Existentialism After Influencing

Ariel Meadow Stallings
10 min readApr 17, 2023

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…

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Ariel Meadow Stallings

I'm a product manager at Medium, but I'm also a whole-ass person living life: author, publisher, devotional dancer, Seattleite, mom, and just a human humanning.