You can’t deny that every man and his dog these days is becoming a “thing” on Instagram, leading to a) free shit and b) money in many cases. It’s tempting to join the pack and give the influencer life a whirl – after all, how hard can it be to take some model-esque photos and put a nice filter on it. So after seeing the rise and rise of the Instagram-famous folk, I decided to give being one a try.

Let’s dial it back to last year. In 2018 I became obsessed with the 70s. I got a fringe, started wearing my hair in messy waves instead of dead straight, and bought up big at vintage and op shops as I curated the perfect Penny Lane wardrobe. I found there weren’t many vintage Aussie influencers on Instagram – there are definitely a few, and some epic bohemian ones. I saw a small-ish gap and figured I’d give showcasing my style a whirl. After all, I’m a fashion editor. I had SOME cred to stand on.

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I wasn’t expecting to become a “thing”. And I absolutely did not become a thing. But I did want to give it a try to see what it was like having a curated feed of hot photos, lol. So I recruited my sister who is an amateur photographer at best and set to work putting on different outfits and posing in “oh what, you just took an amazing photo of me?” way.

Out of a mix of curiosity and “for the story”, I committed to curating my feed with hot pics of myself in various fashion looks. The result? NOT GOOD.

1. Guys Flocked.

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Having a fashion influencer feed was ALL TIME for attention-seeking. Every goddamn hot photo of me would get comments & likes from dudes I a) was dating b) had dated and c) followed me and apparently liked my face. You know the kind – fire emojis, “wow”, that shit. The shit guys post when they have walked directly into the thirst trap.

Every comment made me feel like hot shit. But it was like a shot of heroin (not that I’ve tried heroin) – a huge boost of self-esteem followed by this insatiable need for further boosts of self-esteem. Then there were the photos that didn’t elicit as many responses. Those sent my self-esteem plummeting. I started to realise that my self-esteem was now reliant on how men responded to my photos. Maybe it had always been this way, but posting only hot photos, every few days? You can imagine how up/down my feelings toward myself became.

2. Friends Muted Me.

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You know what was the best/worst thing to happen on Instagram – the mute option. Being able to mute people is kind of fucked, when you think about it. Unlike Facebook where you may not want to see what Aunty Sue has eaten for dinner every damn night of the week, but do want her on hand to event-invite to your 21st, Instagram is about the constant photographic updates from friends, family and people you like seeing daily. So when you mute someone, you’re just doing it bc really you want to unfollow them but are scared they have that app that tells you if someone’s unfollowed you.

It’s really obvious who has muted me since my Year-Of-Influencer. A friend of mine that I ran into the other day didn’t know I had a puppy – but Millie the pup is all over my Instagram and has been for months, so clearly she’s muted me. Several others who used to often pop up in the “likes” section no longer do.

Is someone really your friend if they can’t stand seeing you in their feed? This is a question I’ve been asking myself, and to be honest I don’t know the right answer. Maybe muting/not muting doesn’t matter at all. Maybe it means everything. But I can tell you now it damn sure hurts to know someone you thought you were close to has muted you. And I copped a lot of it while I tried this Insta-famous feed thing.

3. Some Straight-Up Bloody Disappeared From My Life.

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The absolute worst tragedy of my influencer year was losing one of my friends for real. Let’s call her Carla. I’d been friends with Carla for years, and we’d always gotten along c/o our no-bullshit attitude to life. But when I started doing the influencer thing, she texted me.

“Is this going to be a regular thing?” she asked, referencing a recent photo of me looking wistfully into the distance.

“I’m just giving it a try,” I replied.

“Look don’t be offended if I unfollow you. I just don’t agree with this stuff.” 

It hurt a LOT, and I’ll tell you why. Carla and I had plenty of mutual friends and I could count several who curated their feed like crazy, putting up stylised pics of themselves and so on. To be blunt, Carla’s feed was full of friends doing this shit, so why did me giving it a go offend her so much?

Not to mention I felt a noticeable shift in our friendship after that conversation. I’m not Carla so I can’t say this for sure, but it felt like my decision to go Full-Influencer snapped our friendship in half. We aren’t friends anymore, after a long, slow fade out on her end. Was her decision to sever ties with me entirely because I pretended to be a model on Instagram? I doubt it. But it absolutely seems to be the rift that broke our friendship.

Several other people I was friends with drifted away over the course of that year. Whether the demise of those friendships is expressly connected to my Instagram feed – who knows. It seems very suss that like 10 people who liked me at the end of 2017 seemed to not want a bar of me by the end of 2018… but also, who cares!

You could say any friendship that can break over one person taking aesthetic photos of themselves isn’t really a friendship at all, right?

4. I Felt Like Shit All The Time.

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Many, many people make good livings from being influencers and have a genuine talent for this stuff. I assume (and hope) their experience differs from mine. But for me, constantly analysing pictures of myself and uploading only the best, cutest ones took a toll. In a bizarre twist, garnering attention for how I looked made me feel even worse about myself.

It might be that it takes a cast-iron heart to dissect 40 photos of your face and body. The act of sifting through “shit” photos and landing on the best-looking version of yourself is a bleak concept, when you really think about it. Doing that every day, sometimes twice a day? For me, it took it’s toll.

5. But It Can Be Fun.

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Look, I don’t want to shit all over the influencer life and I like to think I’ve done a decent job of being clear about the fact that this was MY experience and won’t be everyone’s. Curating a feed can be fun, if you like design and creative pursuits. Dressing yourself up is super fun if you like fashion. And there’s a purpose to all of this if you enjoy it and are good at it. I still follow plenty of influencers because I like how they put clothes together, or I like the homewares they buy.

But I think the important takeaway is you have to be getting your self-esteem from yourself. Not from likes, or thirst-trap comments, or brands throwing free shit at you. It sounds naff as shit but loving yourself (vom at that term) is FUNDAMENTAL if you want to survive as an influencer, from my experience of not even being a real one. Imagine how damaging all the above stuff would be for people who have thousands, millions of followers – if they don’t have their head firmly on their shoulders and know their worth without anyone needing to validate it.

These days I’ll put up hot photos of myself from time to time. I’ll do some selfies. I think that’s fine, for me. But I’m not committed to the curated feed life anymore, and I’m happy that way. I’ll just be over here posting my dog photos:

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And so it begins.

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And stupid videos of me climbing on kids floatie toys:

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She’s beauty and she’s grace.

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And leaving the influencer life to the experts.

Image: Supplied