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Jack Domleo
Jack Domleo

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at jackdomleo.dev

Why I quit being a tech "influencer"

DISCLAIMER: This article is a completely honest review of my past activities on social media. I am not criticising anyone other than myself. Anything I have stated that has not worked or been good for me in this article may have different results for other influencers. I know many wonderful influencers with fantastic intentions who are doing a great deal of good, and I also know influencers who fell into the same trap as I did. No influencers other than myself will be named in this article.

2020 has become the Voldemort of the 21st century - the year that shall not be named.

The COVID pandemic brought many changes, such as a new norm for home working and temporary furlough.

For some, furlough wasn't a thing, but for others, furlough was anywhere from 3 weeks to 18 months with furloughed employees in the UK receiving 80%-100% of their wages for not being at work.

Many furloughed people took advantage of this period to develop a side hustle and pursue their passion, while others took furlough as an opportunity to upskill and potentially one-up their careers, with a large number of them making a career transition into tech.

The rise of my Twitter status

In March 2020, when most of the world was told to work from home where possible, I had just hit my 18-month milestone as a professional developer and the company I was working for had just put me on furlough - at the time, we had no idea how long for, but I ended up spending 5 months on permanent furlough, then a further 2 months on temporary furlough. I didn't have to commute to work, and I wasn't allowed out - this gave me a great opportunity to level up my career since I now had so much more time on my hands.

In April 2020, I created a Twitter account under the handle @jackdomleo7. This was the beginning of my very own tech Twitter account. My original intention was to share any projects I'd been working on, what I'd learned, follow a few people who I might learn something from, etc. I never intended to get 22,000 followers within 7 months, I wasn't even expecting 100 in my lifetime.

Very quickly I started to receive recognition on Twitter and within 3 weeks I had grown to 100 followers. I was a God. As I tweeted more, my follower count increased exponentially. I was tweeting about HTML, CSS, JS, web accessibility, and tech career advice. My tweets and I were getting so much recognition that tweeting became an addiction.

My Twitter status was booming. At my peak, I was gaining 1000 followers a week. I started to receive invites to be a speaker at events or to be interviewed. I appeared on Whiskey Wednesday: Episode #9 Accessibility, Francesco Ciulla's Talking With... Jack Domleo, Decoding The Code #11 - What is a11y and why should you care?, Haystack Developer Stories: Meet Jack, Frontend Developer, Author & Speaker and IT Energizer Podcast: Look For Variety In Projects and Why Nothing Is Impossible with Jack Domleo to name a few. I also hosted the GeeksForGeeks Web Blow 2020 virtual event organised by the SRM Institute of Science and Technology.

I was also getting monetary opportunities such as appearances, selling my own ebook, being an affiliate and paid tweets.

My future as a tech influencer was looking promising.

Problems I had as a tech "influencer"

I put quotes around the word "influencer" because it's debatable whether I could have called myself a tech influencer or not. During my peak on social media, the summer of 2020, I was averaging a couple of hundred likes per tweet, nearly 100 comments and just as many retweets. In my mind, an influencer is someone who provides consistent useful or likeable content. I am mindful of the fact that I was very consistent (for 7 months), however, not all of my content was useful or likeable - I was known to spark a debate or two or to post cheap tweets.

Ego

My first 100 followers were a huge hit of dopamine. I craved a new follower so much that I churned out content, content that people would like, whether it was useful or not. I took advantage of the fact that most of my followers were new to tech and they were looking for reassurance, beginner's advice and a welcoming voice into the world of tech.

I started caring more about my follower count than I did about my actual technical skills and knowledge. Heck, I even used, "I have 12,000 followers on Twitter", as a reason why I deserved a pay rise from my employer at the time (I do not recommend doing this) - I did get a pay rise, but not for this reason.

Naive

As my ego meters were filling up rapidly, I had forgotten my place. At the end of the day, I was 20 years old, with almost 2 years of experience as a developer, spending almost a quarter of that time on furlough not actually being at work gaining experience.

I wasn't really in a position to give out career advice, but I did it anyway. Why? Because my audience liked what I was saying. Sure, my career had been successful so far and I was proud of where I was, but I was advertising this 'one size fits all' mindset to my audience when in reality, that's not how the real world works.
I'm not saying that 20-year-olds or younger cannot give out advice. What I am saying is advice regarding careers coming from a 20-year-old with only 2 years of experience in a profession may not be very credible. I still feel like, however, I offered some good advice regarding HTML & CSS; likewise, I know many young tech influencers who are sharing some great advice about different topics.

I wrote an ebook, "Level-Up Your Career Today: Developer Edition", which in hindsight, I am not proud of because it echoed my 'one size fits all' approach to enhancing your tech career, all based on my very short 2-year career at that point. I read my ebook again before writing this article and lots of the content in that ebook, I feel, is ill-researched. It does contain some generally useful content, but not enough to be considered an ebook. It was very much an ebook of "this is me, I am great, and you can be like me too".

A wise person I know once said to me, "the people you are most likely to help in their careers are those just behind you on the same path". I took this advice and twisted it to fit my own narrative and further enhance my ego - I took complete advantage of this. I was often tweeting meaningless things, mostly for a response. I often jumped on bandwagons and repeated what was trending just so I could get that social media attention. Tweets such as "Junior Developer positions should be junior, not senior", which in essence is a good thing to push for, but when a few hundred of you are tweeting the same thing, it can get repetitive.

I was so naive to what I actually knew (I wasn't the only influencer) that tech Twitter was completely bloated with cheap tweets, some of which I am guilty of. As of today (at the time of writing), I'm much more mature and hopefully less naive, more knowledgeable and skilled in web development than I was in 2020, and I understand that I do not know everything. I've learned, much like most young adults would, that being humble is often a better trait than being popular and the centre of attention (I can also see how that may have sounded like a brag about me being humble 😅).

Procrastination

Twitter was my vice - when I wanted to work on a development project or learn something new, I turned to Twitter as a technique to avoid the task at hand. In the summer of 2020, I can't say I actually learned anything new, except social media growth hacks. Sure, I took to CodePen and created Cooltipz.css and Checka11y.css, but I didn't produce anything that proved I was productive for 5 months on furlough. In my mind, I felt that being on furlough should have been an opportunity for people to be productive, not to be lazy.

I did learn a few things though that I must give myself credit for. I taught myself Nuxt.js, a Vue.js static site generator, which helped me get the position I am currently in (at the time of writing). I started learning GSAP, a JavaScript web animation library. And I learned how to properly use GitHub, since I had never really used GitHub in a way to collaborate with others.

I spent almost my entire summer on Twitter, gaining 22,000+ followers.

Money

In my eyes, Twitter was an opportunity to make money... A bigger opportunity to make money than if I were working on my own development projects.

I never made life-changing sums of money from my Twitter status, but I did make enough to keep that ego thriving. Between April 2020 and January 2022, I made just shy of £1,000 via Twitter, which isn't a lot, but it's more than I've made on my side projects. I have made a grand total of £0 on my side projects.

This money came via affiliate links for other influencers' products, paid tweets, appearances and sales of my own ebook.

I was too busy focusing on the short-term money Twitter could bring me, rather than the long-term monetary benefits of upskilling.

The fall of my Twitter status

In the winter of 2020, I was called back to work full time and I moved out of my family home into my own house that I purchased with my partner. Suddenly, my free time drastically decreased. While I was furloughed living at my parent's house, I had stacked up my commitments so much that I had evidently not thought about the consequences when I would eventually go back to work and start socialising again.

There was no way that I could keep up with Twitter, LinkedIn, my blog, a newsletter, attending events and interviews, and many more commitments, as well as working full time and refurbishing my new home. Within a week, I almost went silent and looked as though I had dropped off the face of the Earth.

Sorry if you were expecting an exciting story such as I got cancelled for something, but ultimately, my downfall was caused by me not being prepared.

I tried hard to keep up with some of my commitments, but I just couldn't. I wrote zero articles in 2021 and one article in 2022. I tweeted approximately once a month in 2021 and once every two months in 2022. I also revived my newsletter twice by sending out 2 emails almost 12 months apart that both said, "Return of the Jack" - it's funny how optimistic I was, but you also have to give me credit for trying, it's just a shame I couldn't keep it up.

As I've progressed in my career and been more absent from the hustle and bustle of social media, I've realised that I've quite enjoyed it and I have been able to grow more as a developer without the constant distraction of social media.

So, what now?

I'm going completely off the grid. I just need to call a number and quote, "I need a dust filter for a Hoover Max Extract® 60 Pressure Pro™", and then I'll be hooked up with a new identity and everything. If you understood that reference, you are officially a legend.

My plans for the future are not so different from what I'm doing now but there will be different intent.

  • Tweet less on Twitter (LinkedIn included). For the past 2 years, I've had this mindset that I have to be tweeting consistently due to the status I built in 2020, and that I must be producing content, but it just wasn't healthy for me. Instead, I'm going to not think about tweeting by default, and only tweet if I have something to share.
  • Produce less content purely for money. In the past, I have accepted partnerships on cheap paid tweets, rushed an ebook for money and fame, and wrote less than satisfactory articles. I will not be taking on any more paid tweets, however, I do plan to still produce some content, but I'm not trying to meet a quota, again this will be when I have something to produce. I.e. I'm going to keep my blog going, and I'm going to finish an ebook regarding accessibility I have been working on.
  • Actually finish a project. I have started projects, but never really finished any.
  • Phase out my Twitter profile "influencer" appearance. While I can't do much about the 20,000+ followers who already follow me (many of which I suspect will be inactive users), I'm going to start phasing my Twitter profile to appear less like an influencer's profile.
  • Phase out my LinkedIn "influencer" appearance. These days, I tend to find there is more useful content on LinkedIn, but I never get to see it because I'm connected to 10,000+ people (95% of which I don't know or have never interacted with) and my feed is bloated with "I'm looking for a new role", or "I've started a new role" posts.
  • Unpublish my "Level-Up Your Career Today: Developer Edition" ebook from Gumroad and Amazon.

All in all, I've had an epiphany moment and realised my career & life can go in a better direction without the need to be well-known online. Sure, I'll be preventing myself from certain opportunities, but I feel it's a risk worth taking to live a happier life.

Top comments (10)

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reinhart1010 profile image
Reinhart Previano K. • Edited

Hi, and congrats for jumping out from the tech influencer bandwagon!

As a form of motivation, you might not know that GitHub were actually co-founded by two people who still exist today without a personal blog website, and another two having personal blog sites that are nothing but plain old boring blue links, like Daniel Stenberg, the creator of cURL, and Pieter Levels, in case you know about him.

Those influencers, as I personally called them Recycled Developers, often shared things which are not always technically accurate, especially in the long term. Even in DEV, a blog post named 17 Compelling Reasons To Start Ditching TypeScript Now was suddenly inspired someone else to write 18 Reasons to Use TypeScript Since Yesterday.

It is as if that one technology, language, or framework will always be good enough and they shall defend their opinions at all costs. But the truth is, neither JS or TS are better to learn and use, and a better developer should be able to weight and choose the right parts for their project stack.

And in fact, many of the tech jobs require from you, unless if you're into DevRel (Developer Relations), documentation, or writing tutorials like in MDN and Kodeco (formerly RyanWenderlich.com), is to build and maintain products through well-designed code, not well-designed content.

Now I'm interested to read your ebook before it's gone, but that link redirects to http://localhost:3000/products/level-up-your-career-today-developer-edition/ for some reason. It might be interesting to compare it with my perspective as a developer who have done "classic" web development since 2014, Node.js since 2016, C in 2019, Java and PHP/Laravel in 2020, then Python, Swift, React (including Next and Remix), Go, Vala, and beyond over the last few years. But one thing for sure, everyone can start their dev career without forcing them to use HTML/CSS/JS, or Python, or Swift, or back to the good-old C. Concepts are more important to learn, and let those syntaxes and functions follow.

(>_ ) 💕

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jackdomleo7 profile image
Jack Domleo

Hey, thanks for this! This was really interesting and insightful. I especially loved the "well-designed code, not well-designed content" comment.

I'll get that link resolved shortly (not sure what happened to it) and I'll re-publish my ebook (I'll comment here again when I have done so), but you have been warned already in this article 😉

Thanks for reading and for your comment, it means a lot!

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jackdomleo7 profile image
Jack Domleo

@reinhart1010 I have resolved the link and have re-published the ebook 🙂

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

Now I know why I never got many followers anywhere, or at least I can tell myself that I probably focus too much on quality and innovation to get successful at marketing. And it's good to know that influencing or developer relations can be a full-time job, so we should not expect to become successful influencers if we restrict our social media time to 10% of our working week. We might, but it's not likely anyway.

I remember getting upset about the "consistency" aspect of social media algorithms, shouting "Stop rewarding quantity!" And I remember getting goose bumps when Tantek Çelik made a full house repeat "Stop scrolling facebook!" But I still found myself procrastinating on Twitter, Instagram, and DEV many times, in a more or less productive way.

While I would personally prefer that there was less repetitive and low-quality content on the internet, there is a quote that "90% of everything is crap" and we need to build personal skills and tune search and discovery algorithms to favour outstanding content. Maybe this can't be done without human interaction. Websites like Wikipedia and StackOverflow prove that it is possible to curate and moderate content without totally excluding new contributors, while I experienced both sites to be gatekeeping in an unpleasant way. I hope that the practical DEV will stay a more inclusive and beginner-friendly alternative with posts from beginners for beginners as well as more challenging content for the more advanced ones, who can also apply or accept invitations to become moderators in their fields of expertise.

Thanks for your post and good luck on your way!

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banf profile image
baran

This was a great insight, thanks for sharing Jack.

Not sure if you remember me but I've been around for a while on Tech Twitter and had the pleasure of watching you grow your account from the beginning.

This was a fascinating read, and I can relate to a lot of it, although my tweets never took off as much as yours. 😀

Thanks for sharing again!

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jackdomleo7 profile image
Jack Domleo

Thank you!

Haha you look familiar 😉

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rachelfazio profile image
Rachel Fazio

Great article! Will def stay tuned for the ebook you said you are writing!!

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jackdomleo7 profile image
Jack Domleo

Thank you!

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fyodorio profile image
Fyodor

Very cool, thanks for being honest here 👍 I’m curious if other influencers think about that at least sometimes…

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jackdomleo7 profile image
Jack Domleo

I'm curious too! 🤔