I was working in one of my favourite cafes in Tel Aviv when a man sitting next to my desk started talking: “Look around. This place is full of people on their computers. It seems like Israel has really advanced itself in the location independence scene.”
“Yeah, I noticed that too. Everyone seems to be doing different things here. Almost nobody is in the office. Welcome to the 21st century, I guess?” I replied.
“True. In a month that I was here, I met a dance therapist, a guy who grows hair and sells it to Chinese factories, a dog whisperer, a party starter, and many other radical jobs. The occupations here are something I’ve never heard before. People are really doing what they love here.” he said.
There was a short pause and I knew he would ask what he asked: “How about you? What do you do?”
“Hmmmm. I’m an online influencer.” I responded with a wink.
It always takes me a lot of time to explain what I do. Believe it or not, even though Israel has one of the most advanced technologies in the world, to earn a living from social media and blogging is very unimaginable for Israelis.
Who the feck would pay you money to post on Instagram? That’s how their faces look like as this is also a country who is very careful in delegating their finances. In financial reports (and in everyday activities), they will count even a single cent. I have never been in any business meetings/transactions where the issue about money has not been raised. “How much will we spend in that project” and “how much will we get in return” have been an element of every agenda.
It took hours for me to explain what I do. Along the conversation, I realised something that was really important to me. I found out the reason why I was really blogging — to be the change I want to see in the world.
I am not writing this today to boast that this blog is being followed by thousands of people from all parts of the globe. Today, I am going to write about an interesting part of learning that social media ‘influence-ing’ taught me.
Her story changed my life
Early 2013, I was walking in the souks of Marrakesh (Morocco) when a photograph by Time magazine caught my attention: a 15-year old girl was shot in the head in her school bus. She was a student who demanded to be given the right to education. 15 years old. Shot by a man. A child. Versus a man. For me, it seemed impossible. Why would you shoot a child who wants to go to school? The face of the girl who survived resonates so much power and made me realise the reality of young girls in Pakistan. She entered me.
The world plunged into darkness. For the first time, men and women in the world woke up to the horrific truth about the real situation of girls and women. Celebrities suddenly became involved in fighting for women’s rights. Many women activists regained the energy as more extraordinary allies joined their legion. It was a sensational outbreak: even the most unopinionated girl I know said something.
I read about Malala Yousafzai a lot and it led me to chains of articles that made me read and read and read for one straight week. I didn’t do anything but read. It was a big transition in my life:
I finally discovered something I have strong feelings for.
I started researching for women-led organisations in Africa. It was the best time to start to do something. I contacted Girl Rising and after a year of utmost service to girls and women, I got the Ambassadorship.
From then on, with the Ambassadorship or not, I vowed to myself: I will be involved more than ever in women. Not just to fight for their rights but to discover and meet a lot of amazing women who are doing a difference. They became my inspirational energy tank. Through my travels, I have attracted strong and smart women who always came my way because of the positive feministic energy I radiated.
Shying away from traditional travel blogging
In order for you to succeed in the travel blogging terrain, you have to be doing something different. When I started this blog, there are many other successful travel blogs out there (that I have nothing but respect for). Like many others, I also tried writing tips and guides until I became so dry. I wasn’t good at it. I didn’t have the talent to tell people where to go and what to do. I completely sucked at it.
“Mom, what am I good at?”
“You are good at telling stories. You are good at making people read and listen.”
My mother who is a very impressive writer always believed that I am her contribution to humanity. The person I am now is because of her. As young as 7, she always told me that I am a superstar and I am born to do a difference. To change that world. That affirmation from my mother grew and grew until my discovery of Malala.
I stopped writing the guides. My travel blogger friends who are good at what they do can take over that department. I accepted that I am not a prolific guides writer and diverted my energies into other channels: I will tell a story.
From doing so, I found my blog rapidly growing into something that I did not expect. I didn’t ask for people to read my stuff. My mother told me to be honest and to write in what I believe in — that’s how I transformed the blog. I wrote mostly about my experiences, the people who touched my lives, the languages I was able to speak fluently, the hardships of growing up, hoping that these stories will make people see what I see. And they did.
And they did. The effortless strategy was successful. In two years, this blog is not the most viewed, but the most read as it curated stories not in the form of imagery, but writing.
The word ‘online influencer’ is always synonymous to fame
I grew up in a middle class family and was given everything I wanted. I had access to education and I was never without clean drinking water, food and shelter. I was never abused as a child. I did not have bad experiences during my formative years. My childhood was very colourful indeed.
But what made me go into the interesting part of journeying to women and girls rights is learning about EMPOWERMENT. It’s not about having victim stories. Empowerment is being able to find the right channel to influence and give ourselves independent will. Empowerment is not sad. It’s a happy feeling. It’s not about challenging other people’s truths but it’s about sharing your own truth. Empowerment is about speaking up. And believe me when I say, there are no right or wrong thoughts when doing so. There is no need to ask for approval from other people.
In this age of virtual reality, I am pretty amused we still struggle in finding avenues where our voices willbe heard. For me, it is my blog but what I want other people to realise, men and women alike is that, when you stand up for something, you are not representing yourself. YOU ARE REPRESENTING A COMMUNITY, A UNIT, A GROUP OF PEOPLE. So speak up. It is also that speaking up is synonymous to fame — people who are famous have more entitlement but that shouldn’t be the case. Wherever you are from in the world, whatever you do in life, you are entitled to your own voice.
After the chaotic presidential elections all over the world (Maduro, Nieto, Duterte, Trump), I came across a lot of social media posts complaining, ranting, cursing, getting angry, confused, etc. There is nothing wrong with that as there are no right or wrong opinions. The thing that made me happiest is that people were speaking up. Suddenly, the world found a subject they have strong feelings for.
Every one of us is a social media influencer
Remember that silence is as bad as approval.
Why is the word ‘online influencer’ always synonymous to fame? Why are the metrics based on social media following, likes and comments? Why in the world would you think that ‘online influencers’ are those with breathtaking drone shots on Instagram, traveling whenever they want or wearing the best fashion brands?
We all have Facebook accounts, right? I’m also sure we all have hundreds of friends in our individual accounts. Why do we have to have branding (blogs) in order to be gifted with the voice?
What if we think this way: we are all social media influencers and all our friends on Facebook are the people we influence?
Most of us blame society for denying us with rights but the truth is we deny ourselves those rights. You don’t need a title. And silence is as bad as approval. Try finding the right channel in speaking up and use it right. You will see how many lives you will change and how much people will be inspired by your own truth.
How do you use your social media and online platforms to influence other people? What does online influence-ing mean to you? Would love to hear your thoughts! Say something in the comment box below!