Over the years, I’ve contributed to and spent countless hours on a few websites: Pinterest, Quora and Twitter. Some would call them platforms and others would call them communities. Regardless of what you call them, there is definitely a contingency out there who would call it a waste of time — including friends and family. A swath of other individuals have also done the same — that is, spent countless hours on the social media websites, but for them, it makes a ton of sense to “invest” that time on these sites. They’ve benefited by becoming “rock stars” in their own industries or have newfound success by simply growing a popularity on those sites that feed the masses.
Some of the new digital communities include: the obvious (Medium), Reddit, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Quora, and one I’ve seen grow tremendously in recent years: TikTok.
You may have heard of some of the social rock stars (or you may have not), but let’s list a few to give you an idea of how people who became somebody even though they may have started as a “nobody” — at least online. Then again, some of them might argue they’re still nobody.
On Medium, you have Dave Pell who writes quick and entertaining looks at the day’s most fascinating news with 142k followers, Quincy Larson who teaches at FreeCodeCamp (158k followers) or Chris Dixon who I’ve never heard about until I started researching popular folks on this “Medium.” Btw, he has 149k in followers. Supposedly over 200 million visits+ are tracked on the “publishing platform.”**
The very popular forum Reddit has a sketch artist in Boulder by the name of AWildSketchAppeared & has over 2.5 million Karma points (Reddit’s metric for popularity), an almost anonymous at first glance user with the handle _vargas_. His Karma points total 2.7 million+ where it appears it’s not easy getting more than a mill. So, the next user, GallowBoob, who’s obtained 29 million+ Karma points must be a HUGE celebrity on Reddit or can wield these credits as if they’re Bitcoin — at least on the site which has over 1.5 billion regular visits/month.
On Google’s (or should I say ABC’s) video platform, we’ve seen a plethora of people who were almost unknown to becoming the largest sensation in the world (or at least making a handsome income based off of their popular videos). You have Psy, an older Korean Kpop musician who most likely would never be able to compete with his boy and girl band peers who are 1/2 his age without the viral proliferation of this “Gangnam Style” video. Today it sits at over 3.3 BILLion views and is the 6th most watched video on the popular online destination. You have PewDiePie, the 2nd most popular channel on the site who’s a Swedish YouTuber, comedian and gamer–commentator. And then there’s Gulshan Kumar who’s made a Hindi music channel the most popular on YouTube which ranks potentially as high as the #2 website in the world and definitely the #1 video site overall with 25+ billion views a month.
Twitter is known for late night controversial tweets by today’s supposed “leader of the free world.” Pew Research Center also just released their study on how people use the platform, but the site has helped launch new lives that have been very beneficial to their careers ir income like Heather Armstrong, who’s used it to talk about her “life as a single woman in LA. After being fired from her full time job because she wrote about it on dooce.com. Veronica Belmont is an “expert in social media and an avid video gamer who hosts tech centric videos out of San Francisco.” Armstrong has a following of 1.3 million strong and Belmont has 1.62 million. Justin Halpern who’s now become my newest hero given he’s done what I should of done with my dad. He’s “a 29-year-old who lives with his 74-year-old retired dad. Halpern started his Twitter page dedicated to ridiculous things his father said throughout the day.” His account has over 2.5 million followers.
Home of youngest female billionaire Kylie Jenner, Instagram boasts the ability to turn some into Internet celebrities via selfies+. While celebrities dominate the photo sharing community, you have IG turning people into Internet celebrities like The Fat Jewish. Josh Ostrovsky copied, created & leveraged entertaining memes and other images into 10.4 million followers. The Facebook owned social media community has also allowed non-American celebrities beat the traditional American counterparts and rise into the top echelons. Eliana Michaelichin Bezerra may be popular in Brasil, but on Instagram, she competes with the top 100 in the world. Jenner could also be argued as someone who was already a celebrity, but converting that popularity into a billion dollars isn’t necessarily easy. Instagram could be credited in speeding up that path. Perhaps the 3+ billion regular visits/month helps?
I used to very much question my Pinterest on the site that allows us to keep a collection of photos unlike IG or other former photo sharing sites. However, never has a site allowed people to easily curate ideas and favorites — in my opinion. I’m a tiny fish on the site, but get the following:
And these are the categories I affect:
If 300 people engage a month with my pins, I wonder how many are engaging in Christine Martinez Loya’s, Rachel Turnbull’s and Neille Hepworth’s who have 5 million, 4.6 million and 4 million followers with focuses on inspirational quotes, books and architecture?
Quora is honestly my favorite site out of these all. It’s the inspiration behind why I shared today’s post on Medium. During my 8+ years on the site, I’ve slowly grown my followers to 820. Eclipsing me by hundreds of thousands are self described amateur writer Dushka Zapata, Retired Structural Engineer & language and internet/social media enthusiast Gopalkrishna Vishwanath (say his name 10X’s fast!) and “Son of Quora” Sean Kernan. The site doesn’t have followings in the millions yet since it requires a bit of time reading through all the posts the writers share, but Zapata has 193k in followers, Vishwanath has attracted 170k & Kernan has 195k whereas the most followed writer has over 500k. All three are probably the most humble out of all the “internet celebrities” in the aforementioned minus maybe the Reddit users with HUGE karma. Nevertheless, these folks have leveraged their popularity into exposure on larger publications like Huffington Post, Time and Inc.
Lastly, but definitely not least is a recent phenomena that has taken off eclipsing SnapChat & filling a need that was fulfilled earlier by the now defunct Vine network (shutdown by Twitter) & even threatening Instagram: TikTok. While I barely know much about it, you have teens on the app/site that have larger followings than supposedly some of the largest celebrities in the world. German twins Lisa and Lena have 32 million followers. Kristen Hancher has 22 million followers and I really don’t know why. Sane thing applies to Gil Croes. I don’t knows by Gil Croes has almost 18 million followers. The commonality between these 3? They’re all young, attractive and … they’re young and attractive. I guess they must be entertaining as well to the millions of followers.
However, for the many who don’t reach this level of elite status, we/you may be questioning why we or you are doing this?
I even question sometimes how someone can spend so much time on these digital endeavors. Last night, I was reminded of one of the biggest reasons why I do. I was tagged by a young student who I had no idea was reading my writings. She wrote an answer to the question: Who is someone you would like to be friends with on Quora?
She spoke of things I would rarely hear about because of what many are too busy to say:
“Brandon Na writes in a way I admire so much. His writing style- honest, witty, free, true- struck me in the feels and inspired me to start writing, and I am eternally grateful for that. He has had such a life, and I would give anything to just sit down with him and talk with him and thank him for getting me to stay on Quora.”
From what I read on her profile, she’s struggled a bit from what I would hypothesize are things that sometimes I wish our world would stop making our youth stress about. Fortunately, she’s overcome many of these challenges and from what she wrote, I guess I may have had a tiny bit to do with it.
Over the years, I’ve also struggled more than she may realize. I’ve neglected to write about my years of depression or whatever you call checking out from society and also watching my dad struggle with even a larger version of what I am pained with for many years. My mom has also suffered probably in innumerable other ways as the rock of our family, but rarely speaks of her own heartache. And who knows how this may be affecting my sons as I still try to find ways to combat these negative thoughts heading into my 50s.
But if I have made even the slightest difference in one’s life and their struggles, all that time was truly worth it. And when you question whether all your “wasted” time is worth spending it on these sites or anything in your life, don’t forget there may be someone or many someones out there quietly digesting your contributions. And while they may not always remind you of how valuable you are to them, I’m thinking for many of you, you are making a much bigger impact than you realize.
So keep writing. Keep reading. Keep commenting and posting. Continue to upload videos or small snippets of your lives. Share away! It is definitely affecting folks out there.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually not a waste.
**Estimated visits per site comes from our friends at SimilarWeb.