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  • Writer's picturestephanieraffelock

I Am Not A Brand

Has it really been more than a month since I wrote a blog?

An argument is taking place in my head. Words like branding, trending, influencer, and followers appear as unwelcome guests. “No,” I say. I am not a brand. I'm a person. I’m someone who feels stuck right now, and is confronted with why it is I write. In younger days, big acknowledgements and the potential to make money took center stage, but now as I grow older, writing becomes more and more about an homage to love: love of sharing the truths and the depths of my heart and soul.

This blog became part of an unintended collateral damage of the argument in my head. I avoided social media and I kept thinking about a publishing panel that I’d seen at a recent writer’s retreat. The big take away from that panel was that publishers want you to have a following of fifty thousand people per platform in order to be considered for publication.

And what about good writing? I’m always studying, working, trying to be a better writer – what about that? Here’s what I know to be true. We have become a nation of self-promoters, once removed from our hearts in order to achieve mass followers – followers of what? A brand, an image?

When advertising began on Facebook, an explosion consumed the online world. Selling product translated into selling yourself. While social media reaped the rewards of advertising dollars, thousands of local newspapers struggled to stay in business. Local newspapers always gave us a better sense of “real news” back in the day. Facebook on the other hand, provided a megaphone for contrived, conspiratorial and often times just plain untrue news. It also became the ultimate megaphone for selling yourself.

As most of advertising became digitally oriented, so did individuals. Anyone could promote themselves on Facebook or any other platform. The words that come to mind to describe that, are branding, followers, influencer and connector. Unwittingly, while trying to sell ourselves, we created a language of hubris.

We nourish a culture where people are interesting but not interested. My brand. My followers. My #trending now. Somehow I had to make peace with all of this and find some sort of middle ground.

The first thing that I did was to unplug from a couple of sites where my attention was languishing anyway. Deleting those sites was liberating. The second thing I did was to recognize that social media is an overly saturated and extremely noisy platform. Now that I accept that, I intend to use my FB time just to interact with my friends, let them know what I’m up to and let them know that I care. I think I'd rather be known as an up-lifter, someone compassionate, kind and supportive. Wouldn't that be the better influence? In the grand scheme of the things, all the annoying words like brand and trend and follower just don’t mean that much, but connecting with another human being does.

What I’m describing is a shift in perception and a shift in attitude. Sometimes I have to let go of certain ideas or ideals in order to move forward. And sometimes I realize that the “ideal” didn't serve me anyway.

This brings me back to my blog. Sorry blog. It’s not you. It’s me. I had to figure out if we are still meant to be together. Maybe I just needed a break. I write stories and blogs because it helps me make sense of my world. I write because I enjoy the process of organizing my thoughts, and articulating them. I write because I like to reflect upon what’s happening in my head and my heart and I need a way to capture that. And, I write, because it’s a process of discovery. Self-knowledge reveals all things. So I’m back, Blog.

What I care about most in life, what I don’t want to lose track of is this: striving to be a good person, a kind person, and a thinking person. When I’m dying, I doubt that I will whisper to anyone who can hear me, “I wish I would have been a bigger brand.” I’m hoping instead that I will feel at peace that I did my best to be a bigger person.

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