For the past two years, I have been trying really hard to become an #influencer. I just wanted to #influence people to live their best lives, to find their inner strength and – OK, Iwanted free stuff. If you can’t beat it, join it. Capitalism, that is.
Since I have 100,000 followers on Instagram who listen to what I say, to whom I often recommend my favourite products and services, why not double-check if the brands want to pay me to do so? I would rather they pay me than someone who isn’tme. What I am saying is: I wanted to do the very easy job of #influencing and get lots of money for it.
I assume, since you are reading the Guardian, you are frowning disapprovingly while sucking on an avocado because #influencing is vapid and superficial. But are you really telling me that, if someone offered you £1,000 to take a photo of the aforementioned avocado and post it to Instagram using the hashtag #avocadosrule and tagging @avocado in the post, you wouldn’t be tempted?
I made an oath: I would never lie. I would never recommend anything that I didn’t use or want to use myself. And I wouldn’t stop being myself on social media: I would keep posting about social issues. If brands didn’t like that, I wouldn’t work with them. It was time to take my followers and turn them into cash money.
I started with a few #gifted skincare products and a gold card to my favourite all-you-can-eat Sunday roast buffet restaurant. Someone offered me £800 to post a photo of myself in a neon green thong, but I’m not sure if that was a brand deal or if that was just … a man.
Then an #influencing agency signed me – as an actual #influencer. I was so excited. I laughed when my new agents told me that they would, of course, give me some training – until I realised they weren’t joking. I was taken through the seven apps I needed in order to be a content creator – it turns out that the average photo needs to go through at least three photo-editing apps before it’s worth posting – and I was taught about hashtags and algorithms.
Posting in the morning or evening is best: that is when people are on their way to work or relaxing at home. Don’t post at weekends; people aren’t on their phones. You can hide your hashtags in the comments section and they still work. Differentiate between photos of your face, your body, food, beauty and nature. Stick to one colour scheme across your grid. Once you have posted, spend half an hour commenting on people’s comments: Instagram rewards engagement by showing your post to more people.
And so on.
Then my home was dissected. My dinner plates were all shiny – they should be matt. My table tops were shiny, too – I would need to get special photoshoot backgrounds that look like fancy marble counters on which to pose my food. Now, I constantly notice how shiny everything is: my cutlery, my picture frames, my forehead. It’s all very not #Instagrammable.
I have gained so much respect for #influencers. You have to get up early, because morning light is the best. You have to have a tidy – and matt – house. Your food always gets cold, because it takes for ever to curate a photo of it. You have to understand complex and ever-changing social media algorithms. You have to plan ahead and think strategically. It’s a full-time job, not an easy side hustle. I find myself desperately clinging to my job as a comedian and trying to merge the two: to be funny in my #sponcon (sponsored content) so that no one notices the mess in the background, or the fact that it’s dark outside because I slept until 4pm.
Of course, beauty standards suck, materialism is the worst and “perfect” social media posts make people feel super-insecure about themselves. But it’s hard for me to blame the women who have found a way to get rich by taking advantageof a beauty- and perfection-obsessed, toxic and capitalist system. Because it’s way harder than it looks. Unfortunately.