A few years ago, when I was a journalist, digital media was simply posting up the same old content online along with the addition of YouTube and Facebook videos. However, around this time there were a few bloggers trying to create the spark in the industry, yet people were still novel to the idea of individual personalities therefore, the digital sphere was exclusively monopolised by the print media industry. Surprisingly, 8 months later when I realised it was time to leave the paper and pursue blogging on my own – Sri Lanka was much more open to the idea. Social media was booming in Colombo and there were dozens of bloggers popping up in which they would review food or tech gadgets to fashion, whatever the Sri Lankan market catered – there was someone heading that up on social media.
As we said goodbye to our much-adored application and site ‘Facebook’, we had Instagram welcoming everyone with open arms, getting Insta-famous wasn’t as hard as it used to be. However, just like anything else, despite the platform being open to giving you the creative freedom and capturing people like never before had its consequences. There’s the good and the bad and let me tell you from my experience and my perspective how I see the harsh reality of being a social media influencer, especially in a country like Sri Lanka.
When I started out to do my own thing which was running a separate blog in which I’d share articles on different aspects while I focused on building my Instagram, which meant creating exciting content for my followers whilst also increasing the following and engagement. I wasn’t exactly encouraged by most of my family members and friends, they would laugh it off saying I’m wasting time online and I should probably focus on my degree and just pay attention to getting ‘a real job’. Apart from my mum, best friends and boyfriend, there was rarely any support unless it is someone who understands what I’m doing or from the same industry.
Going solo felt frightening at first, especially since you are representing yourself as a brand and not some established company, which was riveting as you have to approach brands and businesses to create awareness that you’re actually operating on your own. Shockingly, most brands wanted to work with me, with no fuss and many knew who I was with my previous representation at the paper which helped massively. Here onwards, my following only kept increasing, I would get dozens of messages on how people love reading my stuff or checking out my content that really pushed me to keep doing my best. At this point, apart from receiving gifts and product samples, I wasn’t getting paid for anything I did especially for someone who looked at doing this forever.
Regardless, it didn’t really matter especially since I always felt that I had so much more to learn and understand in terms of the world of content. Plus, I was more than happy with the product samples and everyone’s praise and constructive criticism on the work I was doing. Frankly, I’m going to be quite honest, I was looking into making money out of Instagram at this point and I came across articles in which massive influencers made some crazy amounts that’ll pay bills and eventually get you a house and a car and you’d have a decent life. For me, my Instagram feed was my ‘happy place’, everything was picture perfect and I knew the time and effort I invested on each post and it felt pretty great to check out your work and beam with happiness.
Eventually, hitting the 10k mark and moving forward, things changed rapidly. I was now invited to literally every event that’s happening in Colombo. Everything was happening incredibly fast and while the content kept getting better, the engagement increased, there was the constant undeniable fear of thinking that one wrong move and it can make or break me, and I was constantly on edge. This is because the larger the audience, the more critic, and those who constantly point out your flaws which in turn means, everything you say and do is closely watched including your circle of friends, the clothes you wear and even where you went out this evening. The harsh reality is that we are socially anxious people who still want to display our creative content out there by the means of social media, however the downside is the popularity that expects you to act and behave and to make conversations in a specific way, which can be terrifying.
There are many times, I’ve personally been a victim of cyber bullying as well as the attention getting into our heads which is something 99% of you’ll can relate to. Nevertheless, staying rooted to who are regardless of the circumstance can be tough at first but is absolutely imperative. Most of us tend to lose ourselves, but how I keep reminding myself is through the means of enabling myself to understand the difference between a personal life and work. Spending time with family, enjoying some time off with the friends you’ve known long before you made it, they are those who are going to really appreciate you for who you are, regardless of how ‘cool’ your Instagram is. Focus on your own personal style, while only drawing inspiration from those you look up to, what you wear says a lot about you and like we’ve all heard – ‘A first impression is the last impression’. Stick to your own goals, visions and morals and keep rocking. It most certainly all that bad, but it isn’t all that great either! Do what you love, and no matter what hurdle is thrown at you, you’re going to be fierce Sasha.