I think Steemit is very unbalanced and discourages people who make awesome and legitimate content and makes it super hard to grow. I understand growing on steemit isn't an instant thing and takes time, and that you need to make connections. Connections mean a lot on this platform, and can really help your growth if you make good connections with the right people.
Now keep in mind, there are many components to being a successful steemian. The components include having connections with the right people, making consistent and good content, and having exposure. Now about the exposure thing; it is HARD. Having a good exposure is really hard unless you are a dolphin or whale already. Not only do a lot of dolhpins and whales have their own clique and upvote each other and themselves, but the spam on this platform is just crazy. We have a bunch of spam bots and spam accounts on this platform spam posting as a rate faster than you may or may not know. All of the good content is drowned out by spam posts, which is not only discouraging...but SUCKS!
I mean look at it from a person who tries their best to make consistent and quality posts and only gets pennies. You have these people self voting and you have so many spammers. How in the hell are you going to grow on this platform and get your word out? I understand that you shouldn't have any post earning expectations, but it is frustrating when you are trying to grow bigger and have more visibility to get your message more "world wide".
The selfishness on this platform is just so cringy. Just look at what @kiwicanfly said about his encounter with a whale.
"This is my second week on Steemit and from what I've observed on the platform, I totally agree. It first came to my attention when Jerrybanfield made the post about the biggest whale on the site, mindhunter. I came across mindhunter on my first day, saw one his posts and followed him. I had no idea that he was a whale at the time (I didn't really know much about whales tbh). I commented on one of his photos and he replied "Me too" and he got $60+ for it. That felt really dirty to me. Now I make sure to look at accounts before following to make sure they aren't so selfish as you said."
Again, exposure is everything, and it is getting harder and harder to get with all of the spam drowning out all of the good posts and the massive amounts of people joining. That is why the people who joined steemit early did so well because there were less spammers and more visibility. Also, steem power and delegation also means the world too, more steem power equals more visibility/exposure.
So my suggestion; make connections with the right people, post quality content regularly, don't spam, and keep a positive attitude. It takes a while to grow on steemit, so be patient.