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“Don’t Become an Influencer” book review. Former TikToker’s shocking tale

"Don’t Become an Influencer" book review. Former TikToker’s shocking tale

Image source: © Press Release
Oliwia Ruta,
20.02.2024 10:30

"I’ve attended events where bowls of cocaine were circulated from person to person," Janek Strojny writes. In his debut book, a former TikToker unveils the intricacies of the influencer realm. He candidly discusses his prolonged struggle, during which his only source of solace was his feline companions.

Janek Strojny, an ex-influencer who published short videos online for several years, introduces himself with the words: "I was an influencer—such a funny guy in colourful beanie hats. I was doing a kind of ‘Everyday TikTok’. Nothing extraordinary." His account currently boasts just under a million internet followers, and at their peak, his videos garnered 800 million views per month each.

On 15 February, Janek’s debut book, "Don’t Become an Influencer," hit the shelves. While it might appear to be just another commentary on the effects of popularity and the internet’s pitfalls, this book stands out because it recounts real-life experiences. Janek’s story is not a mere abstraction; it’s a vivid account of his journey.

Interestingly, when Janek shared the book’s concept with another influencer, the response was unexpectedly pragmatic: "Put it in ChatGPT, and you’ll have it ready in a minute." While most people would dismiss this advice as a casual remark, it gave the author food for thought. Drawing from his insights, Janek highlighted a fundamental truth: Artificial intelligence lacks the understanding of what it truly means to be human. It doesn’t experience birth, upbringing, or the essence of humanity.

A story of an ordinary boy

Many individuals are significantly more inclined to heed a warning when it is substantiated by someone else’s experience. Presently, influencers wield the largest audience in society. They are the trendsetters, shaping the perspectives of their viewers, particularly the younger generation. Janek, well-versed in the mechanics of social media, understands how effortlessly public opinion can be manipulated. His journey unfolds from a passionate individual to a mere existence, teetering on the edge.

"If I hadn’t lost my sanity, today I’d be a Warsaw landlord with a sleek car," writes Janek.

The author of the book divides his life into three distinct phases. First, he was Janek the First, a nerdy kid who poured immense work and effort into his passion for editing and recording videos. From a young age, his interest in the internet diverged slightly from that of the average child: "I was obsessed with the internet before it became fashionable. But I didn’t aspire to become a celebrity. My goal was to create clever videos that would captivate viewers for more than half a minute." Janek the First meticulously analysed audience behaviour, gaining extensive knowledge of how the human brain functions and marketing strategies.

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Janek the Second, the persona known to the broader public, projected a cheerful online image despite a starkly different reality. He delved into the world of show business, only to find himself trapped in a bleak existence. Escaping into drugs and alcohol, he squandered his earnings, surviving solely through the companionship of his feline friends.

"Suicidal thoughts plague me relentlessly. So much so that I’ve grown accustomed to their presence. I’ve even prepared documentation in case something happened to me: PINs, passwords, contract terminations, a spare set of keys entrusted to friends, and a funeral fund. The only persistent challenge lies with my cats. This was also the case during my most recent struggle when suicidal thoughts nearly overwhelmed me," confessed Janek.

Now, Janek introduces himself as Janek the Third. In his book, the former influencer candidly acknowledges the toxic environment he inhabited. With the support of family, friends, a psychiatrist, and his feline companions, he battled his longstanding depression. Janek the Third is weary; he’s relinquished any further aspirations as a TikToker. Through his own experiences, he aims to caution young creatives about the perils of the influencer world.

"I’m moved by the naivety of teenagers whose dreams revolve around becoming YouTubers, TikTokers, and the like. It’s regrettable that no one enlightens them about the immense costs associated with such a path. The dangers of this lifestyle often go unspoken," Janek points out.

"Don't become an influencer": An urgent plea to the youth

"Don’t Become an Influencer" is a poignant appeal to teenagers and parents raising children in the digital age. Within its pages, Janek unveils the reality of social media influencers who bask in popularity. Drawing from personal experiences during the zenith of his career, he fearlessly exposes toxic situations and behaviours—both his own and those of fellow influencers.

Moreover, Janek pulls back the curtain on social media's obsession with numbers. He delves into the realm of fake relationships, dramatic narratives, and content crafted primarily for spectacle.

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In Janek’s words: "There is nothing an influencer won’t do for improving their reach. Reach encompasses everything: mothers, fathers, friends, lovers, red garter fetishes, fat salmon in sushi, sun-kissed faces, cocaine in sugar bowls, and blunts from the best dealer down the block."

Janek also sheds light on the manipulation to which a significant portion of society falls prey. He issues warnings about the snares set by influencers and outlines effective strategies for capturing internet users’ attention. The extent of creators’ control over their audience is, indeed, disconcerting.

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