So, not too long ago, I discovered the term ‘social media influencers’…I had been aware of the work of such people, but wasn’t as yet ‘au fait’ with the terminology.
As mentioned in a previous post, my generation was the last generation to grow up with technology such as the Internet, but also be able to remember a time when it wasn’t a thing in mainstream society. I see myself as very fortunate in this regard, for the perspective it gives me and others – we are kind of caught between the old and the new….although that isn’t necessarily a matter of age or life stage so much as being able to interact with changing developments, while being able to analyse the potential effects of them in a wider sense as well. Those of an ‘older generation’ may find it hard to engage with technological and societal changes and may have no idea what their children and grand children are talking about when it comes to new opportunities that they see for themselves. They may not consider a ‘proper job’ to be anything less than something you have trained for professionally or academically for a number of years, gained a qualification in and can thereby contribute to society in a 9 to 5 world. This could include being skilled through an apprenticeship, ‘on the job’ training and such like, but to them a ‘real job’ has nothing to do with social media. Let me clarify, that with regards to this perspective, I have a ‘real job’ and have never earned an income from social media, and I don’t earn a penny from anything I write on this blog, although I see the potential in exploring avenues elsewhere for my photography that might free up a bit of extra time so that I have more flexibility with the types and ways I work. I love my job, but it is more analytical and I do write a lot as part of my role, but it is business writing. That is only one part of me, and I therefore find outlets from my creative side which is a huge part of who I am through writing my novel, writing my blog, photography projects, arts, crafts, adult colouring, music, (easy) jewellery / bead making and other similar projects on the side, all of which I do as hobbies.
The generation coming after me is unlikely to remember what it was like to not have social media and technology as a central part of their lives. People now joke that babies come out of the womb knowing how to use a smart phone! It may sound ridiculous but by the time a child is a toddler, they may be more efficient at using social media than their grandparents! The ‘GenZ’ generation as it has come to be known as, unlike the ‘Millenial’ generation to which I was born into in terms of time frame, not necessarily values overall, is exposed from day 1 as it were to a world where technology is most of what they know. As such, many younger people see their lives and their future opportunities as coming from online ventures. And many are making money – A LOT of money from the myriad of opportunities available to them online. There are bloggers, and some of you – older and younger – may be part of the community that does manage to make an income from your online blogs, and I’d be very interested to hear about your experiences and journey if you’d like – there are ‘YouTubers’ and Instagrammers and a whole host of other people using a myriad of platforms to make a name for themselves, their brand, or their message.
Advertisers and big businesses have seized upon this potential and ‘social media influencers’ – those, particularly young people, who have a significant ‘following’ are prime investments as it were for companies to draw in more customers. Influencers may be setting new trends and those who follow and look up to them will want to emulate them.
In my experience, and correct me if I’m wrong, social media influencers tend to be particularly dominant in the fields of beauty, make up, fashion, gaming, health and fitness, diet, food, wellness, and in providing opinions on merchandise of various sorts. Maybe even travel, but I find that probably beauty and fashion and lifestyle are more predominantly represented – what are your thoughts?
The potential to influence others is massive…incredible really. This can be reflected partially in the hefty figures that represent their takings from 4, 5 and even 6 figure sums. Influencers shape trends, and reach sometimes millions of ‘viewers’. Yet, are they using their platforms effectively for what can really influence the generations to come?
Fashion and beauty trends come and go. Products, likewise gain and lose popularity over time. So while for a short time this influence has an impact on their audience, and their pockets and their own lifestyles, which I don’t have a problem with, does not influence also bring with it responsibility? I have seldom seen young people who are prominent in social media, in terms of being influencers, using their platforms for issues of humanitarian concerns and social justice. Yet, what a platform they have! Occasionally, I have seen people reflect upon a tragedy or situation in world events, but very rarely and usually as part of a ‘trend’ so that they are also seen to be involved. I haven’t been exposed to much of what seems to be part and parcel of their central work or message. And that’s a real shame and a wasted opportunity. I have seen ‘Youtubers’ who are in this ‘mid-generation’ using their voice to raise awareness of social issues and personal struggles, not in a self indulgent way but as advocates for change. I am a bit of an ‘oldie’ when it comes to changing trends, so please do educate me if I have got this all wrong. I know a lot of young people are very vocal about climate change and sustainable living but I don’t know if they are the ones with these massive platforms…?
But if what I have perceived is an accurate reflection of the times then surely there is a need for a ‘new wave’ of social media influencers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they should leave their passions for beauty and health and other such things, but to use their platforms to also advocate for change in terms of the myriad of problems facing society today: if you are a health vlogger, and talk a lot about diet and fitness, could you also use your platform to encourage individuals and industries to care for the homeless and those without food, similarly could fashion influencers reach out to those who have nothing to wear, literally, not figuratively? Could those who speak about home and lifestyle and living their ‘best life’ raise awareness or use their connections with followers and businesses to improve the welfare of the most hurt, marginalised and distressed children in society? And what can we do, even those of us who have a limited sphere of influence like myself, and who have no connections with industries, and who receive no payment for what we do online, can we also use what voice we do have for the benefit of humanity and not merely the outward and fleeting trends that are popular for a moment and then gone the next?
When I was a little girl, I had a vast and vivid imagination. If it was a rainy day and I didn’t have anyone to play with, I would create stories in my mind and go on imaginary adventures. When I was in primary school I had a dream that when I grew up I would be an artist, a painter or a cartoonist…this gradually progressed to me wanting to be a writer (as well as all of the above 🙂 ), and I busied myself with creating short stories. When I was in primary school at around 8 or 9 years of age, my class was asked to write a short story. I was an avid reader as a child and drew inspiration from a book I was reading and a television programme that I watched. Inspired by these wonderful imaginary worlds, I created a story all of my own and enjoyed doing so. It turned out that my teacher enjoyed my story too, so much so that she complimented me on writing to the level of a first or second year high school student – which when you are 8 years old is a massive compliment because high school students are so far removed from our little childhood world that they seem almost like adults! For those who have different terms in your education system, the equivalent would be a student aged between 11 to 13 years old. My teacher gathered the class to sit in a semi circle on the floor around her as she sat on a chair. You can imagine the scene, a group of kids sitting cross legged looking up at their teacher, so glad that their maths time is over and they can enjoy being read to! This was the normal way we’d sit when the teacher would read to us as a class from some fiction book. Only this day, she chose to read my story to the class instead! I was a humble, quiet child, but I was so happy on the inside, and it is a pleasant childhood memory that I am glad to have.
As I moved schools at age 9 and went to a new primary school I found things difficult for a while and leaving all that was familiar to me behind I became a lot quieter having lost my close friendships and finding myself as the new person and having to start all over again. Being a visible minority also made it harder for me but eventually I found my fit and was respected amongst my peer group. I continued to enjoy reading and writing and although I was always in the top groups for other subjects such as maths, it was a lot harder work for me and I struggled and remember tears being shed over fractions and long division. I could get very good marks, but not without the struggle and tears and a bit of stress. English however, that was a dream to me. I enjoyed writing poetry, prose, short fiction as a child and all but the poetry has continued into adulthood.
With my move to secondary school aged 11 years old came another big step out of my comfort zone as I had to go to a school outside of the catchment area of my primary school because a family member was already there, and this meant leaving behind classmates once again. As you’ll know by now if you’re a regular (and much appreciated 🙂 ) visitor to my blog, this was a traumatic time for me, and I was bullied physically, verbally, mentally, socially and emotionally by my peers as well as being unfairly treated by a couple of teachers. This totally scrambled my mind and my emotions and has left me with a lot to work on well into adulthood, but by the grace of God, He Is bringing out things from it for His Glory, and my restoration and for the good of other people.
Writing became important to me on a much deeper level. I was alone, scarred, scared, terrified, shy and friendless and felt I had no one to turn to, other than my family, but even then I couldn’t articulate the enormity of what I was going through so I became quite withdrawn. I was inspired by reading Ann Frank’s diary ‘whom’ she named ‘Kitty’ and as a child in school I poured out my heart to my ‘only friend’ at the time, a notebook of my own ‘whom’ I also named as a friend to comfort myself that I had ‘someone’ to turn to. My short stories turned from imaginary worlds to exploring ideas of people like me who were bullied for their appearance or something ‘different’ or seemingly undesirable about them, how it felt and also touching upon mental health, depression and suicide, although I wouldn’t really know what to call it all at the time.
I devoured books. I shone in my English classes, although a quiet student, partly because of my nature and also because I was traumatised and ‘stuck’ and not as comfortable with myself, and often hating myself for being so ‘repulsive’ which actually wasn’t true but it was a result of the emotional and psychological scars from the cruel treatment I experienced. Yet my passion for literature, and to be a writer only grew. I read classics and I found myself imagining being like one of the female writers of times past, pouring out her soul onto paper as it were, because without doing so she couldn’t function, and literally for a while I felt I had to write to live. I excelled in writing and gained academic recognition in high school and went on to study English Literature in University for my undergraduate degree, along with Politics. I then went on to study a Masters course in Gender Studies, Human Rights and International Development and won the prize for the best written dissertation on my chosen subject of human trafficking. This came after a time when my dream to get into the postgraduate creative writing course in my university burst and my application was rejected due to the high quality of the many candidates who applied. Basically, they were telling me I wasn’t ‘good enough’. And that did discourage me for a while.
Yet, glancing back to my late teenage years, just before I embarked upon University I was at an age, 17 to be exact, when I like my peers was looking to the future and wondering what we’d become. I had worked hard in school to gain good grades and do well, and tried so hard to ‘get away’ from the emotional and psychological trauma and distress buried deep within….yet I was still so broken despite things looking positive outwardly to some extent. People told me later that in my final year of school they admired me, wanted to be me or were jealous of me – quelle surprise! If only they knew the troubled soul beneath the surface, surely they would change their mind. I was admired physically as well which was confusing to me after being taunted mercilessly for being repulsive in my earlier high school years, and having equated my self worth with their comments and feeling worthless. I had fought hard internally to get to where I was and yet the emotional pain was severe and I hid it well. It didn’t just go away but actually became more apparent later in adulthood, when it all came to the surface and ‘exploded’ in I guess a cathartic way in breaking down, the pain couldn’t stay stuffed within anymore, but I had to face it to begin to heal.
Aged 17 I was still passionate about literature and passionate about becoming a writer. It was also a form of escapism for me. When you’ve been made to feel like you are ‘nothing’ sometimes you turn to the imaginary world to dream of some kind of success or the person you’ll eventually become…only on the hard rugged road of real life it is seldom that easy unless you are particularly fortunate to tread a gentle and happy path. I was broken and I wanted to write…but not only did I want to write novels, I wanted to write ‘self help’ or ‘self care’ and spiritual books…because I wanted to help other people. I was *so* broken that even though I wanted to be able to help others, I could not reach out because I barely had the strength to get through my own emotional pain and that was so demoralising and frustrating for me….was it all for nothing? I wanted to help….even ‘just’ one person, because I was one person, and I needed help.
Someone did stop to help me, to tell me about the Lord Jesus, and I just couldn’t fathom why someone was being genuinely kind to me, and I didn’t feel worthy of kindness because I was so hurt. I was like a wounded little bird tied up in chains unable to escape the inner pain and mental fear – fear was something that everyone who came across me would notice – I was sweet, and kind and gentle and creative, pretty and loving, but I was consumed with fear and unable to break free, barely able to make eye contact or hold my head up.
More than someone stopping to tell me about Jesus, I came over time to know that Jesus Christ, The Good Shepherd of the sheep, as the parable says left the 99 sheep that were safe to come to look for the one that was lost – and that one was me. Perhaps today, you identify and see that it is you. He didn’t merely come to rescue me but to lay down His Life to Save, Forgive, Cleanse, Heal and Restore me, and give me hope in this life and an eternal life of pure love in His Kingdom to come. Glory. Self help and human advice can only go so far, the love and restoration that Jesus has for us is so very real, and it may take time as you cry out to God asking why did you allow me to feel such pain, but He suffered the most to set us free.
When I was saved, God led me to lay down my writing and my dreams of being a writer as an idol. This was not an easy process, and I didn’t accept it easily until finally I did. I surrendered, and I wasn’t able to write for a long while. And all the while He was changing me from the inside out. I had started writing a fantasy adventure novel maybe the year or a few months before I was saved. And so I had to give this up. But God in His great love and wisdom had better plans. I used to imagine becoming a well known and respected writer, and opening up a box of my very own published works and being able to dedicate them to family and friends and share them with people. Was this the illusion, the escape, the reclusive ‘fame’ even that I sought? Yet over time, God changed me to want to do everything for His Glory alone because of the greatness of His Sacrifice of Pure Love for me. We all are sinners in need of a Saviour, no matter how ‘good’ we think we are, and I thought in my foolishness that I was good, until God showed me my heart and convicted me so that my very ‘bones cried out’ for mercy. Only the righteous blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us and forgive us for all sin, He had to endure the cross, and suffer the wrath of the Father so that we, the guilty, could go free….and be considered blameless and righteous ….and only because of Him. And after some time I gradually began to write again. There were people and friends in my life who were doing well with their writing and getting published, and I was struggling with life and a whole host of things going on that I was just trying to survive and so much felt utterly broken so I was pretty dejected and I guess in my heart my dreams were broken, and I didn’t feel like I mattered so much…it often feels like that when we are going through particularly intense hard times while those around us seem to be blossoming with the happiness of life and good circumstances and blessings. Yet God does not have favourites and that was a painful lesson for me to walk through as I felt that I wasn’t among them.
So, fast forward a few years, and now we have this term ‘Millenials’. According to my age group, I come within this category of being a ‘Millenial’ although I’m not sure how fond I am of terms that lump people together in such a way, as I am able to connect with people from across the generations, younger to older. As a millennial, in terms of the time frame I grew up in, I am towards the middle and older end of the spectrum as I can actually remember a time before mobile phones did anything more than call and text, and before the internet was much of a thing. The internet was around when I was in school but it was only just gaining in popularity and people were still getting to know what it was all about. I realise some of the younger readers won’t be able to imagine such a ‘land before time’ ….a time before the internet, would they even know what a ‘dial up modem’ is (anyone remember those?).
As such, when I dreamt of being a writer, my dreams were written with pen and ink on paper, were treasured in notebooks and drawers (yes, I did not have a laptop as a child or teenager…can you imagine? 🙂 ) and my inspiration was drawn from the Brontes, Jane Austen, ‘Jo’ from ‘Little Women’ who had to write in solitude and courage in the hope that one day their dream to share their heart and writings with another human being might actually come to fruition once they had found favour in the publishing world – which of course was not an easy journey.
Which brings me once more to the title of this blog post: “Do you notice your dreams coming true?”. As human beings, because we are on a journey through life, we are often so caught up in what happened before and thinking about what is to come that we seldom truly appreciate where we are right now, and the dreams we once had that are coming to fruition ….no matter how seemingly ‘small’ or ‘inconsequential’ they might seem to others. Someone might have the dream to walk again if that has been a challenge in their life…so while those around them might be dancing, running and leaping and may not even know how big a ‘step’ they have taken if they finally do accomplish their dream, it doesn’t make the fruition of their dream any less special, beautiful or significant.
Once upon a time, I dreamed of being able to write to help somebody….even one person…because one person matters. I could barely find a way through my own pain so I didn’t know how this would come to pass. I dreamed of someone, somewhere being able to read my words and be touched by them…and even though I’m a ‘Millennial’ I dreamed these dreams before the days of the internet and blogging were common place and as part of our daily lives as they are now.
In the past few days a friend of mine who has gone through a lot of difficult things in their life, who has accomplished much, and is yet working through the effects of their earlier life experiences, gave me the gift of sharing that they had read my blog and had been impacted by it, had appreciated my writing and had found help in their own life and would continue to read it. Now this is no small thing, for it really is the fulfilment of a dream I had many years ago…to write, and to help, even one person.
I have been working on a novel for a number of years, and write for the glory of God and not my own ambition anymore. For when you are known and loved and noticed by your Creator, you don’t strive after recognition or validation by people in the same way anymore. You are freer to live out your dreams for the right reasons. So I will keep writing, and keep praying that I do all that I do because He Is Great and merciful, and the Love of my life, and so Worthy of honour, and glory and praise. I will keep writing and leave the rest with Him, whether or not people see what I create, that is in His Hands….Hands that were pierced for me, that hold me through all of life and eternity, Hands that I can fully put my trust in.
What are your dreams? While you continue to plan for your future goals, is there anything you need to take the time to stop and think about and appreciate today? Max Ehrmann in his beautiful prose-poem, Desiderata, wisely advises to ‘enjoy your achievements as well as your plans’. Sometimes we come to things after a lot of struggle and difficulty ….it is worthwhile taking the time not to compare, but to appreciate and be thankful for the unfolding of our own life story, and what we have managed by grace to achieve. I’d love to hear what dreams you have noticed are coming to pass in your own life. xx