Words of Influence: CJ Johnson Jr.
Text: Rahkia Nance
You often share words of inspiration with your followers; who or what inspires you?
CJJ: That’s a very common question I get asked. My friends, my family, other creative influencers, thought leaders, people just out there trying to live their dreams and not give up. I’ll also add people like Barack Obama, Malcolm X, and Bruce Lee, leaders who are very impactful and making a difference and adding substance to the context of what they’re doing. I used to be inspired by art and photography, and I still think that’s the case. The older I'm getting and the more influence I have, the more it changes quite a bit. Putting individuals on pedestals is not the way to go. Living in L.A., it’s very tough to believe in the celebrity of things. Like, an hour ago, I was drinking coffee next to an A-list actress, and she looks like everyone else.
You often start conversations with your followers. Do you feel pressure to keep those conversations going?
CJJ: I don’t feel pressure in keeping the conversation going. What I am conscious of is what type of conversation I am sparking. There are expectations that keep rising as your influence rises and as people get used to you. One of my core missions is to build a sense of community, so I started to research and put a lot more thought into asking questions that would demand engagement. . . As an influencer, I ask myself what is the legacy that I’m leaving behind. Is it to make money off you or to inspire you? I’ve made it a part of my routine and content schedule to do that now. I focus more on that than I do on promoting myself. I hate promoting myself. But it’s a part of this. When you’re an influencer, it’s part of your economic lifestyle. But at least I can do it in a very thoughtful way. That’s my goal when I’m doing influencer campaigns.
How long did it take for you to make that shift?
CJJ: It took years. It took me focusing more on my own brand and what works. I have a filmmaking and marketing background, so I thought, “All I have to do is put up a photo and people are gonna lose their shit.” But I wanted to be more thoughtful. What saw that worked was me saying, “Hey, by the way, lift your head up.” When I started to make this shift two things were happening. One, I went through the most awful breakup of my life. It was so disruptive. . . I really took on a conscious shift of outward positivity versus inward. I stopped saying things like, “I need to get something out of this,” and saying things like “What am I going to put into this?” I was putting my feelings out there as I was saying “It’ll get better.” Eventually it became something I was much more conscious of.
How do you balance FOMO (fear of missing out) with being an influencer?
CJJ: It's something that’s very difficult when you’re an influencer. Seeing photos and videos like that touches us. It’s appealing. That is the honest truth about that. . . I think it’s unfair to be braggadocious about things that I have that other people don’t. I like to thrive on being a life hacker. I think it’s much more important to say, “Do you want to get to Tulum? Here’s how you do that.” I’m a consultant. If I don’t have clients, I’m broke. Just because somebody wants to fly me to Greece for the weekend, that doesn’t pay rent. That doesn’t pay for groceries.
Have you ever taken a social media break? As a social media influencer, are you even allowed to?
CJJ: Yes, and I would recommend that for anyone. Follow your gut and your intuition, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Here are the two realities—social media is not going anywhere right now. And so many people are fatigued. It’s a way of life now. There are no rules to this, and that’s why It's hard. There’s no guide to social media. Am I allowed to (take a break)? Yes. Does it hurt me? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. For Twitter, it’s easier. Do I lose followers? Sure, I do. Do I lose traction? Of course. I’m not in a rush to post. That’s another misconception of “how do I become an influencer?” You should be doing something of substance so you can be an influencer.
What does it mean to you to be an influencer?
CJJ: The word that comes to my mind is responsibility. I think that it came to me at the right time in my life. If I were younger, I’d be more irresponsible and fragile in the way I express myself. . . If you ask to be an influencer, then it’s your responsibility to give something back or contribute to the community—whether that’s tools, access, networking, or lifting you up in any sort of way.
How do you set boundaries between your very public social media presence and your personal life?
CJJ: That’s something I’m learning. One of the ways I’m learning this is by being around other influencers and seeing how they do this. Sometimes on Twitter people talk to me as if we’re good friends and they really don’t know anything about me. But I treat everybody with respect and patience. If they overstep a boundary, but they don’t mean anything by it, I just don’t respond. I don’t get upset about it. My personal life is my personal life. For example, if I’m dating someone, and if they’re comfortable with being seen with me on social media, I’m able to showcase that. But some things I like are very private. People don’t need to have full access. People don’t need to see me at a fancy restaurant. Who cares? I’m out here to lift people up and give creative inspiration and what I would like to provide to my community.