There's no easy way to say it: I'm simply not an influencer.
I do have 1236 followers which is more than the average Joe, but I only have that many because I am a Media Person, and because I write funny (ish) stuff about myself on the internet.
Like influencers, sometimes I get given things for free because of my job — but I have no idea how to make them look cool in photos, or how to do that lovely pastel influencer filter that makes your feed look like Pinterest wallpaper.
Which is why, when I found out I was being sent to the OPPO Reno Suite, where you can "pay for your stay" using social media likes, I knew I was in trouble.
The OPPO Reno Suite was dreamed up by the Smartphone company OPPO. It's a sexy, one-bedroom glass box (one of New Zealand's PurePods eco-cabin accommodation) nestled among the hills in Canterbury and just begging to be 'grammed.
Just like an episode of Black Mirror, for the next two months, guests will be reimbursed $1 for every like their sexy glass-box social media posts get. Tagging #Instacation #opponz, and @OPPONewZealand, the likes will be counted at the end of their stay and the total taken off the final bill.
This means, at $500 a night (with an optional dinner and breakfast package for an additional $100), you only need 500 mates to validate your wanky snap to score you a free stay.
The thing is, it's all well and good if you're an influencer who knows how to take a beautiful and flatteringly angled photo of your skinny bare back while you perch on the edge of the bed, gazing out at the sunrise — but I sure as hell don't know how to do that.
And the other thing is, based on the camera roll of my OPPO loan phone that the previous influencer guest had forgotten to wipe, I don't think even the pros really know how to do it. This poor girl had left about 376 takes of her trying to nail a sexy, candid, naked-back photo. Safe to say she was under the pump and probably didn't get a wink of sleep, up all night trying to get the perfect pic.
As you can imagine, during our stay my travel buddy and I were also under the pump.
Now, without tooting my own gram, people tell me I am quite good at producing funny insta-stories.
Unfortunately, It wasn't until I had already cranked out about nine videos of us gallivanting around the sexy cube, pretending we were hosting an episode of the long-forgotten MTV Cribs that I was gently reminded by the trip organisers that stories don't count, soz.
A la if a tree falls in the woods, unless the content can rack up a little love-heart like it didn't happen.
By this point, we were on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
"It's fine," I assured my sweat-soaked compadre Kate, who had recently taken a two-month break from social media because of the crippling effect it was having on her mental health. "Let's just neck the rest of this bottle of wine and I'm sure the creative juices will start flowing."
The juices did not start flowing.
We tried a hundred times to take photos of ourselves on self-timer, but it was an absolute shambles.
Remember, we are normal-looking, normal-sized women who wear normal round-the-house clothes (old track pants and puffer jackets) so quelle surprise, an OPPO phone and a sexy glass cube backdrop did not transform us into the Jenner sisters.
Just like a university assignment that we'd left until the night before it was due, we started panic-bargaining with ourselves. We would have one more glass of wine and then we would definitely try again to take a fire pic.
Okay, we would cook dinner first and then definitely, definitely bang it out.
All right, we would have a quick lie down to watch Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness interview with David Letterman, then we would absolutely produce some content.
By this point, the sun had set and we didn't know how to use the phone's night-vision setting (if that's even a thing?) so we went to sleep, exhausted but filled with dread because for me this assignment was real, it's what you're reading right now and it was due within the next 48 hours.
We set our alarms for 7am the next morning because we figured our best chance at getting something "gramworthy" was with something "sunrisey".
"Heeey, little pal," I whispered softly and nonchalantly to my strung-out Instaboyfriend Kate.
"Um, so how about we try again to take that pic now? Only if you want?"
"OK, I'll try," replied the human shell hoarsely. The light behind her eyes had gone out.
It took all my strength not to scream Kris Jenner-style at the cadaver that even though we were only doing this #instacation for pretend, I had to hand this story in for reals come Monday — so she needed to pull herself together, goddammit.
I finally managed to coax the dead guy from Weekend At Bernie's into taking one last influencery photo of me on the bed.
In the pic, you can see my gap tooth and I look about three months pregnant, but neither of us was in any state to reshoot.
I threw it up on my gram without even trying to Facetune out my sad little paunch belly or add a fake filter tan. I had lost the will to live.
In the end, the photo got 198 likes.
Are we rested and rejuvenated? No.
Did the experiment theoretically save us nearly $200? Also no — we immediately booked a quiet cabin in the woods for the following night, in a desperate attempt to unplug and unwind.