This is something I’ve worked towards every day for the last year. 10 THOUSAND people & oddly, I’ve never felt more alone. I feel like I’ve gotten away from my initial reasons for creating this blog. It started as a journal then it morphed into a platform to help people- let’s get back to that.
Why Followers Matter
Somewhere during the last year I decided that 10 thousand followers was the magic figure. Once I have 10 thousand followers on Instagram I’d be successful and have “made it” in the blogging world. Now, this figure isn’t completely arbitrary. Having 10k followers on a single social network does open doors for advertisers and working with brands. Some retail brands won’t even look at a blogger until they’ve hit ten thousand. 10k is a kind of a gateway for “serious” bloggers on the platform of their choosing.
Now, it’s not all about followers. It’s also about engagement. A tall tale sign of robot followers is when the person has an excessively high number of followers and a low number of likes and comments. So each day for the last year I’ve posted multiple times a day to build what is called my social influence. I started doing this because I knew that you needed to have a solid following to ever make money as a blogger.
Before blogging, I was an LGBTQ rights activist and had a certain level of social influence because of my status in our community. I was already well known as a Facebook regular and loved Instagram. I’ve always considered it the fun part of my job. I get to chat with new, random and awesome people on the internet who have the same interests and hobbies that I do. Social media was something I invested time into because I knew it was important for my job but it’s also something I love doing.
When I started toying around with the idea of blogging professionally, Lindsay and I sat down at our kitchen table and talked about content and my motivations for the blog. At the time, I was motivated to help queer travelers.
When I first moved to South Korea, I had a really hard time finding content about lesbian specific travel. There was a bit that was gay male focused, and almost nothing for the rest of the queer community. Always the activist, I wanted to create content that helped and inspired queers to travel and strive towards self-improvement.
Shortly thereafter, my partner Lindsay left Korea and went home to Pennsylvania. We were 14 time zones apart for six months and I was left alone to fill my time and loneliness. I decided to invest in the blog and to become the best writer that I could be.
I wrote articles as a freelancer and signed up for Matador Network courses. I started researching blogging tips and completely immersed myself with an undying focus. I became completely obsessed with building my business. I was investing hundreds of hours a week into branding, content, social media and all of the other facets of blogging.
At the time I don’t think I realized that I was using the blog to hide behind. If I was building a business it was a valid excuse to hide from the rest of the world. I wasn’t running away, I was an entrepreneur.
If I was researching blogging, social media strategies, and effective content, I wasn’t thinking about missing my girlfriend or the fact that I was literally on the other side of the world. I didn’t have to deal with being closeted and hiding myself in Korea. I certainly didn’t have to think about my vast group of friends back home in New York City that I missed every single day.
If I was finding new people to follow on Instagram and investing in my blog, I wasn’t thinking about what I’d do when my time in Korea came to an end.
I was busy creating a new profession for myself. I kept telling myself that I definitely wasn’t avoiding anything. I was crafting my place in the world, while doing what I loved. I was helping people.
At least that’s what I told myself.
Losing My Way
When I left Korea, I decided to set out into the world of full-time blogging.
Being an extreme lover of data and self-improvement, I subconsciously made it my goal to drive my numbers ever higher in pursuit of building a monetized blog. I knew higher numbers equaled a higher paycheck which meant success.
& ya know what? I was damn good at it. I won a national blogging award in Korea. I was invited to speak on a panel at an important conference in my niche. I was raking in the page views and the followers. Suddenly, something changed & I realized that I was no longer the beginning blogger trying to figure out WordPress.
I had become a leader in my field.
And yet, personally that was the beginning of my downward spiral.
Out of nowhere, people began to find me on the internet. My following grew from less than 1,000 to in the 30 thousands in a few months time. I started getting emails from folks asking me how I accomplished my goals and got recognized in public by a stranger for the first time.
Finally, the success I had been working towards was coming.
And it completely went to my head.
Not long ago my girlfriend started joking about how everything I did in life was for the internet. And she wasn’t too far from the truth.
Somewhere along the way, I got lost in my blind pursuit of online validation. I stopped doing things purely for the excitement of doing something new and started doing them for the money and notoriety of blogging.
I knew that having a strong following was what brands wanted. I had left my full-time job and I really needed the cash. I focused all my energy into growing my numbers and lost myself.
I started going places and doing things because I knew it’d be good for the blog. It was more about what was “instagrammable” and less about the experience of being there. I’d visit the location and spend the entire time behind a camera without ever really living in the moment.
I began to think of people on the internet as my friends. Sure, I’ve made a ton of connections on the internet that turned into real life connections. Fuck, I met my girlfriend online. Internet friendships and relationships can become very real, but I was so blinded by a false sense of connection that I’d created in my online life that I didn’t realize I was hurting the real people I love.
Not only was I hurting the people I loved, but my blog readership suffered and my engagement took a nose dive. I noticed my engagement went from 10% of my following to less than 5%.
Probably because my readers, like my friends and family, noticed a shift in my personality.
As I watched my numbers drop my productivity took a dive too. I realized my self esteem had become connected to the number of hearts I got on a photo I posted.
Even as I type that, I realize how ridiculous it sounds, but when you think about it, it really makes sense. There are very few jobs in this world that give you such immediate feedback. I would look at the number of likes, comments, page views and shares a post got and would immediately know if my efforts had been successful. How many jobs allow you to rate your performance by the second?
I had an awakening this week.
Not because of the ridiculous amount of time I spent fighting over comments random women would leave on my photos with my girlfriend. Or because of the strangers who would text her screenshots of things I’ve said online, but because I realize my motivation speaks volumes to who I am. I’m a hardworking person of integrity and I will not sell my soul for my blog.
I was no longer motivated by helping people. I was motivated by internet fame and money.
My motivation, or why I do something, is everything.
It’s time to go back to my original intent. You’ll notice a few changes to DotR as I go back to my initial purpose. I want to inspire, educate and entertain my readers. I want to use my platform to make the world a better place, not to feed my own ego or hide from my real life problems.
In an effort to create content that is geared towards my initial goals. I’m writing a book. Yes, you heard me correctly, I’m writing a book. It’s going to be a workbook for queer folks on how to finance, plan and set off on the trip of a lifetime. It’s not going to be a self-congratulatory victory lap. It is going to be a practical step-by-step guide to identifying your individual goals and putting the processes in place to make them happen.
I’m going to reinvest myself in my original goal of creating content for you. This blog is about you guys, your needs, and how I can help you.
Thanks for following my journey and sticking through this rollercoaster. I’m excited to get back to basics and focus on what really matters.