TV, they show this happy life. If you listen closely, they’re listing out all of these side effects to taking those drugs and they’re putting them at the bottom as a disclaimer. We barely even know that. We’re still being brainwashed to believe that taking the drug is going to make you feel better and it’s going to change your life. You have to pay close attention.
The danger with influencer marketing is there isn’t that disclaimer. There are not enough people talking about the side effects of this. I’m starting to feel more passionate about it. Watching someone like Jason, who’s I’m close to my life, experience years later the side effects of this and what it’s like. As you were also saying, Allison, many people are experiencing this on TikTok. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not or a product of the algorithm. The dark side of TikTok is that it blows you up quickly in many cases.
A lot of people on TikTok experience a viral video at some point. It’s common there. That’s part of the draw. They experience a viral video and they think that they’re on their way to fame and the next day, the video that they made with all those expectations gets a fraction of the views. They think, “I must have done something wrong. Let me try this again.” You get caught up in this loop of chasing after that success and maybe you get it again like playing the lottery but it toys with your emotions.
We have been conditioned over the past few years or so to believe that we too could get the fame, the money and the happiness that we’ve seen. I don’t know how many people achieve that. It’s been presented to us in many ways to make it feel it’s possible. We’ve been conditioned to believe that if we can get to those levels, we will feel satisfied, happy, fulfilled and we’ve made it. Lastly, I would say that’s a huge danger I see with somebody like Charlie D’Amelio. Meaning, not only is she representing that as a teenager to people that are impressionable but we’re likely going to see something similar as we saw with Britney Spears. Her family, in general, none of them is prepared for that. They are riding the wave of fame that is inevitably going to hit some sort of a wall that could all come crashing down and it could lead to big issues like Britney Spears is facing with her dad. It’s horrifying. Britney Spears is a big cautionary tale that we need to pay more attention to and I’m so glad that you brought that up, Allison.
As much as we’re also obsessed with fame, we’re also obsessed with watching downfalls. I was talking to my husband about this when we were watching the Britney Spears documentary. It’s strange that, like capitalism in a way and hitting your quotas every year, it’s always one-upping the next. That’s not real life if you think about it. Real-life ebbs and flows. There’s an up and a down and a sideways. Nothing is linear. The more we can recognize that it’s not real. More people need to talk about the fact that it’s not real because I see that having a huge effect on people. Like you were saying with Jason, you’ve personally experienced it. I’m experiencing it with my friends who are consumers. You even take us out of the influencer educator, business owner world.
I feel lucky that I’m a business owner. In a way, I’ve been able to be removed because I haven’t always been attached personally to my brand. I’ve only now been more personally involved in the brand as the face. I’ve always been comfortable behind the scenes. I’ve been able to develop a relationship that there’s a little bit of space. However, when I’m watching my friends post on their social media, it’s interesting to me. I’m always wondering, “Who is your audience?” It’s become more than sharing about your life. It’s become a showboating contest. Even my friends are making posts that are curated.
They have a branded way of putting their stories together and it’s fun because it’s artsy. If it brings you joy, I’m all about that. I also feel like they feel sucked into this same kind of, “Other people are posting beautiful photos. I want to post beautiful photos.” They’re replicating each other. What is it for? Who is it for? It’s been interesting to witness that side of it because like you were saying, there’s so much detriment when it comes to thinking about the long-term effects on your mental health. Many of us have experienced this.
Even my friends, who are consumers, a lot of them have been like, “I’m taking a social media break,” and they do it often. They go on social media diets or social media breaks often. The fact that we even have to do that as a practice, it’s great because it’s a great practice. It’s also screwed up at the same time. Why do we have to take a break from this thing? Why are we coming back to it? I’ve had a friend that keeps announcing that she’s going to take a break and she never does. I’m like, “You should take a break.”
It sounds like you, Jason.
We talk about social media not as the sole cause of human issues or human psychopathy but maybe a new mutated, hyper-powerful, hyper-financed version. Whitney sent me a video that was one of those where it was like, “Absolutely.” This guy on this video was talking about how women have been valued and subjugated based on their level of socially accepted sexual attractiveness. If we look at a lot of women that are held to beauty standards, it’s based on certain metrics of what we hold to be sexually desirable.
On the one hand, we reward women for being sexually attractive but then if they leverage that sexual attractiveness in the wrong way, we proverbially burn them at the stake. We’re not burning women at the stake anymore but we’re burning their character. We’re assassinating people’s character. He also made the point that, prototypically, men in American society are valued and judged based on their ability to make money and provide economically. I know this is basic. There are many nuances in this conversation. In a fundamental sense, I agree with him. Women are subjugated for their looks and their sexual attractiveness. Men are subjugated by their level of how they’re able to produce. What I see in the social media world is an exacerbation of these fundamental subjugations. Women are rewarded and vilified for their looks and attractiveness and men are rewarded and vilified for how successful they are.
You talked about the growth, Allison. Everything’s 10X, crush it, scale and become a global brand. I’m tired of seeing these messages on both sides. I’m sick of the vilification and the rewarding of sexual attractiveness for women, for burning them at the stake. I’m sick of these aggro-contrepreneur dudes saying, “You’ve got to scale, 10X all the time and crush it.” It’s banal and boring but it works. The reason it works is that they’re preying on people’s not-enoughness. They’re pushing them deeper into the comparison trap that if you as a woman are not attractive enough, you’re not winning at life. You have failed somehow. As a man, if you’re not making enough money and you’re not crushing it in the business world. This is also not for men. Female entrepreneurs are subject to this mindset, too.
The whole overall thing is social media is a new tool to subjugate people, make them feel not enough through marketing messages, NLP and copywriting and selling you on a product because you feel crap about yourself. What if we, as people, say, “Screw your standards. I don’t care about 10Xing my business and making nine figures this year and I don’t care about your beauty standards.” It takes a lot of courage and hard work to rip yourself out of the matrix and say, “I’m going to train myself to not care about these things.” It’s hard. For me, as much as I work on the mental side of this, I still get caught up in it. Some of my friends are like, “I made seven figures this month and this is how I did it. Do you want to know how I did it? Let me show you how I did it.” I’m like, “Will you sod off? Will you please stop with this?” Even me, as much as I work on this, I’m still finding myself needing to draw myself out of that trap because, ultimately, it is a trap.
I completely agree. We found each other because I was vocal on TikTok. By continuing to team up with like-minded people and continue to have these conversations, it’s like we’re all processing the trauma. Come together and talk about these things that a lot of people feel but a lot of people still practice. It’s hard to pull yourself out of that world and detach. By having almost support groups in that way of other people that feel the same way where we can hash it out and say, “We’re all in this together.” That’ll help us along on that journey because there’s a lot of work to do. I also see this trend of people being fed up.
We can only take this advice of growth. For so long, we can only see much of the same thing until we’re like, “None of us feel this way. Why are we giving this thing power?” I can’t wait for this to get dismantled. I even think that influencer culture and that world are starting to crumble a little bit and it’ll probably shift and evolve in a different way. I already see that level of fakeness that people are not drawn to anymore.Figure out how to bring joy to yourself on social media instead of just bringing joy to other people. Click To Tweet
I was thinking about what you were saying about men and the standards of men and women. My husband, for instance, started a podcast. It’s mostly around business and having conversations with people he wants to learn from. His main thing was wanting to bring vulnerability to the table as a man because he’s always been somebody who’s able to tap more into his vulnerable side and his sensitivity. He was afraid of it for a long time and now he feels empowered by it. It’s been difficult in our personal life with our friendships because the men he’s collected in his life have not been as comfortable being open and honest.
There is this isolation period when you wake up to your life and take control of what you do or how you want to show up and how you want to be and do it with conviction where you might lose some people along the way or keep going on this path. You don’t lose them. You might leave them behind. That’s why that period of isolation or feeling alone can be hard to detach. That’s how we get sucked back into old patterns and habits. Luckily, we have each other, so we’ve been able to empower each other along the way. We woke up and we’re like, “It’s us.”
By showing up in the world, we’re attracting the right people. I’m meeting people that I feel I could get in groups with and have productive conversations and talk about the things that we want to change in the world and this space. I can completely understand because we’ve all been on this journey of trying to figure out how we get out of it. I do see this trend with everything that went on in 2020 and people being fed up with everything and being forced to reevaluate the way that they live in the world and what their passions are, what their purpose is in life or what they even want to spend their money on. We’re going to start to see a real big change. That’s my prediction.
These conversations are important to your point. I’m curious how you’re feeling, Jason. I want to go back to ask about how you’re feeling about TikTok and I also love to talk about Clubhouse because Clubhouse is the newer platform. As of the time of this recording, it has six million users. It’s been around for almost a year and yet at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, it grew exponentially. It feels like the new platform.
I remember, like TikTok, feeling that way at a certain point. There were the super not early adopters but whatever the term is that comes before early adoption, the people that get on these platforms immediately without hesitation or know about them. The awareness of Clubhouse has been spreading and it’s the same thing with TikTok, so you’re seeing more and more people come on. I first want to ask, Jason, how you’ve been thinking about TikTok. That is something that you and I talk a lot about offline and then I want to talk about Clubhouse. Jason, where do you stand with TikTok? Since you have Allison here, maybe she has a different perspective of it and its place in your life than I do.
Part of my big hesitance to get on TikTok is twofold. I’m mindful of not allowing the overwhelm button to get pressed in my life. The pressure to get on new platforms and maintain old platforms, in my mind, “This is my mind. It doesn’t mean it’s real. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Clubhouse, TikTok, my two email inboxes, my blog and my podcast.” That’s eleven things my brain has to manage somehow. It’s too much. I know, for me, that’s smashing the overwhelm button. I could say, “Screw Facebook and Twitter. I don’t care anymore. Eliminate those.” That still leaves nine things my brain has to manage. Part of it is me being mindful of not smashing that overwhelm button in my life because that’s an activator for dark mental health spaces for me to go into. That’s number one.
Number two, I am realizing that a lot of the motivations for me succeeding on social media in the past has been a paradigm from my childhood, which I’ve talked about on the show, Whitney. We’ve talked about my mental health struggles. It’s the Dance, Monkey, Dance Paradigm. If I’m the most entertaining guy in the room and I’m the guy at the party or the guy on social media where everyone’s like, “Jason’s funny. He’s entertaining. We love his voice. We love his songs. He’s creative. We love him.” If I’m that guy and that’s the guy that I’ve been on social media whether it’s been real or not, most of the time, to be honest, there’s been a lot of unrealness with that. It’s me trying to get affection, attention and significance because then I won’t be abandoned.
To get super real, I’ve adopted that persona since I was a child because of the fear of abandonment and isolation of my father leaving. I don’t want to get on TikTok and have that be my motivation of, “I’m the guy who’s going to dazzle you and entertain you. Look at my songs and I’m so funny.” To be blunt, a lot, not all but a great majority of people who want to be actors, entertainers, musicians, artists, many of them are fueled by some trauma from their childhood where they’re trying to overcompensate by getting attention, significance, fame and importance. I am one of those people. I don’t want to keep that trend going in my life.
My fear is until I break this for myself and I and heal it, I’m going to go on TikTok and be like, “I’m going to dazzle you guys. I’m so funny and amazing. Look at me.” I don’t want to operate that way anymore. Until I can break that habit and come at this from a new approach, be more real and not come from that place of trauma and try to get attention, it’s going to be me repeating the same patterns of the past and I don’t want to do it. That’s my reticence to get on TikTok. I want to come at it from a more real space where I’m not trying to get something from the audience. I’m not trying to be something. I’m not trying to be this important, famous person. I don’t want to chase that anymore. I feel super raw. I don’t know what else to say.
It’s wonderful. This is something that we’ve discussed a lot but the way that you shared that, Jason, is succinct and clear. It probably is going to resonate with a lot of people. I’m curious, Allison, for you hearing it the first time and you working with small business owners. One of the things I love about you is you’re not coming at this from that influencer standpoint. You’re coming at it as somebody who’s running the business and making observations. I’m wondering, based on everything that Jason said and for anyone else who can resonate with that, would you even recommend TikTok for them? Do you think that there’s a place for them that’s not going to trigger that trauma response?
It would depend because, like all social media platforms, it has that level of addiction where you can get sucked in. From a consumer standpoint, it is a great escape. If you already know yourself, it’s so important to listen to yourself because you know best. I’ve had friends that go on it and it’s seriously their joy because they like seeing all the funny videos. One of my close friends did say, “I’m on it all day, every day because I’m depressed.” It’s perpetuating that cycle a little bit but it’s acting as an escape. It’s probably like a version of Netflix or watching a movie or something like that. Listening to yourself is important.
Thank you so much for sharing that. Being vulnerable in that way, I feel happy and honored that you would share that with me as well. I spent a lot of time, especially in the time that I was sad and depressed, working on inner child healing. For me, it’s not abandonment but more so realizing my unhealthy relationship with food, money and things. By forcing myself to go inward, I realized that 2021, that is outside of social media but probably triggered by social media and the pressure of performing and doing all these things. When you have said all this, I’m like, “We all need some inner child healing.” That’s why I’ve been such an advocate for cultivating your own joy.
For me, my thing is creativity and I’m sure you’re similar in that way. Showing up creatively and entertaining is fun. It’s a way for you to bring joy to yourself. Being able to figure out how to compartmentalize the joy for yourself versus the joy for other people or the validation from other people is a key component to unlock. For me, for a while, I started creating for myself spending time in nature doing things but listening to my body. I’m listening to like, “What do I feel doing right now?” I’m going to paint but I’m not going to film myself painting. There’s no agenda for anybody else. It’s all for me and continuing to cultivate that for myself has been crucial and important.
The only reason why I’m able to show up now on TikTok because I’m starting to set these boundaries of, “No. I don’t feel posting today. No, I will or will not post this or that.” That care for myself has been crucial. Sometimes it takes way more for me to do that for myself. It takes away from my day job and I don’t care. I’m blessed that I am in a position in my business. This is why I started a business. I wanted to have this level of balance. If I am sad, I can do whatever I want and I’ll cancel all my meetings. I don’t care.
That resonates so much, Allison. Likewise, thank you for sharing your journey with this stuff from your past that you’re working on healing. It’s important and I’m glad you brought up this inner child healing, whether that’s through psychotherapy or removing these distractions, so you can get back to who you are as you did and you continue to do. There are many ways that people can approach this and there’s no one way. There are many different paths to do this.
Social media is being a lens or a magnifier if you will. Going back quickly to what we’re talking about, Charlie or we’re talking about a lot of these child stars or young people that may or may not have some trauma that they haven’t even begun to work through yet. You throw the numbers, the fame, the money, the influence and the media coverage to someone who hasn’t necessarily even gone into the depths of healing some things that might need to be healed. As a cautionary tale, you talked about if someone hasn’t taken the time or hasn’t even cultivated the awareness to know they have something to work on. I could use myself as an example, going through life for years thinking, “I don’t need to go to therapy. I’m fine.”
Later on in life, I was realizing, “There’s so much that needs to be worked on.” The thing that concerns me is not young people or teenagers, people of any age who are using social media and this idea of getting famous as a substitute for love, for accepting themselves and knowing themselves, for the affection and attention they didn’t get from their parents or family. Part of the psychological hook that we’re talking about and the addiction is there’s a lot of substitution going on. The money, the fame and the attention will make me feel whole. It’ll fill me up somehow.
I was talking to my therapist about this. One of my favorite all-time Will Smith quotes, I’m not necessarily a huge Will Smith fan but I saw an interview with him once that I was like, “That was deep.” He said, “There’s no amount of success that will heal your trauma.” Think about how much of the world is operating in that paradigm subconsciously. If I get enough success and money and fame somehow, I’ll be healed. It doesn’t work that way. I’m glad you brought that up, Allison, giving yourself the permission to say, “Screw it, I’m going to take the space and time for myself to heal and be more in touch with who I am at the core of my being.”
I hope, for me, that I take more of that time. I hope for more of us humans on the planet to take more of that time. We keep chasing things that are these substitutions that if we don’t do the inner work and we don’t do the healing, we will never be fulfilled. There’s no amount of money, fame or attention that will fill the hole inside of us. It doesn’t work that way but we keep on chasing. As humans, we keep on chasing.
That resonates a lot because I think about what you were saying. It’s filling this void. To echo that or add to your point, the perceived idea of success as well. A lot of us are chasing success, not only fame but this idea of what success is. None of us have been taught by regular society standards that we should feel empowered to generate our own idea of success. Success looks different for everybody. What I deem as successful in my own life is completely different from what you would deem as successful in your own life. Being able to have the tools to understand that or even be able to sit with yourself long enough to be able to give yourself the time or the space to understand what your idea of success is.
When we were talking about everybody being on their own journey as well because you might not even know that you have trauma there, that’s also part of the journey, understanding yourself more and more along the way. The more we can tune in, tap in and listen to ourselves because there’s no judgment there. The better off we’ll be into maybe opening up our mindset or waking up every time and raising our consciousness every single time.
When my husband first quit his job to work with me at my company, his mom was upset. He was making the most money he had ever made in his life and he was the top salesman of this company. He was unhappy. I was stressed out as a solo business owner. He’d come home and we wouldn’t talk. When you get to that level in your relationship where neither of you has the energy to lift the other person up, it’s difficult. It took him a couple of years to quit and he said, “What if I worked with you?” I was like, “That would be amazing. That would be my dream.” His family was opposed to the idea because they were latched on to this idea or this picture that they had already painted. When my husband told his mom, “Mom, I was unhappy.” She was like, “No, you weren’t. You were making money.” It’s not always about money. Even to have this program, in our own circles, with people that genuinely care about us that do have our best interest but still have an idea of what they think is best, that’s a hard thing to break as well.
Because of TikTok, the scary part is it knows me so well that is giving me videos about, “Do you need to heal your inner child?” I do. I started looking into it and I’m thinking, “I had a fantastic childhood. I loved my life growing up. There was nothing traumatic. My parents did get divorced but then I started attaching to certain things or trying to take an emotion that I’m feeling.” I was reverting back to a lot of old patterns and behaviors from high school. I’m like, “Why am I acting out in this way,” and I’m starting to try to pin it back to certain things and realizing, “Even though I had a fantastic childhood or I had an enjoyable life, these are the things that I’m pinpointing back to this situation.” Being able to have that level of consciousness, awareness and space has been crucial in my journey to preserving my own lifestyle on the balance versus society social media and all of that.
It’s interesting reflecting on this too because going back to what Jason was saying about the Dance Monkey dance, which is ironic because that’s one of the trending songs on TikTok, Jason. When you said it, I was like, “Wow.” It’s not using the context that you’re saying. It certainly would be interesting to see you using it in that context. I want to talk about Clubhouse and the transition into Clubhouse makes sense based on what you were saying, Allison, as we’ve been leading up to this whole discussion around asking why you’re doing things, who it’s for and tapping into the deeper reasons.You only need yourself, good content, and ideas to be successful. Click To Tweet
What’s challenging about a newer platform like Clubhouse is a lot of us go on there and look at what other people are doing. That’s why I’m bringing up the monkey thing. It’s a natural human tendency to go into a new environment and, for safety and security reasons, it’s like, “Let me see what other people are doing to figure out what I want to do.” Some people will do their own thing, they don’t need to look at it. Most people are taking cues from others. When I entered Clubhouse, this is something I’ve heard a lot of people share and I’m curious with you, Allison, on how you’re feeling. You mentioned this in a TikTok video, so I know some of the things you’re going to say. There are many entrepreneurs on that platform sharing advice and trying to position themselves as experts and authorities and they’re using Clubhouse to grow.
I’m guilty of doing this as well because on social media if you’re using this for your business, your aim is how can I establish my authority? I don’t think it’s necessarily bad or wrong. I’m also biased so it’s hard to say from where I stand. What I don’t feel comfortable with is when people try to establish their authority by bringing down other people by telling them that they’re not good enough and they need to do more.
We certainly see this a lot on TikTok too because there are a lot of people on TikTok coming out and saying, “Do you want to grow your following on TikTok?” They’re manipulating us immediately. If you’re not consuming and if you’re creating on TikTok, there’s probably at least part of you that’s hoping that you’re going to go viral and you’re going to get a lot of followers. There are people that manipulate that desire on TikTok and Clubhouse. It’s like, “If you want to be successful, follow my steps. If you want to be successful, you need to do all of these things. To achieve them, you should buy my course or use my affiliate link to buy the other thing that I’m recommending.”
I’m not anti-course selling, Jason. I have courses. I’m not anti-affiliate programs. We’re part of them too. When I was listening to TikTok I saw of yours, Allison, you were sharing how your husband went on Clubhouse and was trying to learn about podcasting. There were all these “podcast experts” telling him that he had to buy all this equipment and do all of these extreme things to be successful. I immediately felt protective over your husband even though I’ve never met him or interacted with him.
Sure, there are certain things you can optimize. To try to convince somebody that they can’t start where they’re at is a huge disservice and we have to examine that. When anyone’s telling us that we’re not good enough or who we are now is not going to work, that is a big red flag. A lot of times, as human beings, we tend to listen to that information because we already perceive ourselves as not good enough. It’s the confirmation bias, “Somebody told me I’m not good enough, I’m not doing enough, I don’t have enough. I was right and they’re confirming it. I am going to try to feel better about myself to cope with these not enough emotions by going to try to fix it.”
A huge challenge that Jason and I face in the wellness industry is that it’s hugely dominated by this personal development mindset that we’re seeing a lot in Clubhouse too of like, “You have to constantly optimize, constantly improve yourself.” You become addicted to that process. You spend all this time buying courses, products, equipment and changing yourself all in hopes that you’ll finally feel enough. What I have recognized after a few years as a content creator, none of that stuff has made me feel enough.
Like both of you, my inner child work is based on that not-enoughness, so I have to go back to those roots. Simultaneously, if I want to continue creating content, as I do, I have to embrace the imperfection, embrace who I am and also lead with what you were saying at the beginning, Allison. It’s okay to go on TikTok without makeup on. It’s okay to go on Instagram Stories without a filter. It’s okay if your hair is a mess, you’re not wearing the best clothes and things are messy in your background. All of these things can be so distracting and they take away from the essence of who we are. It’s okay if you have a podcast and you don’t have the best equipment yet because as most of us have learned, it’s more important to start.
The whole reason I wanted you on the show, Allison, is because I resonate deeply with what you’re creating on TikTok. You are a sigh of relief for me because you’re one of the few people out there talking about business from a truly, genuine angle. You’re showing up as you are. You’re talking about your experience. You’re calling BS on a lot of this stuff. I want to see that. I don’t want to see somebody telling me that I’m not enough. I don’t want to see someone saying that I need a new light, I need to use this filter, I need to get this new microphone or camera. It’s that capitalistic mentality we have.
You can touch on anything. I brought up a lot. I do want to talk about Clubhouse a bit and how that is a huge element occurring on that platform that can be damaging and might cause people not to even want to be on Clubhouse or even enjoy it. They go on there and they’re like, “I don’t want any of this. I get plenty of this on the other platforms. I don’t need more. I don’t need somebody else telling me I’m not enough on there.”
There’s so much I can say. First of all, when my husband was in that room, he went up on the stage and he said, “I disagree with you guys. I started a podcast and I’m doing fine. I don’t have a fancy mic and I don’t have a fancy webcam or whatever.” It was probably a sigh of relief for the other people that were listening in the room because that’s what he said. The actual theme of the room was a lot of people were scared to show up.
The nature of how I started my business and why I’m passionate about this is because I partnered with a young man and took over his company. We did promotional graphics before we did the branding, websites and all of that. He was a rich kid from Los Gatos, California. He started a start-up out of his garage, a garage story. His parents’ friends invested in the business. He’s a successful guy. He’s brilliant. He is a great designer. I won’t discredit him in that way but I did not grow up the same way. I didn’t have the same tools. I did not have the same resources. I didn’t have entrepreneur parents. I didn’t live in his world and I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
When I took over his business, I completely failed the first time. I was reluctant to start up a business again. When I did, I had to learn one brick at a time, step by step. I’ve made a million mistakes and nobody ever taught me or told me. I don’t know why but I’ve always been this way. On my own accord, I decided, “I’m going to try this and see what works.” I wasted so much time but I didn’t because I learned a lot.
In that way, it bothers me that this idea of creating is inaccessible. Creating something that you want to do or want to try whether it’s a podcast or a business, is accessible now. If anything, we have more tools and resources than we ever had. I get frustrated by business owners showing up and telling you what you need to do. If they’ve positioned it in a way that was like, “This is what works for me,” it would be received better. I hate that I see all these marketers coming through my TikTok feed saying, “Here’s how you have to grow. Here’s what you should and should not do.”
I even saw something where somebody posted, “Here are the five TikTok don’ts.” I was in three of those don’ts and I’m like, “I have success.” According to who? Do whatever you want because you don’t know what’s going to work. I had somebody call me for a consultation and she was like, “I’m freaking out because I don’t have a niche.” I’m looking at her page and I’m like, “You are your niche.” She’s a hand-letterer and I’m like, “You’re wickedly talented.” It turned into a pep talk and she was like, “I feel so good about creating now.” I was like, “All you needed was somebody to tell you that you could do it.” She’s doing fantastic.
I get pissed off when there are business owners that are trying to gatekeep and trying to make it seem as though you need X, Y, Z, you need all of these things to be successful. No, screw that. You only need yourself. Good content, good ideas, don’t put that pressure on yourself. How you want to show up in the world is how you should show up in the world. Because we have access to everything, you don’t have to do everything perfectly the first time around. If you’re in it for the long haul, you’re going to grow over time. I’m going to host my first webinar. I have never hosted a webinar. I’ve always been a guest on somebody else’s webinar. I’m even thinking, “I need to get this whole payment system in place,” and now I’m like, “Should I have people DM me and Venmo me?” There are ways you can make it easy. It doesn’t have to be this big, long process. You can get there.
To talk about Clubhouse, what’s interesting is your experience versus mine and my husband’s. When I first joined the app, it was mostly black creators, having candid conversations about inaccessibility or rather, lack of inclusivity and representation in certain industries. There’s a lot of Asian rooms I’m in. I feel like there is a lot more of that community vibe from what I’m receiving. Maybe it’s based on who is in our network and who we’re following. I don’t know how the algorithm works and that way. Everybody’s getting a different experience on Clubhouse because I’m hearing a lot of the toxicity side where there are these entrepreneurs that are on there who are loving the sound of their own voice that need people in the room because they want clout and all of that stuff.
There’s this other side where I’m luckily participating in rooms with people that are there to have genuine conversations. One of the first ones I ever participated in was the day after the insurrection. It was like, “How are we feeling? Have we processed?” I was so grateful for that room because I would have never gone up on stage. Whoever was moderating invited me up. It was this broad, open and honest conversation. I saw the value that the app could bring in terms of generating real connections but also productive conversations. There were people on the right and on the left having productive conversations.
I’m starting to experience based on all the people that are joining the app because I logged in and I was like, “Whoa.” It’s interesting to see what part of my network is on this app now because everybody’s trying to get on it and see what’s going on. It bothers me that there are these business owners that are still bringing that BS. To some degree, they’ll always show up and ruin everything. Marketers ruin everything. Maybe we should all take that with a grain of salt and understand that marketers suck in general. We should have a course on how to teach people how to find the right business owners and educators to follow.
Honestly, that would be so refreshing on Clubhouse because I’ve even been in rooms that have titles like that, Allison and even they have those people in there. I went in one that Jason told me about and it was something about coaching. One thing that irritates me is there are many coaches there. I do coaching. I’m like, “Great. Am I calling myself out?” I also never want to position myself as a coach on Clubhouse unless it’s in a good context because it feels like, “Add me to the list.” I feel the same way about influencers.
The word coach is starting to feel like the word influencer for me because there are so many people that are coaches now that it’s diluted the value and it’s made people feel skeptical. There’s pressure to over prove yourself or make yourself stand out. I get queasy sometimes looking at people’s profiles because it feels like everyone’s competing. That’s part of the reason why Clubhouse triggers me. To your point, Allison, there’s a lot of people on there, they’re on there to market themselves. They’re not on there to add value.
What’s cool is if you do go on Clubhouse to add value, people are like, “I wasn’t expecting this. You’re giving me value and not trying to sell me.” I booked my first coaching client from Clubhouse and I never tried to sell him. He came into a ton of rooms of mine and would listen and I never once was like, “By the way, I’m a coach. Click my link, if you want to work with me.” I didn’t have to do that because that wasn’t even my intention. I went into these rooms to talk about business social media, wellness and all these things and people will naturally be drawn to you. My ego gets a little flared up because people will comment on those things. As I was saying before sometimes when you recognize that authenticity is working, you’re like, “I’m going to ramp up my authenticity.” On Clubhouse, it’s like, “I’m going to keep adding value because that’s a form of marketing,” and it is.
If I come back to the core of why I’m drawn to platforms that is because I want to listen, learn, see if there are opportunities to add value. It’s been good for me checking my ego because there are times where I feel like I want to jump in to add value and I have to step back and ask, “Am I doing that so more people will follow me? Am I doing that so I can hear my own voice or practice or whatever else? What is the reason for all of this?” In a way, Clubhouse can be humbling and clarifying if you can step back with that awareness so I’m trying to practice that. Similar to TikTok, it’s new and exciting and you feel you can gain this momentum. There are amazing people there. It’s like this whole world now that there are six plus million people on there. The truth is that there are plenty of people that you will resonate with. You have to sort through them like anywhere else.
To go back to your point, Allison, it’s true. When I joined clubhouse, which was towards the end of December 2020, it did feel predominantly black voices on there and now I see and maybe it’s the algorithm of who I’m following. It feels like predominantly white male entrepreneurs and white female coaches. My concern is I’m not seeing it because that we get into our little bubbles based on our interests. That’s something. I need to purposely follow more people of color and different voices and diversify intentionally. I wonder though if there’s that white savior side of things. Are all these white people coming in and dominating and pushing them out? That makes me feel uncomfortable.
I found it humbling when I first got on there because I was like, “I don’t want to be perceived as that white woman. I want to listen and learn quietly.” I have had some amazing experiences there. One of which was transformative for me because I stepped into a room where I was in the minority. It was mostly Indian people talking about what was going on in India or still is going on in India with farmers. It was such an incredible experience to be in the minority and to be humbled, ignorant and say, “I’m truly here to learn. I have nothing of value to offer.” They were grateful for that because they want to reach more people outside of their world.Showing up online is important, but showing up offline is even more important. What are you doing outside of your social media posts? Click To Tweet
There are opportunities to come together more on that platform and learn from each other and listen and not wait for our turn to speak, whatever we can do collectively to push that forward. For anyone that’s hesitant to join Clubhouse, maybe Clubhouse would benefit from your presence there if you can bring something different to it. You might need to create your own room and that’s similar to TikTok. One of the cool things about Clubhouse now is, it’s like not Facebook. You’re not going to see ads.
I’m sure eventually there will be ads on there. It’s purely a place to speak, there’s no video. You can’t even link to your website. All you can link to is your Twitter or Instagram, people find ways in their profiles to entice you over to their website and myself included. I’ve thought about that funnel too but it’s neat. Right now, in the state of Clubhouse, anybody can come on and share their voice. After this conversation, it’s more important to encourage all different people to come up so we can even get out again and it’s not a bunch of white entrepreneurs listening to themselves.
100%. One of my favorite things about Clubhouse is it feels like you have a seat at the table and that’s something that especially in the business world, has been difficult. Most of the voices that I’m hearing from the prominent marketers and the prominent educators when I first started in business were all white. I’ve had to work hard to diversify my own feeds because I’m like, “Where are the BIPOC creators? Where are they? Where are the other people that are like me that don’t think the same way as everyone else?” That’s been difficult and networking groups on Facebook.
Not to say that all white people are the same. It is the perspective or experience of one group of people, white women, lots of coaches like you said on Clubhouse, who are confident in what they’re saying and what they’re doing, how they’re speaking, so it’s great that they have that level of confidence. It’s not relatable to me in any way, shape or form. That’s been frustrating. Apps like TikTok made me feel I could create my own table. In Clubhouse, you can create your own table or you could sit at the table, which is cool because it was the first app where it saw more black creators. It’s the same with TikTok where I’m getting connected to a much more diverse population of people versus Instagram, where it is all white. It is the whitest platform ever.
I’m glad you brought that up because these tools now that we have are going to be great for the shift in being able to be more inclusive overall. That’s something outside of mental health, wellness and being real and cutting through the BS is also inclusivity and representation. I have a wildly different perspective and I don’t know if me being Asian-American has anything to do with why I feel anti on what everybody’s saying. My perspective is important and I recognize and know that now, whereas Instagram never made me feel my opinion or who I was cool enough to fit in.
Since we’re talking about race, this is a good opportunity to talk about activism and using these platforms for activism. One of the gifts of not only 2020 but certainly continuing into this moment is seeing how many people that I’ve known wanting to not only more deeply educate themselves to the experience of people unlike them but using the platforms to passionately speak up. One thing that I was ignorant of, Allison, was the amount of violence that is being leveraged towards Asian-Americans right now in major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York. I’ve been reading stories and my mind is blown. I’m curious with you as a content creator, what your stance is on using these platforms for activism. Since we are facing something like this, the horrific violence against Asian-Americans, how can we use platforms as activists, to start to make a difference in what your experiences are if you have used those platforms in that way?
I’ve been much more vocal because we had briefly touched on it. I was the token minority in my white town but I am part white as well. A good chunk of my family is from Oklahoma. That was a unique experience growing up as well. I never got the credibility of a white person, even though I’m integrated into a white experience. I was always seen as non-American because I’m Asian. It’s always been something that I’ve been passionate about. I haven’t ever been so vocal because social media was one of those places where you preserve some image. That was before TikTok came around.
What’s interesting about what happened, let’s say in June 2020 when Black Lives Matter was reignited and the movement got bigger and bigger. A lot of people were feeling like a business needed to come out and say something especially more BIPOC business owners because I was perpetuating a problem by being silent. That’s because of my unique experience as an Asian-American who is considered this model minority. I’ve always been cool with white people but not cool enough. I realized how many times I was having conversations about the problems or the lack of representation, we’ll say behind the scenes. It’s always behind the scenes. I was only having conversations with my black friend over here, my Asian friend over here because it was the space I felt most comfortable in. We always have the fear of being that person that would bring up something.
It’s not even that we have to talk about race all the time. It’s being included in conversations and honoring each other’s perspectives and experiences. Many times has that not happened. For our business, that’s been interesting because we are committed to showing up as an anti-racist business but not necessarily only that. I am committed to creating more space for BIPOC business owners, creators, educators and helping to open up that space by being more vocal and active.
Showing up online is important. Doing the work behind the scenes is more important and that’s where we’ve seen a lot of people that posted the black square, what are you doing outside of that? What are you doing beyond your black square? That’s where you can only show up on social media so much based on how you are as a brand. It’s important to maybe have messages integrated into your copy, on your website or something that says what you stand for would be good. We did a post on Instagram that was like, “Just in case you forgot, this is what we give a crap about.” It was a slide scroll that’s like, “Here’s what we give a crap about because I want people to know.”
Outside of trying not to be performative, it’s figuring out how you can hire more black, brown, BIPOC people in your business or invite them to be on your podcast. Give them a seat at the table amplifying other’s voices. That’s where I see the work being done. It’s putting our money where our mouth is. One of our lead developers is a black man. He considers himself mixed because he also suffers from colorism. He’s a lighter-skinned black guy.
It’s important for us to continue to have open conversations as a team and how we’re responding to things. I also think that I will go back hard into, what are you doing in your actual business practices that are advocating for the things that you care about especially being an activist? Also buying from black businesses. That’s important, too. One more thing that I thought of is, beyond showing up on social media, there’s also this level of sacrifice that a lot of people don’t understand where you might have to put your neck out on the line or be willing to pass the mic to somebody else as well and that’s important.
I love that. It’s something that we need to do something about once we notice it. I’ve certainly been noticing it. I’m so grateful for the movements and development in 2020 because it got me to reflect a lot and I know I have a lot more work to do. One of the biggest benefits for me personally was noticing and I start to feel uncomfortable when I’m in rooms in Clubhouse, for example, and it’s mostly white people. I don’t want anyone of a different ethnicity to come in and feel, “I’m not welcome here. It’s a bunch of white people, that echo chamber.”
We do need to make sure that we’re amplifying and prioritizing that diversity and it’s beyond ethnicity too. On this show, we’re working hard to include different genders. We’re working hard against ageism, which is a major issue on social media, which we didn’t even touch upon. This conversation could go on and on. It’s exciting to start to scratch the surface here, as we did with you, Allison and know that there is a lot more work to be done.
The big message here is that everyone deserves and everyone does have a seat at the table. It might not be as apparent to us and we’ve touched upon things ageism and beauty on the show. Reflecting on this conversation, I want to do more around that. It’s sad to me how many people feel they can’t utilize social media because they’re not as confident, not as experienced, they look a certain way or they have a certain lifestyle and that fear that instills.
If we examine that, you’re saying so much of social media has been associated with white people, gendered people, straight people. We are perpetuated that through the media and if no wonder people don’t feel comfortable because they’re not represented. One thing for me as I get older is, I’ve been reflecting a lot on dyeing my hair as it starts to slowly turn gray. Who knows what will happen with my hair? I’ve been getting gray hairs. Every time I do I’m like, “Here I am as somebody that creates content online, how am I going to feel when I have noticeable gray hair?”
In an industry now that’s dominated by youth and the perceptions of beauty. I get excited when I see women who aren’t wearing makeup and aren’t dying their hair and maybe not even brushing their hair. Sometimes I go on TikTok and make videos and my hair is a mess and I’m like, “Great.” There’s that big thing on TikTok, which Jason might not know about. There are a lot of conversations happening around how to tell if you’re a millennial, which I am. How do you part your hair? I had commented on one of your videos, Allison, now I go on there and I’m like, “Are people going to think I’m this old woman because I put my hair a certain way?”
There’s a new thing about skinny jeans and I’m like, “I see this stuff and it’s amusing and it’s triggering sometimes and I’m like, ‘Screw it all.’” I want to wear whatever clothes I want to wear and do my hair however. I don’t want to have to be thinking about all this superficial BS constantly and I hope that’s the big takeaway for the reader from this conversation. It’s not easy to fight against all of this. We’re not saying, “Show up and be who you are. It’s easy.” It’s not easy at all but we need more people to step up and show themselves.
What’s neat about TikTok and Clubhouse is that while they might still have a lot of people on there that we can perceive as perfect and successful, we certainly can fall into the comparison trap and the not-enoughness. Unlike other platforms, previous to them like Instagram, there is a lot more room. There are a lot more seats on the table. There’s a lot more acceptance and there are a lot more people stepping up and showing up as their genuine selves, however they are. That’s exciting. I’m grateful that led me to you, Allison and that led to this conversation.
I want to be in every Clubhouse room you do like I consume all your content and TikTok because you represent, to me, freedom. You represent to me the reminder that it’s okay to be ourselves. That we don’t have to change and that we can be accepted and loved for who we are. I am so drawn to people like you. I hope that for you, Jason, it’s a reminder and for the reader, it’s a reminder. Even though we might feel in the minority if we’re not constantly constructing ourselves and competing for attention and having tons of followers, all these other measurements of success and status that we have in our lives, there are a lot of people that prefer the opposite and want to see someone for being a human being. Thank you for that, Allison. Jason, I’ll turn it over to you to see if you have any closing thoughts.
I feel like we need to create a Clubhouse room called Bring the Realness or Real and Raw. I feel there’s some clubhouse room that can be an extension of this conversation genuinely. I’m certain that there are a lot of people that want to dig deeper into everything we talked about. It would be interesting as an experiment to create a Clubhouse room to see who shows up and how raw we can get with these conversations.
That’s what I’m left with and I’m also left with a lot of gratitude for you, Allison and being exactly as you are, it’s our first time talking, getting to know each other in real-time. Your openness, your heart, your realness are all things that I deeply appreciate and it’s so wonderful to connect with you. I hope at some point this 2021, we get to do a hang in person and get to go even a level deeper. You can stalk Allison and be a fanboy or a fangirl as we are now. Be kind to her. Be respectful. Don’t send her anything weird in the mail. Only send chocolates. I don’t even know if you like chocolates Allison but most people do so I’m assuming. Dear reader, thank you for getting raw with us. Thanks for getting comfortable.
She likes tea.
You could send Allison tea. Send her tea. Allison, you’re amazing. We adore you and thank you so much for everything you shared.
Thank you so much for your kind words. I equally appreciate you. It feels refreshing to be able to connect with like-minded people, people I feel aligned with, especially in this topic that is important. It’s something that I’m deeply passionate about. I’m grateful we connected on TikTok, Whitney and I look forward to hanging out in person and continuing this conversation on Clubhouse for sure. Also, I want to hang out with you guys even if it’s on Zoom. I appreciate you because it can be isolating when you decide to be whoever you want to be and it’s been a big journey. To have that validation that I’m not alone means a lot to me. I appreciate you guys and I’m grateful. Thank you so much for having me!
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- Allison Sugahara
- TikTok – Polygon Market
- TikTok – Whitney Lauritsen
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- Cal Newport
- Data Privacy, Social Media and Website Minimalism with Paul Jarvis – Previous episode
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- Twitter – Paul Jarvis
- Instagram – Polygon Market
- Polygon Market
About Allison Sugahara
For over a decade, Allison has obsessively honed her expertise in brand design + content strategy, helping creatives and business owners confidently showcase their passions through thoughtful digital marketing. Declared a “culture creator” by her comrades, she is devoted to empowering individuals to cultivate their purpose + creativity by intuitively charging their own path. Allison thrives in high-level visualization and loves pouring into her communities through sharing knowledge + experiences and making genuine connections. She has worked with a wide range of brands, from small local businesses to startups, all the way to corporate companies as significant as Disney. Her mission is to continue to create space for purpose-driven entrepreneurs to expand + prosper simply by doing what they love and being who they are.
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