Existentialism After Influencing

Ariel Meadow Stallings
10 min readApr 17

The New York Times wrote another article about me, except it’s about someone else.

Photo of me circa 1998 from a Lotus Magazine article I wrote about the commodification of rave culture.

I got an email this weekend from an old-school blogging buddy in Germany, someone I cofounded a hula-hooping website with twenty years ago. She sent a link to this NYTimes article: Is There Life After Influencing?

As she said:

It made me think of you — 1) because you were the first person I knew who was “performing your life for content” (direct quote from the article), over 20 years ago when influencers were still stardust, and 2) because I know that you recently took a full-time job after many years of “influencing.” I don’t even know if you ever saw yourself as an influencer.

Her observations are legit! As someone who’s made my living creating personal content online for decades, who’s now working a day job for the first time since 2009… am I now experiencing life after influencing?

The answer is an absolute yes — but also not at all.

Let’s start with how I might seem like an influencer. Yes, I’ve been sharing my stories online since 2000. Yes, I’ve written three books, all of which contain at least some memoir. Yes, I supported myself full-time as a digital publisher for 15+ years.

But I’m not really the kind of influencer that this article is about.

  • Starting with the obvious: I’ve never had a ton of Instagram followers or made most of my money via social media. That’s a small but significant difference. I built on my own platforms, not social media platforms. I’m more of a slave to Google than I am to Instagram.
  • Through luck or subconscious smarts, I created an emotionally safer platform for my influencing. Sure, my first book was a memoir/service hybrid about my 2004 wedding, but the website I launched to promote the book was about advice and validation for other people. Quite simply, my revenue wasn’t directly tied to my life.
  • My influencing platform was a cluster of publications mostly dedicated to other people’s writing. I was never a mommy blogger who made thousands of dollars for writing about my kids, or a lifestyle photographer who made money off of pictures of my living room. Sure, I wrote posts for my websites…
Ariel Meadow Stallings

Medium's Director of Publisher Growth. Also an author, publisher, devotional dancer, and a human humanning!