‘I was living a curated, beautiful lie’: A look at the dark side of Insta-fame
‘It started to become what I was known for’
by Jenn Ficarra
This morning you probably woke up, grabbed your phone and opened Instagram before getting out of bed or brushing your teeth.
Most people check their social media first thing but for Alyssa Garrison, social media is quite literally her livelihood. Known as @randomactsofpastel online, Alyssa is one of many Instagram influencers making a business out of posting beautiful pictures for her 65,000 followers.
But those beautiful images often come with hidden cost, one followers don’t realize.
Alyssa says she can feel she's behind others her age who've chosen a more traditional life pattern. Seeing her friends "planning weddings, getting pregnant, and buying homes" can be depressing, she said, but she knows she'll get there eventually.
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Studies show average Instagram users face anxiety and depression about their online presence, lack of likes, or seeing their friends hanging out without them. But what if your life was so tied to how many likes and comments you get, it threatened to ruin your life?
Megan*, a former Instagram Influencer with more than 50,000 fans, once slept-ate-breathed Instagram. But even though Megan's boho-whimsical account skyrocketed with followers, she felt worse the more it grew.
Instagram can be an all-consuming obsession
"The amount of time I spent thinking about Instagram became insane. I was obsessive about editing, choosing hashtags, and liking others' photos to gain likes in return," Megan says.
She admits that she'd sometimes more than 50 pictures of the same shot in order to get the perfect images for her fans and woke up every morning consumed with thoughts of her feed and what she'd post that day.
Though Instagram wasn't the cause of Megan's depression and anxiety, she says it didn't help.
It's not the glamorous affair reflected in the photos
“It was a way of having complete control over something in my life at a time in which I felt powerless,” Megan says, admitting to once standing on two chairs in a crowded restaurant to get a bird's-eye view of her brunch.
Eventually, Megan says, it became her entire identity and the only thing others associated her with. People would compliment her on her "perfect life" when there were days when she couldn't even drag herself out of bed.
"It made me feel dishonest," she admits. "The life I posed about online was a curated, beautiful lie."
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There are upsides, most influencers will admit
With all of the negativity that comes with being an influencer for both Megan and Alyssa, one would think there aren’t many positive sides.
There is big money in sponsored ads and partnerships, something Alyssa says she refuses to lie about, only posting reviews of products she actually likes and uses.
Alyssa’s account has given her a chance to try new things, travel to new places, and meet people she never would have come in contact otherwise. Megan agrees that she too has met "wonderful" people via the app.
Megan says while she's grateful for those relationships, she does not see herself returning to being an influencer. “Shredding the need for approval and removing the option of obsessing over each and every photo was incredibly relieving. Now I’m more social, less media.”
Though the social media landscape is portrayed as a cutthroat environment, both say they found supportive communities and want to see their social media friends succeed. “It reminds me to keep pushing to be better,” Alyssa says.
For people like Megan, Instagram can seem like an easy escape from real-world issues. Life for Instagram Influencers isn’t all Sugar Bear Hair and smiles. It can be a dark path, but for some it can be the experience of a lifetime.
“The real-life connections I made through the app made that weird, obsessive, depressive time of my life mean something,” Megan says. “And for that, I am grateful. But when I deleted the followers, it felt as if I got my life back."
*Name has been changed per request for anonymity