Two years ago I had my first director’s session for a major motion picture being produced by Sony. It was a big deal. I got sent straight to the director for a small part opposite Kevin Hart. I knew one of the producers on the film, so I thought I was a shoe-in, so much so, I called SAG to make sure I knew exactly how much it would cost to join the union and how quickly I would need to get it done before I started filming.
Needless to say, I didn’t get the part. That same night, my producer-friend called to give me the bad news. The reason? “The other girl you were up against had more twitter followers.”
As if the knife couldn’t have gone any deeper into my heart, that reason made me want to simultaneously cry, barf, and kill. That was the day I decided to get in with the cool kids and start a social media following, which is a lot harder than it sounds.
My twitter never really took off, mainly because I didn’t really like using it, so I didn’t “tweet” enough. Although, one time I did get drunk and live tweet while I was watching “You’ve Got Mail” for the first time in 10+ years, and that was pretty funny. But, right around the time I was being told to tweet more by my managers, Instagram was becoming a thing, a really big thing. I had an Instagram and thoroughly enjoyed torturing my then-boyfriend with cheesy couple’s photos, but I had under 100 followers and no one really “liked” my photos because, well, I was either kissing my dog or my boyfriend in all of them and that’s like, “cool story, bro”.
Actually, my social media game didn’t get much stronger until mid/late last year. I started posting old modeling photos on my Instagram and realized that they were getting a lot of attention and frankly, that felt good. So I started posting more. Every time I posted one, I cringed a little. I felt pretty vain, spending 10 minutes deciding between the “Mayfair” or “Sierra” filter and another 15 minutes trying to come up with a cool girl, but not-full-of-myself caption. Once I learned the power of a few hashtags, I tacked on another 5 minutes, making sure I didn’t miss an #actorslife or a #model.
Fast forward to today. I’ve spent upwards of an hour perfecting an Instagram post. I’ve come up with a filter theme and color scheme, I’ve google searched endlessly for the perfect book or inspirational quote. I’ve actually done photoshoots JUST so I have more photos to post. Not kidding. I did one two days ago. With a photographer I met on Instagram. I went to his apartment, without ever meeting him beforehand and let him photograph me wearing- well, if you’ve seen my posts recently, you know what I was wearing, or wasn’t wearing for that matter. CAN YOU SAY STRANGER DANGER?!!? The entire way over there I was thinking “you’re an idiot and this is definitely how you’re going to get murdered one day”.
Not only is what I’ve been doing really dumb and pretty risky, but I also HATE doing it. I hate photoshoots! I’ve never liked them! I don’t even like getting my headshots done! When I was modeling professionally and getting paid to be on a set, I still hated every minute of it, but at least I was getting a paycheck out of it. What am I getting out of this? A couple hundred “likes”, a few new followers, and a plethora of DM’s from men in India saying they want to “meet” me if they ever come to the states.
So why am I/was I doing it? I justified it with a lot of reasons, that were/are legitimate. Casting directors look at this stuff when deciding to call you in for a part. Studios look at it when deciding whether or not to give you a part. My blog got a lot more attention when I linked it to my Instagram. It felt good to get 300 likes on a selfie. Ultimately, that last reason is what kept up my charade.
I know everyone talks about this now, the social media addiction and what it does to our psyche. Let me tell you firsthand, all those articles and doctors and studies are right. Social media has been feeding into my daily demons. “You aren’t good enough”. “No one likes you”. “You’ll never be what you want to be”. I post a picture highlighting my “assets” and immediately those demons are quieted by the hearts and (occasionally creepy) comments.
So, I’m aware of all of this. I have been for a while now, but that didn’t stop me from my prompt 9am #undies posts.
What did? Realizing how I was presenting myself to this world of unknown @’s and hearts.
I just scrolled through some of these images and for the first time, I looked at them as if I didn’t know me. What would I think if I stumbled upon @ameliabrantley? A few words came to mind.
“Instagram Model”. “Desperate”. “Broken”. “Lonely”. “Put some pants on”.
Less than a year ago I was crying/laughing at girls like me on Instagram, partly out of jealousy, but mainly out of disgust.
In short, my Instagram grossed me out. And I know I’m not alone. My friends, the people who know me and care about me have made comments on my social media developments. Just last night, my two best girlfriends (who also happen to be two of the smartest women I know) “jokingly” made a comment about how I would never have to send them a naked selfie, because they can just look at my Instagram. My sister (another smartypants) rolls her eyes every time I ask “should I post this?”. And another of my friends commented a few weeks ago that it was getting borderline pornographic (although I still think that’s a tad extreme).
And then tonight…. I was texting one of my closest guy friends, someone who, I know, loves and respects me, and someone who also likes and comments on my risqué photos. He said something along the lines of “I love you, but you’re a slut”.
That hit me like a ton of bricks. Not because of the term he used, even though that was super harsh, but because I TOTALLY understood what he meant.
I’ve gotten kinda “slutty”. (For the record: I HATE that word, and all of its synonyms, and I wish I could think of something more PC right now, but it’s late and I’m on a rant).
I should clarify. Me, Amelia, the person, is not “slutty”. My sexual habits haven’t changed. My skirts haven’t gotten shorter. My cleavage hasn’t gotten bigger, and any other cliche you want to throw onto that terrible choice of words. But, my persona, the character I am presenting to the world as a way to market myself and further my career… she’s a little slutty.
And that’s not how I want to be seen. It’s false advertising. For example…
I recently met a guy on Instagram (when you’re posting daily pics of you in your undies, meeting dudes that way is so much easier than swiping right). I’m not going to get into the gritty details because well, this year I’m keeping a diary so I don’t need to burden you readers with all of that, but I’m 90% sure this guy thinks that I’m the “one-night-stand, it’s okay, you don’t have to call me” girl. I’m not saying there is ANYTHING wrong with being that girl, to each her own, but that is SO not who I am! I feel bad because in a way, it’s like I lied to the dude.
And now for the real kicker.
Want to know how I went from 500 followers to 3400 in less than three months? I’ve been paying an Instagram “marketing” team $80 a month to push my Instagram. Basically, a group of robots with my password log into my Instagram and search for other people’s photos using the hashtags I use the most (#actor, #actorslife, #model, #modellife, #photoshoot). They like and make generic comments (Awesome. Great gallery. Cool pic.) on these other photos and thanks to social media etiquette, most of those people comment or like one of my photos in return, and, if the majority of your photos feature you in black underwear and knee highs, chances are a lot of those people are going to follow you.
Yeah. I know. Ridiculous.
As I post this, I’m deleting any photos from my Instagram that I feel do not accurately represent me and/or photos I would never want my Mom to see (she doesn’t have Instagram and has no interest in it so she hasn’t see what I’ve been up to). No more lingerie. No more #modellife. If posing for thousands of strangers in my underwear is what it takes to book a job, that’s not the job I want. If a director wants to turn me down for my lack of a following, let him/her. I just don’t want to play this game anymore.
From here on out, I vow to use social media for myself, to share my semi-daily, semi-exciting adventures. Sure, there will probably be an #actorslife or #photoshoot or even a #selfie in there every now and then, but only when it seems appropriate, and never again to build my self-esteem or get to 10k followers.
With a little help from my friends, I slapped myself with a dose of reality tonight. I don’t need social media to validate who I am. I am a 28 year-old, struggling actress, who on most days, is fully clothed and pretty boring, and I really “like” her.