Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Everything on Social Media Is Fake

Megan Holstein
Apr 5 · 7 min read

Do you know what it takes to succeed on social media? What it takes to get millions of followers? You probably don’t, but there are people who do. Professional social media influencers whose sole job is to get people to follow them.

Getting to the top with social media is hard, but getting started is really easy. There are a couple of tips social media influencers have for beginners to get them on their feet and ready to influence:

  • Follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your posts should be sharing other people’s work, twenty percent sharing your own work. If you only share your own work, you come off as spammy — and sharing other people’s work provides you an opportunity to connect with them and potentially get them to share your work in the future.
  • Repost content every two weeks. Most followers aren’t paying a lick of attention, so you can reuse content every two weeks (or twice a week, even, depending on your audience).
  • Make sure content you share has something in it for your audience so that they buy your product / join your mailing list. Make sure your posts point to a freebie or a product that get them in good with you.
  • And of course, never share a post just for the sake of sharing. Everything should have a way for your audience members to get closer to buying something from you.

All of these tips are, of course, about making money.

The purpose of social media is to make money.

You and your friends use social media to connect with each other, but the most popular people on social media use it as a business tool to earn money. The people on top strategize about what they can post that will make you want to give them money (and not only that, but convince your friends to give them money too). Social media influencers do what they do so that you’ll give them money.

Everything on social media is fake. It’s designed to get you to give up your money.

Social media influencers post perfect pictures of their perfect selves living perfect lives. You want their perfect life. Unconsciously, you associate it with the brands they have in their photos (sponsored for this reason) so you go out and buy those brands too. Or maybe you don’t because you can’t afford it, so you buy a knockoff. The effect is the same — you just made their lifestyle seem even more desirable by trying to imitate it. Now all your friends are too, and some of them will buy what the social media influencer has. The brands that sponsor the influencer make money, so the influencer makes money, money which came from you.

It would be one thing if these were legitimate needs, but they aren’t. You were happy with your life until you saw that influencer’s perfect life with their perfect brands. You didn’t feel that you needed a new purse, or new makeup, or new shoes, until you saw someone else with them on social media.

It’s all fake. It’s all designed to inspire a fake need in you. But when you satisfy a fake need, you do so with real money, leading to a profit in the influencer (and their sponsors) pocket.

Kylie Jenner is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. Her fortune is built off of makeup, and she built it using social media. A billion dollar empire was built convincing people they weren’t quite beautiful enough already and what they needed was makeup to be more beautiful, and Jenner did that through social media.

Make this one positive change for yourself today: Unfollow everything in your social media that’s fake. Unfollow all those people with luxury cars, big homes, fabulous vacations all over the world, irresistibly fashionable clothes, and any other expensive status symbol.

If traveling the world is really your passion, find someone to follow that does that for real. Tom Kuegler is a great choice. If fashion is truly an interest of yours, find someone who talks about sustainable fashion, or fashion on a budget — not fashion just for the purpose of inspiring envy. Love cars? Follow an Instagram about all kinds of cars, not just pictures of cars designed to make you feel poor.

You can’t truly live life if you spend it lusting after fake lives. Those people don’t have the perfect life they’re projecting; they may have luxury cars, or vacation homes, but their mothers have Alzheimers or their marriages are falling apart or their kids hate them. Those accounts are fake because they don’t share the truth, only what looks good from the outside.

Former Instagram model Essena O’Neill had 612,000 followers and was making about $2000AUD per post on Instagram when she quit. She deleted most of her photos, and edited the remaining photos to have captions that revealed what went into creating them.

Essena O’Neill received so much backlash over this that she quit the internet entirely in 2016. I tried to get in contact with her to send her words of encouragement and admiration, but even her personal website is closed down. I couldn’t find so much as an email address.

Read the 6000-word goodbye letter she penned and you read some horrifying things. She starts off telling the truth about what it’s like to be an Instagram influencer…

During this time I became so caught up in pleasing people, getting more success in my career, becoming thinner (fitter was my excuse), dating countless guys at the same time, meeting with lots of different agencies and having proposals for major modelling and YouTube deals. All I talked about was my social media, getting a new fancy car, getting a fancy flat in LA, new cute clothes, my growing followers, brand deals…. This was everything I did and talked about each day.

Which, of course, took a toll on her self-image.

I couldn’t help wondering, if I had 500 followers not 500,000+ would I be staying here? If I was a size 16 not a size 6, would they still like me as their friend? If I wasn’t this famous, slim blonde — would I be at this party? At this place? With these people?

When she deleted most of her photos and decided to quit social media, everyone turned on her. Media outlets contacted her and watered down her message into a kitschy joke. Social media influencers who had previously been her friends turned around and called her crazy, a lunatic, or a woman with serious problems. She says that was her point — that social media causes serious problems.

I guess it proved my point about how a lot of mass media and social media work — get views, get likes, don’t worry about the value in what you’re saying let alone the person you are ripping apart through your key board.

I had to say goodbye to a few people I was close to because I simply couldn’t condone what they were saying to their viewers… how they were denying paid posts and how they were twisting truths. It was really hard. I said I love you to them all and explained I just can’t support it, I support you though and only hope you’re happy…

Which only made her life worse. O’Neill had already at this point publicly admitted to being depressed and dependent on her family for support.

Her honesty didn’t change anything for her.

I received so many death threats, ‘Kill yourself you attention seeking whore that only cares about herself and cuts out all your friends, you deserve to die, so please just do it now and save the world some more embarrassment.’

I had a family member say how much of an embarrassment I was and how I was lying because I was smiling in past pictures… as if one can’t fake a smile.

The end of her last newsletter is eloquent.

So to wrap up, here is the truth — I had a serious problem. I was part of a large culture that celebrates perfectionism and edited life ideals. I did things on social media (paid posts, constant perfectionism, planned shoots most days) that made my life look effortless, when for it’s entirety it was a business.

O’Neill, if you ever read this, know that I admire you not for the size of your waist or the color of your hair but for the content of your character. Not many people would be able to turn down the money you did, let alone suffer what you suffered for that decision. The world would be a better place if more of us were like you.

Everyone else, let's be a little more like O’Neill and stop celebrating what’s fake.

Unfollow fake accounts. Then put down your phone and go spend time with your best friend or your spouse.

Social media influencers are fake. The lives we lead and the ones we love are real.

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Want To Quit Social Media?

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Megan Holstein

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