Why I Stopped Being an Influencer

At some point during the Safe Journey Retreat, I jokingly referred to myself as a retired influencer. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, they became real, and the more I said them, the more right it felt.

I have been thinking about whether continuing to blog, create digital content, and work with brands was right for me since 2021, but it took over a year to finally come to terms with the end of what has been a large piece of my life for the past decade. Here are four reasons why I stopped being an influencer after 12.5 years and building a six-figure brand.

I Could No Longer Balance All The Aspects of My Life

October 2021, just a few months into a season of juggling 3 jobs (the postdoc, Cohort Sistas, and blogging) and alternating between solo and long-distance parenting, was one of the hardest months of my life. I had two conversations that began to shift my mindset. One was with my therapist, who asked me what I could remove from my plate if I absolutely had to. I obviously couldn’t stop being a parent, I loved Cohort Sistas work even if it kept me up until 2 in the morning, and I had just moved halfway across the world to explore teaching as a career so it felt silly to give that up. I didn’t verbalize that I could theoretically give up blogging then, but it planted a seed that it was the one negotiable element of my work that was on my plate.

A second conversation was with another therapist, but this time during an interview for the Cohort Sistas Podcast. When discussing how she approached her post-doctoral career options, Dr. Adia Gooden said something to the effect of, “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do something.” That sentence made me reckon with all the things I was doing professionally and seriously think through what I should be doing vs. what I was doing just because I was able to.

Aside from the fact that something had to give, there were a few elements about influencing itself, and particular, the level of social media and phone usage that was necessary to maintain that career, that also pushed me away from what has long been my favorite creative outlet.

Influencing Was Bad for my Mental Health

There’s no shortage of talk about how toxic social media comparison can be for your mental health. But when a significant portion of your income is literally connected to your digital following and likes, comparison was inevitable as an influencer, and there were moments when it completely consumed me. There are only a handful of Black women lifestyle bloggers, so when a company reached out to me during the scoping phase of a campaign, I sent back my rates, and they decided not to work with me, I always knew it was because they chose to work with another Black blogger. Lo and behold, 6 weeks later, when I saw that post come through on my feed, the hurt and disappointment of being passed over would be felt again.

Another challenge to my mental health was the fact that a significant chunk of my household income was dependent on an ever-changing and unstable industry. Imagine you are a graphic designer, you’ve been doing it for years, and you have a good sense of how many clients you need to secure to reach a certain revenue. But imagine that every 3 months, the graphic design software that you use completely changes — so much so that you have to learn it from scratch. Your clients don’t care that things have changed, they still want their projects completed in the same timeline and with the same results. Isn’t that stressful?? That’s essentially how platforms, Instagram in particular, operated — as soon as a new feature was released, you had to pivot your entire content strategy if you wanted to maintain your engagement. I kind of got by without ever adopting Stories as part of my content strategy, but the push to Reels was completely frustrating for me as someone who was already pressed for time and had already spent so many years creating long-form video content on YouTube.

Social Media Was Bad for my Relationship with God & My Family

Aside from my mental health, social media influencing started to impact my spiritual life. Again, when your economic value is directly tied to post and campaign engagement, it’s difficult not to solely focus on those metrics. Alongside comparing myself to others, I reached a point where I began to idolize likes and follower count, and in general found myself putting my worth in social media rather than in Christ. Not good at all.

The amount of time needed to sustain a robust influencing career also took time away from my family, which is of utmost importance to me. Even with a manager or a three-person team, there’s still a lot of time spent on the phone or computer, and I didn’t want to model that kind of digital attachment as my son grew older. In the weeks when I was solo parenting, I could not be as attentive as I wanted to my son at times because I was distracted by a caption or concept that was due or scheduling a last-minute photoshoot. When we were all together, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my family, so it was especially painful when I had to work through bathtime, a bedtime story reading, or a movie I’d promised to watch, knowing that our time together was limited anyway.

There was also the increasing awareness or concern that what I posted no longer just affected me, but it also affected Jonathan (who as a grown man could fend for himself), as well as our son (who as a baby/toddler that didn’t choose to have a mom with a public digital presence, could not).

Brand Partnerships No Longer Sit Well with My Spirit

The pandemic also shifted something for me in terms of how I viewed brand partnerships and marketing. During the early months of COVID, in an era of the most economic and physical uncertainty that arguably any millennial has faced, it felt incredibly strange to promote brands. I began to feel icky about the notion of encouraging consumerism during a global health crisis and recession — people’s family members were dying and they’d been furloughed or laid off from work, but hey, you should totally buy this life-changing laundry detergent! I turned down SO much work during this time, which helped with scaling back on the time demands of influencing, but I still often questioned why exactly I was asking folks to spend money on a product or service that I had not spent money on, especially when money was so tight for many people.

Again, because of the way the industry works, and the reliance on engagement as a metric, different industry antics & hacks that other influencers adopted were so disingenuous, I started to become embarrassed by being in the game. While buying likes and comment pods were always engagement strategies, I saw folks do things like comment dozens of times under their own images or create secondary accounts to boost their engagement, especially for campaigns. Combined with an inability and disinterest in pumping out multiple reels a week copying the same trends and audio as everyone else, it started to feel like social media influencing was not only a game that I no longer wanted to play, but one that I was unwilling to play under the new rules of engagement. To be clear, I am not suggesting that people were phony online, but I believe the way that the industry works — both in terms of the technology and the clients (aka brands) — encourages, and at times, rewards inauthenticity.

Now that I’ve stopped being an influencer, what’s next?

As you may have noticed, I have not posted on YouTube since December 2021, and I don’t plan to post any more YouTube videos. I deleted my Twitter account in October. My last brand campaign was in November and I’m back to a team of 1 as of this month. I am giving myself the choice to continue creating content if and when I feel like it for Instagram, but honestly, there are at least 4 recorded reels on my phone that I just don’t have the desire to post anymore. I still have folks impersonating me all over (especially on TikTok, which is hilarious as I’ve never posted a video there), but I don’t have the capacity to care (and these platforms do nothing about impersonation so why waste my energy). Will I ever do a campaign again? Who knows. Maybe things will change after baby #2 or when I feel more settled in either my academic or non-profit careers, but for now, I’m back to being a regular person online who checks her social media accounts maybe once a week, takes selfies when she wants a photo, and actually has storage space on her phone.

I still love long-form writing, and I still like digital marketing as a way to spread education and knowledge. Aside from Cohort Sistas and working on my book, I’ve been working on a podcast about racial health equity with a friend and colleague and can see myself using my remaining digital platforms to share that kind of messaging more and more. But you probably won’t see me promoting a hair or beauty product again anytime soon, and to be honest, I love this era for me.

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Comments

  1. I was googling why influencers quit; just to see the other side. The part that no on talks about. All of your reasons are valid. You gave me my answer, thanks!

  2. I’ve been a silent follower of your socials for a while because you are honestly an inspiration. This has spoken to my heart in an indescribable way. The fact that we relate in so many ways only that I’m still on the way. I want to have, my relationship with JESUS CHRIST, family and career packed without losing myself in the process.
    keep going ,you got this
    God bless you

  3. This is a good read..I was wondering what happened to you on YouTube. Happy that you are fine. You are really inspiring.

  4. It is a beautiful thing to let go of something that no longer serves its purpose. I’m rooting for you to win always and I wish you all the best 💖

  5. I love this era for you and absolutely admire your courage to speak on this! We have to give ourselves permission to be critical of systems driven my capitalism, and recognize our implicit or explicit roles in causing them to thrive. I know it must to have been easy to let it all go, but do admire your self-awareness and knowingness that this space was no longer serving you. That’s why you be DR. KOLA!!! ♥️♥️

  6. You are speaking to all the young ladies and mothers who feel like this and fight have to courage to say something. Thank you. I’m happy to know I’m not alone.

  7. I saw you on instragram at first. But where I really followed you was on YouTube. I just felt like you brought in so much joy. I was in nursing school and your decorating was always oh so fun for me. Honey I am now doing that with my apartment you are a phenomenal woman indeed. Beauty,brains,creativity and faithful. People like you inspire me to be better. I wish I had half the energy, but I am glad you are doing whatever works for you.

  8. Hi, I am seeing this same sentiment across many digital creators across the board. I think there is only so much one can handle. I have found myself always wanting a youtube channel. I even started one. but now I see the constant time and constraint it has took me. I see my husband sometimes wish I put that camera away. And then I ask myself is this what I really want? Is it what it is cracked up to be?

    I honestly love making my videos etc. But could I rely on this as my career or is this just a good hobby to have that can branch off into other things? Technology is ever changing and us humans should not try to compete with it tie that in with companies, and capitalism its not pretty. I am a registered nurse and the level of mental,psychical and spiritual exhausting it can have on me with this hospitals treating us like robots its something else.
    Then I turn my eye and see similar sentiments to anyone who works. The question is when will working actually not feel like purgatory or abuse? Can we ask for that balance? Or is that a futile concept?

  9. Wow you’ve given so much insight on what it takes and it makes me sad that social media doesn’t reward authenticity as much as it should. Kudos to you for standing up for your values

  10. Even though I miss you on YT and was hoping that you would be back, I absolutely love this era for you too! I have always felt some level of discomfort with social media, and seeing someone I admire take the leap and cut ties with technology that no longer resonates with their values and goals is really inspiring #focusonyourlifeinreallife ❤️. Also really looking forward to the podcast

  11. This was a great read. I began my blog as a hobby 6 years ago, and as my audience grew I’ve began getting offers and doing a few partnerships here and there.. but this is why I can’t make it my main thing ever. It’s decent side income however I love writing too much to ever want it to feel disingenuous and like a chore if I had to make it my main income source. Writing and content creation are my escapes.

    Continue doing what’s best for you, and best wishes for baby #2 and beyond!

  12. More power to you for taking the step!! All the best in your endeavors. May this new chapter be all that you want it to be.

  13. Indeed, balance and mental health is something to take care of. Please, I hope you won’t delete you blog and YouTube counting, for it to still empower us !

    I ready enjoy reading you since so many years,

    xoxo, Nathalie-Rose from France

  14. Hey Toia, I can relate to so much of what you said. The rat race is real, it’s overwhelming and draining. I’ve been considering working a normal job for awhile now but figuring out how to do it is a challenge for me because I also love creating content.

  15. I really appreciate the honesty and transparency of every word you’ve shared. I can relate so much to what you said about being passed over by brands, comparing yourself to others and being in a game you no longer want to play. A lot of people don’t understand how personal it can all get, especially relying on it as your main source of income. The way I look at social media is so different now, after having my daughter last year. I’m still in the game, but know there is an end in sight. Thank you for this. You’ve verbalised a lot of what I’ve been feeling in my spirit.

  16. I have spent so many years working on the other side; as the brand; and I have never looked at the brand-influencer relationship from this perspective. This was very eye-opening. Thank you.

  17. Thank you so much Ijeoma for this ! It’s a WHOLE answer to a prayer I made three days ago. I want to quit Instagram since 2022 but never had the courage to actually do it. Then I asked God three days ago to give me a sign. I opened my IG app this morning and BAM, the first thing I see is you promoting this blog post. What a blessing ! This is exactly how I feel and it is encouraging to know that I am not alone and it’s okay to take a break. Thank you again ❤️

  18. This is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.
    I was, at one time, an entrepreneur whose business depended solely on social media platforms. I was good myself but I saw myself struggle with these comparison you talked about.
    Then instagram took down my business, personal and backup pages in less than 2 months and it really took a toll on my mental health. I mean, who wouldn’t feel robbed? But I kept on pushing anyway.

    Late last year, I relocated from Nigeria and couldn’t keep up anymore. I had people message me severally asking why I was no more active. I began to beat myself up again.

    But reading from you made me understand that things are in phases. And we should pass through each phase with grace. Just like you, I’ve adviced myself to take a break from content creation and face this phase of myself.
    If the phase of social media sweeps through again, I might dive in, or just test the waters or do nothing at all.

    And after reading from you now, I breathed out and resolved that I took a good decision.
    Thank you for writing this.
    If you could take time to write blogs like this, once in a while, I will appreciate.
    Because truly, some people (like me) are hungry for the wisdom of great women(like you) who are sailing before us.

    Be good IJ.
    Till I read from you again❤️

  19. This is a very bold move, baring your thoughts explicitly on each reason. I can not relate to any of these as I’m not an influencer and but reading this just makes me imagine what it’s like. I am happy for you and I pray you find fulfillment in this new path.

  20. I read everything but never post comments but today I had to. What incredible self-awareness and wisdom you have. You are amazing, sis.

  21. Love this for you and your family! Congratulations on following your own path—I’ve always (and still am) been a fan of your content and your outlook on the world. Thank you for making your corner of the internet, I pray for peace in your new beginnings 🙌🏾✨🙏🏾

  22. I love how vulnerable you were in this post as it was very well written and plainly laid out. This is sooo relatable. I wish you well in your future endeavors.

  23. You spelled out my every thought and breakdown I had just last year in starting a podcast. It’s my message and my continued education as a third year doctoral student in leadership studies that is my purpose work. The requirements of spreading the message through the social media platform is one that just is not in alignment with my soul and so I had to come to the very same crossroad as you. This post is so beautifully written and explained. Cheers to your next chapter!

  24. Well written ma’am 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽!!! I’m a 41 year old mother & wife and I’m very proud of your decision. I always knew you were authentic and a true Christian. This is why you were one of the 1st YouTube content creators I ever followed. Be BLESSED girl and enjoy every moment of motherhood & marriage. I did and now that we have 3 children in college and 2 in high school…I’m so Thankful that I did. Everything goes by so fast!!! Peace & Blessings!!!

  25. This is a much-anticipated update, I’m so happy to hear from you on the IK blog again. You have been a huge inspiration to me for years so honestly I am just happy to follow along wherever your journey takes you. I hope we will get more blog posts and emails because I love your authenticity and advice.

  26. I love it for you too! Thanks for sharing and here’s to making the choices that facilitate the kind of life we want to live.

  27. Wow Ijeoma, the transparency! I noticed the shift and applaud your being honest with yourself. It can be hard when this is the thing everyone knows you for and expects you to be doing!

    This has been a lingering thought for me for maybe the past year but especially since around Sept 2022. My husband thought it may be a good idea to hang up my influencer hat for many of the same reasons you mentioned, knowing how hard it would be for me because I genuinely love creating content.

    However, the “rat race” of it all can be physically & mentally draining. And if a level of balance isn’t maintained, family & any relationship with God can suffer. I had to really come to terms with that. Currently looking for a “regular” job but still taking on some UGC work til something comes thru. I applaud you for sharing this and I know you’ll succeed with whatever path you take. All the best to you girl!

  28. I have been a great fan of your content for years, both here and on your socials. I recall your relocation to Kenya video and I was like , ‘how does she do it?’

    One thing you did through it all is, you made it seem effortless. And while we never knew the price you paid in the background just to keep us served next level content every freaking time, I love this chapter for you and may it be the best one yet🥂❤️

  29. Thanks so much for sharing Ijeoma, and well done on coming to this conclusion that works for you. A lot of times there’s a message to keep going and going forever, even when it’s clear that the season is over. We’ve all enjoyed your content over the many years and are grateful for all you shared with us.

    On to new things!

  30. I absolutely love this for you. Some of your reasons are why I haven’t been consistent on instagram and socials in general. These platforms reward inauthenticity and are simply too fast.

    I wish you success in all of your future endeavours.

  31. You know what’s best for you and your family, and your true fans will always be respectful of your decision. We wish you the best!!!

  32. Thanks Ijeoma! I was wondering why you took a hiatus from social media. I do understand because your mental health is important to you and your family. Honestly, I don’t be on social media that much myself. I only came to watch,like and comment on a few influencers pages. I can see the dishonesty and I get tired of seeing people do the same thing with the same music all for a mighty dollar. Everybody be doing the same exact thing. I’m pretty sure that you weren’t getting paid as much as your European counterparts.