In a very modern twist of media irony, it's become increasingly clear that the most important thing for my writing career is to get really, really good at producing and promoting images.
During a recent round of meetings with publishers, the actual content of the work was discussed for about three seconds.
Instead the conversations were almost entirely about Marketing, and most specifically about Platform.
(Note: I know that neither Marketing or Platform requires initial capitalization, but since they've assumed deity-like status, it feels fitting).
Even though my previous projects have been reviewed in People Magazine (3.4 million circulation) and on Live with Kelly (3.85 million viewers), in 2018 it's all about Social Media, all about followers.
It seems wisest that I "pick my poison" and since the online platform I genuinely enjoy most is Instagram, I've decided to roll up my (energetic) sleeves and get to work.
Unfortunately, the thing is that I have very little interest in doing photoshoots for poses I've been able to do (and teaching) for over a decade.
Yes, I love doing the poses.
And I really love sharing them.
But, flawed as I am, unfortunately I might lack the level of narcissism required to become an Instagram Star.
Sidebar: I thoroughly agree, however, with the great Diana Vreeland's quote:
Somehow it occurred to me that it might be a wonderful compromise and commentary on it all to start doing classic beauty shots of me in impressive yoga poses, but to also include other people (and Belle) in them, preferably ignoring me or doing their own thing.
One incredibly fun photoshoot later, I launched the campaign.
Almost immediately, I increased my followers by 35% and got 120% more likes and comments than anything I'd casually posted since I drifted on to IG a few years ago.
I'm genuinely looking forward to the next photoshoot (and if you're in NYC and would be interested in ignoring me in front of the camera, just reach out.)
And yet, as fun as the shoot was, I found myself disturbed by a new online phenomenon: "fake followers."
I'm not talking about fake accounts or spambots.
I'm talking about real yoga teachers and legitimate healers from around the world, who would follow me, whom I would then (politely) follow back, and then three days later, they would unceremoniously unfollow me.
(Warning: You can't track your "unfollows" via Instagram; you have to purchase a separate app for that. It's only a few bucks but beware: you better develop a thick, social media skin first.)
Here's what I came to realize: it's not enough to be popular in social media. You also have to glamorously aloof.
You have to be more liked than you actually like anyone else.
In other words, you want a lot more people following you rather than the other way around.
Perhaps the ultimate example of this is, of course, as in all things human, Beyoncé.
111,000,000 followers ... yet following no one.
(Fun Fact: 111M roughly equals the combined population of California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois.)
Even Selena Gomez, with 137M followers, feels there are 37 people/accounts in the world worth paying attention to, as does Kim Kardashian with 107M followers, following 119.
In a way, there's something wonderfully refreshing about the brutal honesty of "I follow no one."
I'm sure Beyonce is perfectly capable of sharing photos in other ways beyond IG with her intimates.
(Perhaps she even scrapbooks in her spare time.)
But when it comes to my fake followers... just why?
Is it really necessary to seek out people out to follow, just to dump them? In the words of Carole King, I ask myself, "Will you still love me tomorrow?"
I'm reminded of that moment in fight club, when Tyler Durden declares:
Except now we follow people just to get them to follow us, so that we can unfollow them to prove we are more popular.
I don't really have any answers here.
It's simply a challenge to negotiate the brave new world of social media with the desire to be honest and express your authentic self.
As usual, perhaps Rumi said it best 600 years ago, referencing his great (and utterly selfless love) for Shams:
UNFOLD YOUR OWN MYTH
Don't be satisfied with stories,
how things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth,
without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.
Start walking toward Shams.
Your legs will get heavy and tired.
Then comes a moment
of feeling the wings you've grown,
(A poem like that really makes me want to follow Rumi on Instagram.)
Here's to the moment when after you've unfolded your own myth, you can feel the wings you've grown lifting you.
Namaste for Now,
|No one is less impressed by me (or loves me more) than Belle
P.S. If you do follow me on Instagram
, I promise I won't unfollow you unceremoniously... at least for now.