In 2016, I had over 100,000 followers on Instagram, a book deal and the beginnings of a promising television career.
I was an accidental influencer, who should have been sipping a #gifted cocktail on a flamingo-shaped pool float.
Instead, that June, I found myself voluntarily checking in to the Priory, where I was being treated for bipolar, anxiety, insomnia and what I now know was a straight up addiction to scrolling social media.
It was around the 20,000 follower mark that I realised I needed my phone on my person, like gollum needs his ring.
Instagram was the first thing I reached for when I woke up, and the last thing I looked at before I attempted to sleep. Instagram was my world, I was good at it, and so everyone assumed that I must have it made.
I’ve never been the type of person you would expect to become an ‘influencer.’ I’m not good at make up, I dress like a giant toddler and can’t use a ring light without squinting.
Little did I know that in a sea of Instagram perfection, this was exactly what the people had been waiting for. I started an Instagram account satirising the ‘clean eating movement’ – an offshoot of wellness popularised by middle class white women who love to smile at salad. I used the name ‘deliciously stella’ in homage to eat clean queen, Deliciously Ella and in only a matter of months the account took off.
I made ‘healthy’ recipes out of sweets and took pictures of myself with a hangover using the hashtags #eat, #nourish, #glow. Before long the account had gone viral, I’d become an influencer in my own right and I’d achieved the influencer holy grail, sponsored content – otherwise known as spon con.
At first, Instagram felt like a golden ticket. The more followers I got, the more opportunities I was offered. I started a podcast, tried my hand at acting and presenting in shows for BBC3 and most importantly, got invited to parties DJ’d by celebrity offspring like Rafferty Law where the drinks and the perks were free.
As a reluctant stand up comedian, preparing to take a show to the Edinburgh festival after performing five times for five minutes, I was thrilled to find that I could earn money being funny without having to set foot in a comedy club. Brands even offered to pay me to make jokes using their products!
I was invited to press events and parties, my post box filled up with everything from free brownies to juice cleanses. I was living the Instagram dream. One in five children now say that they want to be ‘influencers’ when they grow up.
I had hit the jackpot but instead of feeling ecstatic, I was completely overwhelmed.
I’d set myself up with a target to post every day, something that my followers came to expect. Any deviation from my self imposed schedule led to interrogation, ‘where are you?’, ‘Why haven’t you posted today?’, ‘I need my Stella.’ At times I was struggling to think of a suitable joke, other times I was unable to access the internet, more often than not I was in the grips of a mental health crisis.
I hid what I was going through from my Instagram followers because my ‘brand’ was fun and lighthearted. Instagram had yet to identify how lucrative trauma porn, whereby people expose their inner turmoil for clicks, would become.
I wanted everyone to think I was happy, I thought that would make them happy too.
It soon became clear that by presenting myself a certain way on social media, people were led to believe I was the same way in real life.
I found that things ran smoothly when I was self deprecating, when I ordered chips and maintained an air of someone who had just rolled out of bed. I ordered pudding when I didn’t want it, derided all alternative medicine in spite of a previously tolerant attitude to different ways of living.
I even found myself changing my voice, dropping my T’s and adopting an estuary twang to better fit what I thought my followers had projected onto the smiling, silent square images on my account. I hid the parts of my personality that didn’t fit the mould. I even stopped going to the gym in case I was spotted and I started wearing more clothes with slogans like ‘In fries we trust.’
I stuck at it, because I was convinced this was my only shot at success, and because I really liked to be liked. If people wanted Stella, I’d give them Stella. External validation was powering the smoke being blown up my arse and I wasn’t ready to admit who I was and stop.
I found myself using Instagram like a slot machine, gambling on whether a post would get enough likes to get me through the day. Over 1000 was my limit of acceptability, preferably acquired withing 10 minutes. If a joke hit the jackpot I’d spend the rest of the day on cloud nine. If it didn’t land I was inconsolable.
Eventually all I could talk and think about was my Instagram account. What was I going to post? How good was my engagement? Who was getting more likes, follows, gifts and opportunities than me? Instagram had awakened a green eyed monster; I coveted other influencers’ lives, while knowing exactly how fake the industry required them to be.
Make no mistake, the influencer life looks glamorous and, in many ways, it is. But hustling is still hard. It’s easy to assume that all you have to do is post a pretty picture and wait for the likes and money to roll in, but engaging a following, monetising it and closing a deal requires determination and graft.
Your success or lack thereof can be measured by anyone at any time just by a glimpse at your public account. You’re only as good as your last post and towards the end I hoped that every post would be my last. I was suicidal, desperate not to be either my Instagram alter ego or myself.
I wasn’t able to see the harm social media had caused me when I was in a mental hospital, I wasn’t able to see it when I was suicidal, instead I came to understand its effect when I started to recover. At last, I had gained some perspective.
After a press trip in LA where I tried posting as Bella, I finally acquiesced that the social media life was not for me. I killed Stella and I have no regrets.
Immediately after announcing that I would no longer post as Deliciously Stella on Instagram, people rushed to question why. Some were upset, most understanding. Nobody had suspected I’d been anything less than happy.
While I am still on social media, I feel as though I am in recovery from the way it made me feel. I need it for my job, but not for my self worth.
Writing about my experience in the Priory – the relief in being honest – has been life changing. I now primarily earn a living through writing or by doing social media for brands, something which gives me some distance from my need for validation. Going forward I’d love to write fiction. It’s time to separate my identity from my career.
The most important thing I learned from my time as an accidental influencer, is that nobody cares about you as much as you. The only person you need answer to or be accountable to is yourself and the people you care about. Likes are not the same as love.
I still enjoy a good scroll on Instagram but now I scroll not to distract myself, but with intention. I open the app when I’m looking for genuine connection, when I think that interaction on a screen can lead to interaction in real life.
To anyone considering life as an influencer, I’d say, don’t quit the day job without money in the bank and you have grown skin like the hide of a rhino.
People appear to get into it because they like to be liked, I left when I truly learnt to like myself.
The Accidental Influencer by Bella Younger is out now (HarperCollins, £14.99)
The Truth Is…
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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August
Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?
This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.
As per LinkedIn:
“As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.”
LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.
Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:
- Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
- Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
- Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
- Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
- Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
- Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
- Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
- Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
- Learning Python with Joe Marini
- Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
- Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
- Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
- Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
- Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
- SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
- Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
- Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
- Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
- Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
- Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.
Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.
The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.
Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …
Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.
Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.
Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.
Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.
Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.
Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.
— Yash Joshi (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021
5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android
Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.
You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).
You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.
While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.
We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.
Credit: buffer / app store
Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.
Credit: preview / app store
Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.
Credit: content office / app store
An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.
Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.
Credit: plann / apple store
You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…
Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.
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