World Mental Health Day Health

World Mental Health Day: Influencers share how content creation impacts their mental health

Just a few weeks ago, when Ankush Bahuguna hit 4,00,000 followers, he expected it to be a happy day. After all, he had worked hard to achieve this milestone. Instead, he spent the day being anxious. He later posted on his Instagram handle saying, “I’ve not been in a great mental space since the last few weeks. It feels like I’m in a never ending race. The faster you run to the finish line, the further it gets. Lately, it is bothering me that I am unable to celebrate small wins like these.”

The Delhi-based influencer, popular for his short funny videos and for creating characters like DIY Babita and Pankaj, says, “If your daily mood starts depending on the number of likes and views on your posts, that is when you realise something is not right. When I decided to become an influencer I had 10,000 followers and my aim was to reach 1,00,000. But now that I have three times that, I am not happy. My day depends on how many people are talking about my post. The constant need for validation is not healthy.”

Ankush Bahuguna

Ankush Bahuguna   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

As the business of influencing is getting more serious with bigger platforms like Netflix and Amazon turning to them for content, several influencers are talking about mental health issues due to the growing scrutiny and criticism that come along with the popularity. Over the past few years, several big names from the industry, including Lilly Singh and PewDiePie, have announced a hiatus from social media citing burnout issues due to their content creating schedules.

“It is just an app, but my life and my career depend on it. It is a heartbreaking thing to say aloud but that is the reality,” says Dolly Singh. The content creator — who has a following of one million people on Instagram — says she does go offline when things get overwhelming, then adds, “but I can barely stay away from the app for 24 to 48 hours because, after all, it is my livelihood and there is a fear of losing followers and declining engagement.” One of the most difficult things about being an influencer for Dolly is the constant need for validation every single day. “I have to post something daily and my success relies on the number of comments and likes for that particular post. That kind of puts you in a vulnerable state,” she says.

Nevertheless, she has a passion for her work, which she says helped her sail through the pandemic. The new circumstances to which the world was adjusting meant newer topics to talk about on her Instagram. “I was busy making content about being locked up and the trends that were happening over social media,” she says. But the same lockdown that gave her fodder for her work, eventually eroded her mental health too. “By the end of July I started feeling like I needed a break,” she says.

Dolly Singh

Dolly Singh   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A universal challenge all influencers now deal with is online harassment and trolling. Ankush says, “I recently started putting up makeup videos and how it is important to normalise men wearing foundation or flaunting a winged eyeliner. Though I was appreciated for that, many people commented saying I was spoiling the generation and I should look for better things to do. Usually, I ignore such comments but on days when you are already feeling low, hate comments hit harder no matter how thick your skin is. Constructive criticism is welcome, trolling is not.”

A bit more real

Realising the responsibility on their part as content creators, Dolly and Ankush have been avoiding the façade of perfectly-curated Instagram feeds. “I do not want my followers to think that my life is all fun and games. If they want to like me they have to like the real me,” says Ankush. Dolly believes in using her reach to normalise mental health issues. “I was bullied as a child and I had mental health issues even then but I was unaware that it is normal. If only I was informed, I wouldn’t have spent my childhood feeling weird about myself,” she adds.

A psychologist’s notes
  • Psychologist Deepa Mohan, who heads the psychology department at GITAM University in Visakhapatnam, says, “It is okay to feel bad and de-motivated. We are in troubled times, so allow yourself the liberty to slow down and deal with things at your own pace.” Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can be used to inform yourself about your surroundings but when used excessively, can hamper mental health. “There is nothing wrong in going back and checking the number of likes or comments on your picture, it is human nature to be drawn towards appreciation; but the problem begins when you get obsessed with it and start questioning your self-worth based on those likes. A healthier life offline, that includes making time for your hobbies or spending time with your loved ones can help in betterment of mental health,” she adds.

Michael Ajay, a 25-year-old fitness blogger with over 50,000 followers on Instagram, talks about how he battled depression, after he had an accident three years ago and was bed ridden. “Body training helped me recover and also shed 25 kilograms that I had put on. When the lockdown started, my work as a freelance physical trainer got affected and I started having dark thoughts. I was scared that the depression would relapse. My sleep cycle was disturbed and I lacked motivation to do anything,” he says.

He got over this slump the only way he knew how: by working out. “I made a routine and tried my best to follow it. I also started posting my workout videos on Instagram and a lot of people appreciated that. It helped me get through the day,” says Michael.

However, despite the external motivation his blogging provided, he decided to stay away from social media for a few days as it affected his mental health. “I kept seeing happier pictures of me posted in the past. Also, so many people were posting about the fun things they were doing during the lockdown, and I kept questioning why I was having a bad time while everyone else was okay.” He adds, “It took me a while to make myself understand that my pace of dealing with things is different and it is alright to have issues. I started using Instagram only to share my content and not consume it, and that eventually helped.”


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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 9:14:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/how-content-creation-is-impacting-influencers/article32811801.ece

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