DISCLAIMER: This article is a completely honest review of my past activities on social media. I am not criticising anyone other than myself. Anything I have stated that has not worked or been good for me in this article may have different results for other influencers. I know many wonderful influencers with fantastic intentions who are doing a great deal of good, and I also know influencers who fell into the same trap as I did. No influencers other than myself will be named in this article.
2020 has become the Voldemort of the 21st century - the year that shall not be named.
The COVID pandemic brought many changes, such as a new norm for home working and temporary furlough.
For some, furlough wasn't a thing, but for others, furlough was anywhere from 3 weeks to 18 months with furloughed employees in the UK receiving 80%-100% of their wages for not being at work.
Many furloughed people took advantage of this period to develop a side hustle and pursue their passion, while others took furlough as an opportunity to upskill and potentially one-up their careers, with a large number of them making a career transition into tech.
The rise of my Twitter status
In March 2020, when most of the world was told to work from home where possible, I had just hit my 18-month milestone as a professional developer and the company I was working for had just put me on furlough - at the time, we had no idea how long for, but I ended up spending 5 months on permanent furlough, then a further 2 months on temporary furlough. I didn't have to commute to work, and I wasn't allowed out - this gave me a great opportunity to level up my career since I now had so much more time on my hands.
In April 2020, I created a Twitter account under the handle @jackdomleo7. This was the beginning of my very own tech Twitter account. My original intention was to share any projects I'd been working on, what I'd learned, follow a few people who I might learn something from, etc. I never intended to get 22,000 followers within 7 months, I wasn't even expecting 100 in my lifetime.
Very quickly I started to receive recognition on Twitter and within 3 weeks I had grown to 100 followers. I was a God. As I tweeted more, my follower count increased exponentially. I was tweeting about HTML, CSS, JS, web accessibility, and tech career advice. My tweets and I were getting so much recognition that tweeting became an addiction.
My Twitter status was booming. At my peak, I was gaining 1000 followers a week. I started to receive invites to be a speaker at events or to be interviewed. I appeared on Whiskey Wednesday: Episode #9 Accessibility, Francesco Ciulla's Talking With... Jack Domleo, Decoding The Code #11 - What is a11y and why should you care?, Haystack Developer Stories: Meet Jack, Frontend Developer, Author & Speaker and IT Energizer Podcast: Look For Variety In Projects and Why Nothing Is Impossible with Jack Domleo to name a few. I also hosted the GeeksForGeeks Web Blow 2020 virtual event organised by the SRM Institute of Science and Technology.
I was also getting monetary opportunities such as appearances, selling my own ebook, being an affiliate and paid tweets.
My future as a tech influencer was looking promising.
Problems I had as a tech "influencer"
I put quotes around the word "influencer" because it's debatable whether I could have called myself a tech influencer or not. During my peak on social media, the summer of 2020, I was averaging a couple of hundred likes per tweet, nearly 100 comments and just as many retweets. In my mind, an influencer is someone who provides consistent useful or likeable content. I am mindful of the fact that I was very consistent (for 7 months), however, not all of my content was useful or likeable - I was known to spark a debate or two or to post cheap tweets.
My first 100 followers were a huge hit of dopamine. I craved a new follower so much that I churned out content, content that people would like, whether it was useful or not. I took advantage of the fact that most of my followers were new to tech and they were looking for reassurance, beginner's advice and a welcoming voice into the world of tech.
I started caring more about my follower count than I did about my actual technical skills and knowledge. Heck, I even used, "I have 12,000 followers on Twitter", as a reason why I deserved a pay rise from my employer at the time (I do not recommend doing this) - I did get a pay rise, but not for this reason.
As my ego meters were filling up rapidly, I had forgotten my place. At the end of the day, I was 20 years old, with almost 2 years of experience as a developer, spending almost a quarter of that time on furlough not actually being at work gaining experience.
I wasn't really in a position to give out career advice, but I did it anyway. Why? Because my audience liked what I was saying. Sure, my career had been successful so far and I was proud of where I was, but I was advertising this 'one size fits all' mindset to my audience when in reality, that's not how the real world works.
I'm not saying that 20-year-olds or younger cannot give out advice. What I am saying is advice regarding careers coming from a 20-year-old with only 2 years of experience in a profession may not be very credible. I still feel like, however, I offered some good advice regarding HTML & CSS; likewise, I know many young tech influencers who are sharing some great advice about different topics.
I wrote an ebook, "Level-Up Your Career Today: Developer Edition", which in hindsight, I am not proud of because it echoed my 'one size fits all' approach to enhancing your tech career, all based on my very short 2-year career at that point. I read my ebook again before writing this article and lots of the content in that ebook, I feel, is ill-researched. It does contain some generally useful content, but not enough to be considered an ebook. It was very much an ebook of "this is me, I am great, and you can be like me too".
A wise person I know once said to me, "the people you are most likely to help in their careers and those just behind you on the same path". I took this advice and twisted it to fit my own narrative and further enhance my ego - I took complete advantage of this. I was often tweeting meaningless things, mostly for a response. I often jumped on bandwagons and repeated what was trending just so I could get that social media attention. Tweets such as "Junior Developer positions should be junior, not senior", which in essence is a good thing to push for, but when a few hundred of you are tweeting the same thing, it can get repetitive.
I was so naive to what I actually knew (I wasn't the only influencer) that tech Twitter was completely bloated with cheap tweets, some of which I am guilty of. As of today (at the time of writing), I'm much more mature and hopefully less naive, more knowledgeable and skilled in web development than I was in 2020, and I understand that I do not know everything. I've learned, much like most young adults would, that being humble is often a better trait than being popular and the centre of attention (I can also see how that may have sounded like a brag about me being humble 😅).
Twitter was my vice - when I wanted to work on a development project or learn something new, I turned to Twitter as a technique to avoid the task at hand. In the summer of 2020, I can't say I actually learned anything new, except social media growth hacks. Sure, I took to CodePen and created Cooltipz.css and Checka11y.css, but I didn't produce anything that proved I was productive for 5 months on furlough. In my mind, I felt that being on furlough should have been an opportunity for people to be productive, not to be lazy.
I spent almost my entire summer on Twitter, gaining 22,000+ followers.
In my eyes, Twitter was an opportunity to make money... A bigger opportunity to make money than if I were working on my own development projects.
I never made life-changing sums of money from my Twitter status, but I did make enough to keep that ego thriving. Between April 2020 and January 2022, I made just shy of £1,000 via Twitter, which isn't a lot, but it's more than I've made on my side projects. I have made a grand total of £0 on my side projects.
This money came via affiliate links for other influencers' products, paid tweets, appearances and sales of my own ebook.
I was too busy focusing on the short-term money Twitter could bring me, rather than the long-term monetary benefits of upskilling.
The fall of my Twitter status
In the winter of 2020, I was called back to work full time and I moved out of my family home into my own house that I purchased with my partner. Suddenly, my free time drastically decreased. While I was furloughed living at my parent's house, I had stacked up my commitments so much that I had evidently not thought about the consequences when I would eventually go back to work and start socialising again.
There was no way that I could keep up with Twitter, LinkedIn, my blog, a newsletter, attending events and interviews, and many more commitments, as well as working full time and refurbishing my new home. Within a week, I almost went silent and looked as though I had dropped off the face of the Earth.
Sorry if you were expecting an exciting story such as I got cancelled for something, but ultimately, my downfall was caused by me not being prepared.
I tried hard to keep up with some of my commitments, but I just couldn't. I wrote zero articles in 2021 and one article in 2022. I tweeted approximately once a month in 2021 and once every two months in 2022. I also revived my newsletter twice by sending out 2 emails almost 12 months apart that both said, "Return of the Jack" - it's funny how optimistic I was, but you also have to give me credit for trying, it's just a shame I couldn't keep it up.
As I've progressed in my career and been more absent from the hustle and bustle of social media, I've realised that I've quite enjoyed it and I have been able to grow more as a developer without the constant distraction of social media.
So, what now?
I'm going completely off the grid. I just need to call a number and quote, "I need a dust filter for a Hoover Max Extract® 60 Pressure Pro™", and then I'll be hooked up with a new identity and everything. If you understood that reference, you are officially a legend.
My plans for the future are not so different from what I'm doing now but there will be different intent.
Tweet less on Twitter (LinkedIn included). For the past 2 years, I've had this mindset that I have to be tweeting consistently due to the status I built in 2020, and that I must be producing content, but it just wasn't healthy for me. Instead, I'm going to not think about tweeting by default, and only tweet if I have something to share.
Produce less content purely for money. In the past, I have accepted partnerships on cheap paid tweets, rushed an ebook for money and fame, and wrote less than satisfactory articles. I will not be taking on any more paid tweets, however, I do plan to still produce some content, but I'm not trying to meet a quota, again this will be when I have something to produce. I.e. I'm going to keep my blog going, and I'm going to finish an ebook regarding accessibility I have been working on.
Actually finish a project. I have started projects, but never really finished any.
Phase out my Twitter profile "influencer" appearance. While I can't do much about the 20,000+ followers who already follow me (many of which I suspect will be inactive users), I'm going to start phasing my Twitter profile to appear less like an influencer's profile.
Phase out my LinkedIn "influencer" appearance. These days, I tend to find there is more useful content on LinkedIn, but I never get to see it because I'm connected to 10,000+ people (95% of which I don't know or have never interacted with) and my feed is bloated with "I'm looking for a new role", or "I've started a new role" posts.
Unpublish my "Level-Up Your Career Today: Developer Edition" ebook from Gumroad and Amazon.
All in all, I've had an epiphany moment and realised my career& life can go in a better direction without the need to be well-known online. Sure, I'll be preventing myself from certain opportunities, but I feel it's a risk worth taking to live a happier life.
Keep an eye out for an article I will be publishing in 1-2 months' time titled, "You do not need to be an influencer to get a job in tech".