The other night my oldest son asked me how many Twitter followers I had. “About 9,000,” I replied.
His eyes grew big and he responded with a “Wow! You’re, like, famous!”
I needed to nip this one in the bud.
I turned to him and said, “You get that it’s not real, right? It doesn’t matter. It will never matter how many followers you have on Twitter or Instagram, or the number of friends you have on Facebook. None of that is real. What’s real is not the number of people you are connected with on social media but the people you connect with in real life.”
And because it was being discussed on Facebook and Twitter and was in the back of mind, I added, “Did you know there are people who buy followers on Twitter?”
*Imagine him with a confused look on his face* "Why would they do that?" he asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know the answer to that one, bud. But my best guess is because they want to look like they have more ‘influence’ then they really have so they can work with brands and PR companies.”
His response was simple but astute.
“But isn’t that cheating?”
The conversation kind of petered out after that. He declared he never wanted a Facebook account while I cheered silently. But over the past few days I’ve thought about this whole ‘buying followers’ thing a lot. It’s a difficult thing for me to wrap my ahead around but I think my son nailed it on the head. It’s cheating.
There is so much more I want to say to my son about this and when I do, it will be this.
When you buy Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest followers it says to me that you don’t believe in your own talent. Instead of putting the time and effort into crafting your writing, or photography, or recipes, or whatever it is you do, you would rather take the easy route. You have no faith in yourself or your ability. This holds true for all things in life.
It says that your currency is currency and you will do anything to make that money.
If the only thing motivating you is money, no matter how much you make you will be left with an empty space inside because the old adage is true, money can’t buy happiness (but as you like to point out, it could buy us a cottage and that would make you happy).
There is a great satisfaction in putting in the time and effort to become better at whatever it is you choose to do. Remember that story I told you about the woman who won the Boston Marathon only it was later discovered she won because she had taken the subway for a portion of the race. We laugh about that story because, really? Who does that?
But the thing is, yes, this woman crossed the finish line first but, as someone who has crossed a few finish lines and watched you cross quite a few yourself, I would imagine her win felt quite empty. Not only that, but imagine how fearful she must have felt that she would be discovered. Every single time she talked to someone about winning, in the back of her mind she would always be anticipating getting caught. That’s a hard secret to carry and trust me, life is too short to carry a load like that.
Yes, putting the time and effort in is hard work. It can actually really suck some days. Often times it may even feel like nobody notices your efforts.
There’s a scene in the movie Terry that we both love, and by the way, it’s totally cool that you make fun of how I cry every time I watch. It’s near the beginning of Terry Fox’s journey to run across Canada. When each day is over he would put a marker where he stopped running and that’s where he would being running again the next morning. One night the marker was blown away. After searching and being unable to find the marker, Terry’s friend Doug says (and I’m paraphrasing) “Just start running here, the marker was around this area. It won’t make a difference. Nobody will know.”
And Terry Fox looked at him and said “I’ll know.”
Listen, I’ve done more than a few things that I’m not proud of (and we can talk about that later, skater) and as I get older the more I know life isn’t black and white but many shades of grey. Maybe when people buy followers they feel they are making an investment into their business. Maybe it’s out of desperation. I don’t know. I just know that cheating is wrong.
What I want to leave you with is this. There will always be shortcuts in life. Taking the easy way may sometimes seem like a good thing but in the end hard work and effort will always win out.
Because at the end of the day, even if nobody else knows, you will.