Column: Work smarter, not harder.

Riley Sharp, Buisness/Finance Editor

Instagram. It’s not simply a photo-sharing app, but rather a vessel for dreams, a platform for performance and weapon of justice. It’s a place of comfort for the lonely.

It’s a service for the curious, with constant content streaming through our fingertips, providing constant communication. With 500 million accounts active each day, Instagram has blossomed into a marketplace for businesses, blogs, artistry, music and adventure. It provides us a comfortable space to express our opinions and challenge each other. But much more than that, Instagram is a way to create community.

Like many other universities, John Carroll too utilizes this prominent platform. Administrators use it to promote the John Carroll brand, seeking out prospective students and giving enrolled Blue Streaks a community to join.

Our generation has become obsessed with promoting our own personal brands in the most narcassistic way possible. We huddle over our tiny devices creating content to share that we hope will up our “like” game and boost our self-confidence.

We aren’t just selling ourselves on social media, we are selling our brands, breeding this new competitiveness amongst us all.

Someone is always trying to create the coolest, newest and most rare version of themself on social media. Myself included. It’s intoxicating. We are all really just fighting to make ourselves feel better with who we are, without having to show who we really are. But that’s where things get tricky with social media. It’s often hard to find the truth.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate what is real and what is just an advertisement. Our newsfeeds are flooded with young, attractive men and women promoting brands and lifestyle choices that we are meant to model after. It’s genius when you really think about it. In the past decade, businesses all over the globe have mastered the utilization of social media influencers to sell their products and services.

I could count on one hand the amount of friends I have on Instagram that are NOT promoting for a company or business. You don’t need a huge following to even start influencing for money. Really, you just need to know who to get in contact with and how to create consistent and cohesive content.

Whether it’s local coffee shops trying to expand their customer demographic or larger brands, like Fabletics, using influencers in certain communities – like religion, it’s all about connecting to sell. If you see one of your girlfriends posting photos promoting a decently affordable pair of athletic leggings, your interest peaks and the innate jealously that rises inside of you pushes you toward the desire to represent that brand yourself.

We are a generation of social media dwellers, mimicking pretty girls we see on our newsfeeds, believing that our photo presets and clever captions actually represent our true selves. As harsh as that sounds, it’s the honest truth. Whether or not we act on it, we all fall victim to social media jealousy at some point.

There are people out there with college degrees, sitting on their toilets, creating content for money… and it’s genius. Work smarter, not harder.

Social media audiences love personal stories so much that a lot of us overshare. I know I do. There are some nights where I will scroll through my profile or my Instagram stories and think … do people really need to know what I ate for dinner? Or what my car looked like after I washed and detailed it? Probably not, but some audiences eat that stuff right up. People have their favorite influencers or they follow individuals who appear to live a life they aspire to live. Each time an influencer posts, their following goes into a frenzy, liking and commenting, trying desperately to build a connection with them or get noticed.

Despite the false personas people portray on social media, it’s really not all that bad. In fact, representing a brand or influencing is a great way to take advantage of modern opportunities. I just ask, if you do decide to sell your soul for pyramid schemes on social media … do it with class and be yourself. Trends fade, so build a personal brand that is rooted in goodness, truth and faith. Be genuine and sincere. Include others, especially if you are building community. 

There is nothing more aggravating than seeing a religious community on Instagram that excludes people who don’t look the part or who don’t fit into their model. If you are going to make money from social media, be the best at it. Do it with heart and gusto and be successful. Own it. Show the world your adventures and your hopes and dreams. Explain yourself, tell your story. Like I said, Instagram is a vessel for dreams … let it take you there.

An ode to The Carroll News:

So here I am, a graduating senior. Time really does fly, my friends. If you are not careful, it’ll pass you right by. Writing for this paper has been a rollercoaster of excitement and hard work. This platform has provided me with so much knowledge, experience and crazy stories to carry with me on my future endeavors. I think everyone should write for their highschool or college newspaper at some point.

It humbled the hell out of me … and now it’s time for this journey to come to an end. Though I am beyond excited to graduate and move on to the real world, I am going to miss the 3 a.m. deadline nights, gross and cold pizza washed down with a six-pack I snuck into the newsroom and the scrambling to pull together a column at the last minute. It’s just all  good, honest fun and I couldn’t be more proud of my fellow editors and staff reporters for putting together a remarkable newspaper each week. God bless you all and good luck!