A friend DM’d me early this morning. She’d read an article that had confused her, and she just jumped right in with her questions. What is deinfluencing? If you were going to stop being an influencer, do you have to stay off of social media? Is this a growing thing?
What is Deinfluencing?
This deinfluencing trend is indeed growing, and it’s not just on TikTok, but how big the trend will get remains to be seen. Influencer marketing takes place on all the social media platforms, especially Instagram, where a person exudes influence over followers every time they promote a brand or product. Influencers have been around for a while now, but in 2023, we’re seeing this turn towards authenticity, an alternative to just sharing a recommendation for any product that pays. The consumer still is influenced but there’s less overconsumption of creator content. It’s freeing for the influencer, a relief they may not even have known they needed.
It was ironic that my friend had DM’d me instead of texting. She’s got my number, but we’re so used to being on Instagram that we don’t even think about it sometimes. We laughed about how we couldn’t leave social media because then we might actually have to make phone calls. Social media is such an ingrained part of our lives, we do not even realize how often we’re on it until we get those weekly screen time reports; I cringe each time, vow to do better, then remember what I do for a living.
Is Deinfluencing a Trend?
Deinfluencing is mostly referring to TikTok currently, but if you do a Google search on the term, you’ll see a number of articles featuring women with large Instagram accounts, some with a million views or more, who are cutting back on their time online and reclaiming their personal life.
Influencers have many niches: food, entertainment, travel, health, fitness, getting as granular as vegetarian recipes, hot yoga or outfits bought at Target. It can be a lucrative way to pay the bills and travel while getting paid, but it can also be exhausting. When you’ve got a job, you can put in for that vacation time and take a break; when you’re an influencer, you have to do the work ahead of time or your channels go dark, which can hurt your momentum.
What is an Influencer?
Being an influencer is so much more than a cool pose in a pretty outfit in front of a spectacular sunset. It’s creating a social media strategy, knowing what your followers like and don’t, and providing more of the stuff that converts. You read your account insights, factor that into your content calendar and you’ve always got one eye on the future. You begin shopping, planning trips or making food you wouldn’t normally do, just to get some content on the page, and you don’t always recoup those costs in the early days. Building your account can take months or years, and during that time, you’re often spending more money than you make.
It’s not as easy as it looks, which can be disconcerting to someone starting fresh, but it’s all a learning experience, and if you stay mindful of the time and money you invest, you can have a blast. I’ve done some of the best things in my life as a blogger and as an influencer, though I rarely use that term.
Social media followers can be fickle or particular. If an influencer changes their posting frequency, diehard followers will notice it. Change up your topic? You’ll use existing followers while you work to grow new ones. Your community becomes what you make it, but in return, they also can feel ownership and there can be resentment and disconnect when you take a different path.
After my friend’s text, I did a bit of a deep dive into “what is deinfluencing.” I was intrigued by much of what I read, and I recommend you do the same, if you’re truly interested in what’s going on. You can use hashtag deinfluencing on most social platforms to find content about it there, too.
The general consensus seems to be that you don’t have to fully leave social media. You just need to make an intentional choice to focus more on offline relationships, travel for the sake of just seeing things without videoing every moment, wear what you want and not post an OOTD about it (outfit of the day), all the things you would do if you didn’t have a popular social media account expecting to know about your day.
When Do We Need to Think About Backing Away from Influencer Culture?
Here’s my feelings on it. If you’re stressed with it, and it’s sucking the joy out of your life, it’s awesome you’re considering stepping away. Listening to your inner self and making smart decisions are something to be applauded, not judged….but be ready, people will judge. Some followers live vicariously through an influencer who travels the world. Others rely on daily health tips or yoga flows to stay on top of their own wellness routine. You become less yousometimes, and if you need to step back from social media to regain yourself, that’s an epiphany you need to give some credence. Money’s great, but so is your mental health.
And on the topic of money — that’s why a lot of influencers stay in the game. Life’s expensive, and to be able to pay your rent with one or two posts, there’s something to be said for that. I’ve paid my mortgage frequently with influencer and blogger income, but there are also months where I make far less. Then I feel pressured to pick up the pace and get back to the prior income level, and I can almost get resentful. It’s a vicious cycle.
What one influencer sees as a comfortable level of social sharing is not what another will see. For a few years there, I was always on the go, sharing stories and posts until the nighttime hours, then I’d start again in the morning…and I’m not even what you’d call a major influencer by any means. The idea that some people make $30k-$50k per month astounds me. On one hand, it sounds appealing; on the other, I can only imagine the list of deadlines and sacrifice that takes. In the end, it is a business, and business is work, even when we enjoy it.
Many influencers and/or bloggers, or the hybrid middle ground that includes a lot of us Gen X and Millennials, had to pivot during the pandemic. Opportunities dried up, and when the lockdown was over, things have yet to rebuild as they were. This means we had to get inventive. I started doing more freelance writing, something I love, and I spent more time building affiliate sales on existing content so I could build my passive income. I also learned to charge appropriately, which meant some raise increases for content creation on my own social platforms. There’s also a real market for creating content that brands buy to post on their own socials.
Those changes allowed me to post less without a negative impact on my income. I’ve always been a big fan of authenticity, being honest with my thoughts and feelings on something, and I’ve become even more comfortable with it the last year. I’ve spent a long time building my profiles, and I have to remind myself sometimes that I get to use them for what I choose. Sometimes that’s a bad attempt at a pun instead of a mention of a product I love. I’ve also been putting myself back in front of the camera more. I used to do a lot of Facebook or Insta lives, which I haven’t yet put back in the schedule as much as before, but the photos I share are now more ‘me’ than ever before. They reflect more accurately who I am and what I love.
As a Gen X mom of four young adults, Grammy to two little ones, life is different and I’m not going to hide behind the camera in order to present myself as someone else. I wouldn’t call it deinfluencing, but it is less forced. I say no to women’s hygiene products and anything that goes against my ethics or beliefs. I’ve earned that right after all these years, and I don’t ever want to inadvertently influence someone into something I can’t honestly say I believe in.
Whatever level of deinfluencing you want to go, make it your own. Whatever you do, be honest with yourself, and show that honesty on your feed. (And if your post is a partnership or sponsored, say it. Disclose. Being genuine with your followers, so they know if you’re hyping up something because it was given to you free, will pay off in the long run.)
One article I read mentioned that deinfluencing is designed to encourage others to buy less or decrease the need to buy. Comparison is truly the thief of joy, and too many people try to keep up with what their favorite influencers are doing. With popularity comes a bit of responsibility, and if we’re authentic, we’re being clear if our post is an advertisement. Thing is, if you still remain on social media at all, you’ll still influence. You may just influence less, so this is a trend of degrees. You can encourage people to scale back or educate them on how to change their niche, but that, too, is still influencing.
We’ll see where this trend goes. I’m not even going to begin to call myself a deinfluencer, but it’s an interesting theory. Turning off the normal vibe and becoming someone else can be life changing, but it’s only good if it causes happiness. It can do that by bringing stability to a person who decides to get a full-time job instead of remaining self-employed. Healthcare, regular hours, paid vacations, these tangible things are valid reasons to quit. I don’t miss being stuck behind a desk eight hours a day, but I do miss someone else paying my taxes for me and being able to take pictures just for the sake of creating a tangible memory, instead of needing something to create a reel.
Pros and cons. Those lists will be different for us all. I won’t bash on influencers who are on 24/7, but be sure you’re doing it for the real positives, not just living for likes and shares. Life is fluid, people change careers, incomes ebb and flow. Just be happy. Find your sustainable balance. I’ve found a wonderful middle ground, but in full transparency, I’m still loving the trips, the junkets and trying new things. My goal is to share it all with the lens of reality, because I want to share things that other moms and Grammys like me can all do it…while being honest if my day is just spent snuggling with the dogs and watching Netflix in baggy men’s sweats.
It all comes down to choices, and the only person you have to explain yours to is YOU. No judgment here.