You’re not an influencer, you’re for sale

Be honest: Does the number of followers on platforms like Twitter matter to you? Even if you’re above average, there’s always room for more.

Social media makes it very easy to compare your own profile and influence with that of others by design. We’re witnessing the effects of the attention economy. Attention is a scarce commodity so people are following strategies to get more of it, because… yeah, why?

That’s an excellent question. To me, spending time with friends and family is more important than making strangers think I’m cool. I probably gave up on this early in my life as most kids at school didn’t like computer nerds in the 90s. Still, there is this gnawing thought that I’m missing out on something.

There is no shortage of studies that point to the negative impact of social media on people’s overall well-being. Instead of making you happy by delivering the attention you deserve, you’re getting jealous and depressed. So what exactly are the benefits of having more followers then?

I went on and and invested a couple of dollars in some fake followers for a new Twitter account I created. It got me in contact with a well-known DJ that put me on his guest list multiple times. That was easy and I even made a profit on my investment. So yes, followers can be helpful to get in contact with people you think are important because they also got a lot of followers. But I didn’t feel any better.

It seems reasonable to assume that most of the success and popularity displayed on social media is just fake. Besides a number of artists and other professional users that need to make a living or promote brands, people probably aren’t even happy with what they do. They install apps like Crowdfire, post random links to “engage the audience” or buy followers to cheat on each other. It’s like an endless game that nobody wins.

In fact, it reminded me a lot of guides about how to get into Berghain, a famous nightclub in Berlin. It is known for its strict door policy. On some nights, ravers need to wait up to 4 hours to get in (or not). So they wear all black and make a serious face because they think that’s the secret. Looks like a funeral. Most of them are still getting rejected.

They probably don’t recognize these guides are a clickbait to make them look at ads. It doesn’t matter if they work. Just like we’re giving away our attention for free to social media companies that show us ads they are getting paid for. They carefully engineer their software to keep us busy clicking around on their site by feeding us with notifications and letting us compete against each other.

Accept that no matter what you do, you won’t win this game. You think you’re an influencer, but at the end your attention is the product that’s being sold. There are other, more efficient ways to improve influence and reputation: Help friends, speak at conferences, write a book or join community projects. Spend the time with something that’s in your own genuine interest. You won’t regret it.