Sell Your Soul to the Algorithm
Why does growing a following mean that people have to lose their individuality?
Back in 2017, I started posting regularly on Instagram and grew a small following by documenting my process as a software engineer early in my career. Not quite an influencer by any means, but 10,000+ followers was a decent audience.
At the time it was quite a cool community of likeminded people. It was close knit, people spoke about their wins and their losses candidly and it felt like a nice place to develop a network of peers. Growth always happened organically, but then it became much harder to scale an account without following specific trends/formats that the algorithm was craving.
The community changed pretty quickly. The genuine people who were using the platform as a 'micro-blog' quickly dissipated, replaced by people churning out reels which were the cool thing at the time.
I tried it for a little bit, but it lost that spark that made it special in the first place. I have never really posted on social media regularly again since then.
These days, growing something from scratch or building your own personal brand, you are going to need to participate at least a little bit in the 'game' of social media. It's really a given as thats where the attention is.
I have a pretty small list of people I follow in general, and my follow lists are mainly folk I know in real life or have spoken to extensively in virtual life, so I think for the last few years I have been fairly sheltered from the bigger picture, but I have been broadening my horizons a little bit to try and gain some influence and motivation to be more present in the social media world.
There are accounts out there who are doing similar things to what I want to be doing, sharing my knowledge of software engineering careers and building a community of people looking to do their best in their jobs.
But I don't love what I see.
From an outsiders perspective, it seems that the way to succeed is to become a cookie cutter influencer, churning out template driven posts and rewording the same old shit advice time after time to drive engagement.
Influencers and big accounts rehash each others ideas, making them slightly different time after time, rewording the posts just enough so they can be passed off as their own. This image from Erica Schneider highlights the point perfectly:
Technical Innovation is milked for content until it is completely sucked dry. More and more I am starting to see GhatGPT preachers flood my feed tarnishing a technology I was excited about. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth but is an example of how people chase the current trends to gain traction for themselves.
I watched numerous videos and even took a number of courses and social media growth and content creation and the teachings are much the same. Take what someone else has done, process it and reword it in your own way. Build templates that you can change slightly each time. Create a content factory. Become a machine.
I have tried readers, believe me I have tried. But I just can't bear it. Maybe I am not a consistent person, thats probably true, but selling any sense of creativity and originality for speed and engagement is just something that I don't think I could sustain over the long term without feeling bad about myself and my life.
I don't want to build a career or a reputation for myself on those sorts of foundations. I want to share meaning and value, build connections with people and think about the best way of doing things. I want to nurture ideas, toy and chew them over before sharing them.
Maybe that means that I will never grow the biggest following. Maybe that means that I will not achieve my full potential and scale whatever venture I plan to explore next to the greatest heights. Maybe it means that my circle will forever be smaller and more concentrated.
But I know for certain that changing to message I want to share to appease the algorithm is not something I want to do. Staying true to myself, my values and the things that I believe in with the caveat of growing a bit slower is ok with me.
At least I will still have my soul.
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