Why I Left the Influencer Life

 


I started
 an Instagram account when I was just 16, back in 2012. Instagram and I were both quite young back then.

I was irregular because back then it was just another app on my iPod Touch. I would rather spend my time on Facebook chat than to figure out this new app with a weird, brown camera icon.

Fast forward to the 18-year-old me who went to university — I turned my life around with a new journey. The journey of health and wellness. The start of my weight loss journey to lose 50lbs and overcome my obesity.

I started blogging about it on WordPress, and Instagram began to get some fame too.

I posted pictures on Instagram which explicitly stated that I’m on a path to losing X amount of weight, and this is where I’ve reached. I posted a picture every time I lost a few kilos and wrote what helped me. I clicked pictures of food which helped me, I wrote whatever I learnt and what worked for me. I also spoke about what didn't work for me.

I suppose people found this helpful.

Fast forward a few months into my undergrad, I was now a fitness blogger.

It all happened suddenly.

I then went abroad for my postgrad. I was in Manchester (U.K.) travelling to Europe cheap and easy.

I decided to save money from unnecessary expenditure and started travelling. First I travelled solo to Amsterdam. And then to 6 countries across 18 days, all alone. For the next few months, I travelled solo every other month.

These travel pictures looked like a dream. It made people feel like I’m having the best time of my life. That I’m rich, and a brat.

Whereas I was really, really alone in my entire year of studying abroad.

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Amsterdam, Paris, Stockholm — Pictures by the author

Instagram stories of people randomly singing in a train in Berlin, making friends from across the globe, living in hostels — it was all new to my audience.

More and more people followed me, and I crossed the 10,000 followers mark. My pictures had hundreds and sometimes thousands of comments. My Direct Messages always had lots of notifications. I won’t lie, it was was a lot of attention to receive.

With this, I became a travel blogger.

I basically blogged whatever I was currently undertaking in life with absolute passion, whether it was fitness at one point of time or travel at another.

They become greedy, for more and more. I randomly quit social media altogether and shocked myself and all those friends who challenged me that I won’t make it more than a few days. It has now been more than 4 months.

Let me tell you why I left the influencer lifestyle, and these are the things you too should consider if you plan to step into one.

The Good

While the title gives it away that I left it for good, does that mean this life had no good? I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t fun while it lasted.

Creating a community.

Some people stick by you for long, sometimes years. It is a beautiful feeling to know that out of the millions of people they can follow, they choose to always be updated with you.

Making friends.

This isn't just about new people but getting connected with old ones.

I’ve become good friends with people back from high school who I never spoke to. When you find like-minded people and chat up, it can result in newly formed relations.

One of my strongest support systems is a friend who I know through somebody but became friends with purely by texting.

Credibility.

People trust you if they’ve known you for a while and align with your content. It’s easy to find help (say getting info about the best places to eat in a new city) or even when you’re selling something. I’ve sold stuff worth hundreds of dollars and strangers have bought it because they found me to be a credible source (e.g. tickets for a concert I couldn’t go for last moment got sold in hours).

The Bad

There are some things that just don’t make social media worth it, at all. In my experience, they were:

Wasting time.

A few confessions to make here:

  • I have spent up to 45 minutes sitting at one place to get a perfect selfie.
  • I have spent up to an hour to edit the picture and make it look flawless.
  • I have spent upwards of 3 hours just scrolling on Instagram.

It was an achievement when I reduced my Instagram consumption to 45 minutes on weekdays and 60 minutes on weekends. But that's still 1500 minutes or 25 hours spent on Instagram in a month!

I wasn’t getting paid, I wasn’t reaching out to brands to collaborate. I was just doing my thing. I enjoy writing, pictures, and talking — so Instagram was a place I spoke about everything that mattered to me.

Others connected well with it too. However, the time it consumed from my life was enormous for hardly any return.

The pressure.

The pressure for a perfect feed, the perfect filter and the perfect picture, of course.

You don’t want to wear the same clothes two consecutive times when you go out (if you would be clicking pictures), because you’re afraid of any content which is repetitive. Even if that content is you.

The pressure to be relevant is real, and it's not just your content that will speak for itself. I am a writer, but writing alone cannot do. One also needs to be an artist and a marketeer.

The dopamine.

  • Why did this picture get 120 likes but that one got 2000? That’s a huge difference, is this picture really so bad?
  • Why do I see people sharing my post/stories to other people’s DMs, are they making fun of me?
  • Why haven’t I got enough interaction on this post?

The red notifications have the power to push and pull happiness out of you.

According to Harvard University, every time you open your social media app you expect to be rewarded. And when you’re not or when the reward is low, your dopamine levels get low leaving you feeling upset, sad, or anxious.

Additionally, it states that the apps are also optimised in a way to use your time.

Instagram’s notification algorithms will sometimes withhold “likes” on your photos to deliver them in larger bursts. So when you make your post, you may be disappointed to find less responses than you expected, only to receive them in a larger bunch later on. Your dopamine centers have been primed by those initial negative outcomes to respond robustly to the sudden influx of social appraisal. This use of a variable reward schedule takes advantage of our dopamine-driven desire for social validation, and it optimizes the balance of negative and positive feedback signals until we’ve become habitual users.

That tiny red bubble doesn’t deserve that much importance, not enough to start controlling your life.

The Ugly

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Photo by arash payam on Unsplash

Some things about this life are things nobody deserves to live with.

Craving perfection.

I’ve made everybody wait to eat their food so I can click pictures. I have turned my food cold to get the perfect shot.

I have spent a lot of time thinking if my lips look weird in a selfie. I have clicked 30 pictures to try and hide my belly fat. I have spent a lot of time perfecting my feed.

As a person, I’m not a perfectionist. But social media made me want to be on point for everything because those are the rules of the game.

Constant comparison and judgment.

  • Why did she get so many followers in such a short amount of time?
  • She’s doing such weird things, yet people like her page and are engaging with her.
  • I want to buy that t-shirt/watch/shoes too!

The cycle never ends.

While comparison is normal human behaviour

Social media presents excess information available at our fingertips which amplifies this displeasing feeling of feeling lesser than others.

Living in an unreal world.

That perfect picture is the one people will forget about when they double-tap. Nobody opens your profile constantly to see if your feed is themed. The people who praise you probably say shit about you.

Being popular online can still make you lonely offline, and inside.

I gave away my valuable time to an unreal world. I was mentally affected by things that don’t matter in life.

  • My head would burst with thoughts related to things I saw online.
  • I saw my stats multiple times a day and would get angry if I too many people unfollowing me — I questioned my content (and capability).
  • What will XYZ person think of me if I post this was always at the back of my head.

So much time spent on things which don’t have to exist in your head, or in life. They do only when you allow them to.

How Does Life Change When You Leave?

But what about all those people you inspired? I’d hear when I suddenly left.

Yes, about 20 people reached out to me questioning my sudden disappearance. But life moves on, for me and for them.

If inspiring somebody is coming at the cost of completely losing yourself, is it really creating a positive impact? You cannot do good outside unless there’s good inside.

Plus, the changes you feel after leaving weigh much more than the happiness you felt when you were in there.

Some common epiphanies which will take place, are

  • You feel happier and in content.
  • Putting up your opinions and reading others’ is a waste of time and energy. Read great content instead.
  • All your friends stay in touch with you, even if you don’t snap them upload stories.
  • You are more present with your family when you spend time with them, with no constant social media checking.
  • No more mindless swiping.
  • Who knows, all that time could be used for something which changes your life forever. It did for me!

Finally…

I’m not telling you not to be an influencer if that is what you want to do. Just like every other hobby or profession, it comes with its own stress as well as rewards.

It’s important to maintain a balance between the reel and real life. It’s important to be self-aware, so you do not let the environment on that 6-inch screen define and mould you.

I found myself and discovered who I am only when I freed myself from the image I built on social media.

But that doesn't have to be you.

I hope reading this gave you a 360-degree outlook and help you look out for potential dangers and it’s solutions now if you step in.

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