What thousands of followers really means

A funny thing happened between hitting over 10k followers on Instagram and 13k+ followers on Twitter. Suddenly people—anyone, from people I hardly know to people I have never engaged with before—started turning to me as though I were some kind of superstar or skincare maven.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no dummy when it comes to holistic living, having practiced it since my mom read Adelle Davis nutrition books when my sisters and I were little and ladled out spoonfuls of cod liver oil and a Brewer’s Yeast concoction that was gag-worthy. (Wise mama!)

But I’m not an esthetician or a makeup artist. Just to give you an idea, I majored in English and Communications and have a Master’s degree in Social Work. I know people. I have life experience. I’m an empath and highly intuitive. I can spot a solid brand with a strong ethic and I can tell you which deodorant will leave you wondering where the stench is coming from. I learned how to curate my writing and my images because creative expression aligns me with divine flow.

Yet I’m no chemist much as I love to play with the pretty potions—and I’ve tried most of them over the last 20 years. So I shy away from the term “beauty expert” because today, anyone can be called an expert and that scares me.

What having a large following on social media really means is this: When I hit, oh, I guess around 10k, brands suddenly started emailing, asking me to name my price for sharing their stuff. Hmm…that’s intriguing that I became insta-marketable. But where was this brand three thousand followers ago? Never even heard of them. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offers. I do and I’m learning how to carefully select the ones that come to me that are authentic, high quality, and fabulous. However, I can simply tell who is piggybacking off my numbers and who really enjoys reading my stuff.

I think it’s a good idea for you to know that you’ll find advertising and promotional work going on behind the scenes on Instagram too—even when the “sponsored post” indicator is off. That means that a post that looks like a real time endorsement by the Instagrammer may not be all that it seems. And just so you know, none of mine have been paid for thus far and I’m still debating on how to go about doing it ethically and responsibly and if it’s a good idea or not.

For some people, a large number of follows means that they straight up bought them. Yep. Followers and “Likes” can be purchased for a set price—just the way you would buy a can of tuna fish or a bag of marbles. (I know, random, but let’s go with it.) I don’t know much more about it since I never shopped for followers, but I do remember a lovely blogger friend of mine with a decent readership receiving a whole lot of comments on one of her blog posts to which she laughingly admitted that it was a service that she signed up for. So that makes comments a facade too and the level of engagement an unreliable measure of authenticity.

For others, a strong following means that they learned how to work the system and know how to pout their lips just so or hold the camera yea high to create the right effect. I’m only being partly facetious. They’re probably incredible at self-promoting and never hesitate to jump into the limelight. A person with high numbers on Instagram may know how to work a selfie, but that doesn’t mean they know their shiz.⇐ Click to Tweet!

Social media reminds me of the special effects industry because half the time it isn’t real. But the real people will tell you that it isn’t real—and that’s where I step in.

For me, having a strong social media following means that I am a busy mama whose kids got older and are out of the house for longer periods of time, so I turned to creative outlets because I needed them. I needed to feel purposeful and alive again and sharing a photo or tweeting some inner wisdom can do that for me. It sounds ridiculous to write that, but if you’re into it—and I think anyone who engages online feeds the wee narcissistic beastie inside—then you know what I mean. When I try to explain to my mother who is computer illiterate what I do, her eyes grow glassy and she talks about how she just went to the hospital to visit an elderly woman with no local family to speak of. She never reads my blog and wouldn’t know how to find it if I paid her. So there’s that for a reality check.

What I’m driving at is that putting faith in popularity is not a good idea. I’m not afraid to tell you that I’m no expert because I don’t pretend to be one. It’s too huge a responsibility and it goes against my belief system that encourages self-empowerment and learning how to distinguish true expertise. My high numbers don’t prove that I’m an expert, but they do prove that I care deeply about bringing good into this world and that someone out there wants to hear it. If I can be of service to others by delivering quality content, then that is how I want to spend my time.

That’s why I write posts that guide people on developing their own discernment, like this one about the six questions you need to ask before buying into the latest fad or this one about the crucial questions to ask before investing in your next beauty product. My goal is for you to be able to do accurate research which is why I interviewed chemist Julie Longyear about the definitive way to use  the  EWG Skin Deep Database. Experience, inquiry, and a little investigating will get anyone farther than becoming co-dependent on a popular YouTuber or Instagrammer.

If anything, my overriding message is: Follow your favorites but filter them and definitely double check information taken off social media. ⇐ Click to tweet!

There’s no need to be a victim of misinformation when simple fact checking will go a long way.

In my next posts, I’ll be sharing how to distinguish the beauty pros and the shocking reality of getting tips off the internet. It’s mind-blowing!

And while you’re waiting for those posts, head over to Organic Obsessions where Nic—being the responsible blogger that she is—had an alarming experience while fact checking.

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