There’s so much fear in letting go of social media obsession and in ‘trying’ to achieve fame. In so-doing though, there also comes a great relief from the pressure of having to contrive and create for other people and potentially losing your true identity in the process. 

I spoke with an old friend about my struggles with social media shortly after I had posted a video revealing that I was considering leaving Instagram. She (being one of those wildly spiritual hippie earth-mother types that I seem to float toward) had said she believes that Instagram is the great deception of our time; that the Instagram guru who truly awakens spiritually would turn the cameras outward from themselves or disappear entirely from their online presence. 

I tossed these ideas around in my mind for a bit and came to the conclusion that there is a middle ground—at least for me there is. 

I’ve spent the better part of my life chasing popularity and acknowledgement. And with the birth of Instagram and influencer campaigns several years ago, I found yet another avenue for building my presence in the online ‘yoga’ world. 

I knew I actually had to use Instagram and Facebook as means to promote my brand Jock Yoga. 

A year or two into my promotion through Instagram, I became aware of an innate desire to learn photography and use it to sharpen my Instagram savvy. 

I bought a decent camera, took a few classes, and I realized I was somewhat of a natural when it came to composition and balance in my photos. 

My photography became my favourite thing to post on Instagram, but not the contrived yoga photos with the ‘inspirational’ quotes I had agonized over concocting to match my level of physical contortion or balance in the post. My favourite photos to post were the busy Toronto intersections with blurred lights and crushed backgrounds that illustrated the colour and bustle of our majestic city. 

I changed my Instagram name from @jockyogaguy to @michaeldecorte so I could more easily diversify my online portfolio and feel more comfortable posting non-yoga related pictures. This was also agonizing, because I believed as someone peddling a yoga brand, I had to stay closely attached to a yoga-directed narrative and not water down my message with personal passions. 

Even when I created a second profile specifically for Jock Yoga, I felt pressed to post content on that site while continuing to build my personal brand. 

Over the years, I’ve been an ambassador for lululemon, Skechers, New Balance, Genuine Health—and I’ve been approached by several other brands for influencer campaigns. 

And then something happened. 

I felt too much pressure. I also began recognizing some friendships I had were based in social media popularity and the coming together of our ‘images’ rather than organically as ourselves. I was maintaining not only my image, but also my ‘friendships’ that were birthed out of mutual desire for recognition. 

And some of those friendships ended. Not an easy decision to make, though a necessary one. 

For the entirety of 2018, I opted to not engage in any campaign or be an ambassador for any company. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the free products and the pay cheques, but I wasn’t liking myself. 

I strive to be honest and authentic because I personally have no peace of mind if I’m not. Therefore, living the Insta-influencer life was not for me. 

A couple years ago, I had placed a bot on my Instagram profile—a service that ‘likes’ posts that have hashtags that match the industry I’m in. It exposes my profile to more people to consider following me if they would. These bots can also be programmed to follow and unfollow other accounts (after they start following you back). This latter service I never engaged in because it made me feel like shit when others did it to me. Buying followers and likes is another common practice; one that I—after years of condemning it in others—fell prey to one time only.  I paid for 1000 of my followers to boost my ‘fan’ count closer to the five-digit realm. 

The paid ‘liking’ I was doing was causing me heartache. In the grand scheme of things it’s not that harmful I suppose. For me though, I don’t want to live like that. I no longer want to get into the trap of judging my worth by my online popularity. It’s like a band aid on a cut. It doesn’t solve any self-esteem problems. And as I’ve see one online personality report, ‘being famous on Instagram is like being rich in Monopoly money.’ That being said—and as we always hear—even real fame has its major downsides. It’s something I don’t aspire to (anymore).

So, I cancelled the bot and allowed my following to be as it is. 

And it dropped. 

I had—prior to this time—acquired more than ten thousand followers, which—as the social media savvy know—means people could no longer see the exact number of my followers and rather just 10K or 10.1K etc. 

So my following dropped. Considerably. I braced myself to feel some kind of embarrassment or shame. Surprisingly though, I felt relief. I had made a commitment to my true self—and that felt far better than maintaining a level of online ‘fame.’

My Instagram following is still relatively high, so perhaps that acts as a buffer to my disappointment. But truthfully, if my choice had to be absolute between Instagram and peace of mind, I would choose the latter. 

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be so cut and dry for me. 

So what’s the middle-of-the-road solution? 

As with anything I’ve been taught by my guru (and the legions of spiritualists from my recovery world that I am eternally grateful for)—do everything as a means of service to others. 

A few years back, I was working on an event for Kidney Cancer Canada and was slated to be a fitness spokesperson for the event on Toronto’s Breakfast Television. I was to appear alongside a famous Canadian R&B artist who was helping us promote the event. 

I had done several of these live morning shows leading up to this one and had always been terrified that I would mess up and come across imperfectly (ego). This day was no different. 

On the morning of the broadcast, I had an epiphany: instead of worrying about how I would come across personally and professionally, why don’t I channel all of my efforts into conveying Kidney Cancer Canada’s key messages and mission statements the best I could? This may seem to you a natural way to do things, but for self-obsessed, insecure me who is terrified of relinquishing control of my image in people’s eyes (especially on TV!) it was not at the top of my thoughts. 

As it turns out, it was the right course to take, because not only did I have a healthy service focus to deliver a charity’s message (which I knocked out of the park if I do say so myself), but I also felt good inside for helping a cause rather than trying to keep the spotlight on me. 

I remembered this incident when searching for a solution to my social media woes, and I decided to apply the service angle to my Instagram profile. 

Moving forward, I decided to keep my posts service focused. 

I will still post my photography and promote my writing (which I also share from a helpful mindset), and I’ll still share the odd joke or quote that I find useful. I will also still contort myself into whatever shapes I want and photograph them. The difference is that the posts will be for the promotion of the studios and fitness centres I work for. In this way, even adding a paragraph of hashtags can become an act of service. 

With my yoga brand and my need to advertise, I can’t just leave Instagram altogether—not just yet. 

Paying for a following and fretting over how to come across as the most humble and authentic online version of myself, though, is no longer something I am comfortable doing. It’s not humble or authentic. 

So, I’ll continue maintaining my online presence from a place of service. And maybe one day I’ll still even become famous. Famous for being me though, and not a contrived online image.

And maybe you’ll follow me.  

Michael DeCorte

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2 comments

Reply

Well-articulated, Michael.

Reply

I’ll follow you but I almost have no s/m. But I will be back here again to read your literature-esque posts, Influencer, Yogi, Writer, Michael.

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