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Persona, shot by Matt Barnes

Persona, shot by Matt Barnes

Over the past couple of weeks, a few things have happened on my social media that have really made me think about how I play the social media game, and why.

  1. Instagram announced that they now demote “vaguely inappropriate” posts

  2. I lost my main Instagram account with 30k followers

  3. I’ve had to reach out to my followers to ask for help

I’m not going to pretend that the number of followers I have doesn’t matter to me, because it really, really does. Ever since I first jumped on the social media train, back in the Myspace days, my top 8 friends, and who’s top 8 friends slots I was in was EVERYTHING. Then there was Tumblr, creating that colour-coordinated aesthetic, the hashtags. Then Facebook, then Twitter and Reddit, and then the big one, Instagram. Likes, shout outs, fan pages, connecting with those big accounts, it was fun seeing that follower count go up, and up, and up. That first hundred, then thousand, I got a little dopamine hit every time a reached a new goal. It’s addictive! I’d compare my follower count to that of others – of friends, of people I looked up to. I began choosing which photographers and models I wanted to work with not so much on the quality of their work, but on their follower count and engagement.

To someone who doesn’t use social media as a marketing tool, I’m well aware of how ridiculous this all sounds, it feels weird for me even typing it out. In “real life” I’ve never been the popular girl, or cared about how many friends I have. In fact, the last time I had a “best” friend was probably back in primary school, and it’s been years since I’ve been to a party. I’m an introvert, I love my own company, and I’ve only ever had a small groups of friends, and I wouldn’t even call them that close, the few friends I talk know that I’m pretty damn terrible at keeping in touch.

My relationship with social media is the opposite. In the past couple of months, I’ve started to budget an admin person into my costs just to help me answer all my messages. I spend hours and hours and hours on social media every day.

I was pretty gutted when I lost my first Instagram account with 60k followers over a year ago. But no big deal, I built up another one. It definitely grew a lot slower than the first, this was when we all started noticing those pesky algorithms, then shadow-bans. My next account finally hit 30k followers just before it too was removed with no warning a couple of weeks ago. Funnily enough, at nearly exactly the same time, Instagram announced that they demoted “vaguely inappropriate” posts – not that that’s anything new, everyone playing the social media game knew all about shadow-banning, it’s just that Instagram finally admitted it.

Now, I know my follower count was nothing compared to those with millions, but the difference between 1000 and 30,000 followers when it comes to making your income online is HUGE. I’ve seen my web sales drop massively, and without that old, dedicated following, traffic and engagement through my new Instagram account is at an all time low no matter what I do to try push it. Oh, can I also mention how I really don’t like doing the shout-out-for-shout-out things? Yet it’s one of the last remaining things I can do to actually get my page to reach other users.

With “vaguely inappropriate” posts (whatever that means) now being completely stomped out, and no concrete guidelines to follow (what is a female-presenting nipple, anyway?) good old-fashioned sharing is the only way to get some traction these days, even though it’s nothing like it used to be. I’m all for promoting others pages whose content or products or services I enjoy, or even just regular people who I like to see on my feed. It makes me a bit down though that I’m just sharing other people’s pages simply because they’re going to share mine with their followers. It feels so…unauthentic. And that’s the opposite of what I stand for and how I try to brand myself.

I’m a terrible liar, hence why my online presence and brand is very honest. Sure, I try to limit the negative things I share, meaning that you guys mainly see the more positive side of me, but I’m honest in that I do that, and if you’ve been following my journey for a while you’ll know that I talk about the bad things too, the pressure of having an online presence, the lack of guaranteed income, the shitty things that happen in both my work and life, and hey, this blog is sounding pretty damn negative and ranty right now. I just always try to find the good in the bad, put a positive spin on it - learn a lesson.

So what’s the positive spin on this? It’s honestly really hard to find one. Being on the road at the moment means that I don’t have much leeway when it comes to my income and being able to continue my Australian tour on less than what I was previously earning. This year was the first year that I’ve made business goals for myself to actually increase my income and profit instead of losing money, and so far I’ve been reaching those goals. But with losing those followers, I’m seeing such a huge setback already after only two weeks, and if that trend continues, things are looking pretty bad.

On top of all that, I’ve been pretty unlucky this week and stumbled upon some car troubles which set me back hugely. I’d budgeted for things like this, but it’s a real bummer to have them happen within the first week of my trip. Talk about being kicked while you’re down.

There’s been a few times this past week where I’ve seriously considered just packing up and heading home. Maybe I’m not really cut out for this, maybe I set my goals too high. Or maybe I’m just not good enough, how did I really think that I could make enough money to travel around Australia for four months just by being an attractive female?!

But even with my limited Instagram following, what’s inside that number is actual people who care. In the past week I’ve received messages that have been so kind that I’ve been brought to tears. Instead of thousands of “send nudes” message requests, I’ve been sent words of support from close friends and people I’ve never met. As much as my Instagram account is just an interactive advertisement, it’s also a way for me to really connect with people who don’t use it for that purpose – who use it as an escape from the real world, a place to seek help, or enjoyment in words, photos, videos and connection, it doesn’t matter that it’s online. Just because these pixels on your screen that form words aren’t me physically talking to you over coffee doesn’t make them less real. I still mean everything I’m saying. And the support that all of you are giving me just by reading this, that IP address of your visit that my website analytics are showing me, is absolutely real too. And it means so much to me that you’re here.

Thank you.