From ignoring trolls to maintaining a balance between their social media and real life personalities, popular influencers Ashish Chanchlani and Masoom Minawala share their experiences. Mental health experts weigh in with tips
Masoom Minawala (left) and Ashish Chanchlani. Photo courtesy: Publicists of the respective artists
Ashish Chanchlani admits going through a dark phase last year. When countrywide lockdown was imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the popular social media content creator was making content alone. “Without my team, it felt a bit lonely. My mind was also distracted and it wandered towards the mean comments and messages by trolls. I just kept wondering what wrong have I ever done to these people,” he says. Chanchlani, who has a little over 25 million subscribers for his situational comedy videos on YouTube, took a few days off from social media and spent time with his family to rejuvenate mentally.
The pandemic has been hard for everyone. Due to the lockdown, people were at home and the consumption of digital content increased considerably. Not just popular streaming platforms, they were hooked to the feeds of various social media influencers such as Chanchlani for content. Understandably, the pressure to deliver fresh and unique content on a regular basis increased for most social media influencers.
Taking it slow
Masoom Minawala, who has been blogging and vlogging about fashion and lifestyle for almost a decade now, says, “Initially during the pandemic, we did a lot of content around positivity, opinions and also discussed how creators can boost their community but later during the second wave I slowed down a bit on content creation. Although, we did keep on checking on my community via Q&A stories, sharing positivity quotes and any Covid-19 updates along with medical leads I could find on the internet.” According to her, in the content creation industry, one needs to think a lot and be creative to be at the top of the game. However, during these tough times, she did not want to add more stress on herself. “This pandemic changed a lot of lives around the world financially but also mentally,” says the influencer, who has about a million followers on Instagram.
With influencer marketing becoming more and more popular, big brands and companies are turning to social media personalities for content. In the past as well, many influencers have addressed the issue of mental health because of the mounting scrutiny to which they are subjected. Global influencers such as comedian and talk show host Lilly Singh and YouTuber PewDiePie had taken a break from social media mentioning exhaustion from content creation.
However, this is their bread and butter. So, is it possible to switch off from thinking about content? Chanchlani, who started making content on YouTube in 2014, says that whenever he feels pressured, he thinks of the time when he started making videos. He channels the same excitement and the passion for creating something new. “I am not very active on Instagram or Facebook. I release a video on YouTube and then take a break for about five or six days,” he says. He admits that sometimes he treats creating content as a break for himself because that is his passion. However, he is very mindful about not going overboard and working like a machine.
Psychologist Arti Shroff says that one has to set boundaries and keep a cut-off time for themselves, after which they should not check social media. Replace that with a real-time activity, she advises. “Take short breaks in between to switch off and focus on other daily activities. Engage in stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, yoga and increased real-time social interaction when not on social media.”
Keeping it real
One of the hardest parts about being a social media influencer is keeping the social media and real life personalities separate, Minawala opines. “Masoom ‘the individual’ and Masoom ‘the person on Instagram’ are very two different personalities. If I start confusing the two, it will get messed up,” she says.
She reminds herself that on social media she is Masoom, the brand, who gives her opinion on fashion and treats social media platforms as her office. “I love social media, I work on the platform. But I cannot live on social media.” Even though she loves getting her photos clicked wherever she goes, she does not always think of creating content out of it because, as she says, “It will then take the fun out of the personal time you are spending.”
Shroff says many influencers are “themselves” on social media, while others may portray a picture that is not real and far different from what their everyday life is. “In such cases, it can create more pressure and stress because of trying to ‘perform’. A social media influencer should aim at being able to relate to their followers at least in some way and bring in an element of authenticity and genuineness to reduce risk of ‘imposter syndrome’,” she says.
Chanchlani opines that it is important to put your heart and soul into creating good content and not just for the sake of getting followers. “When I started out, I didn’t know if I will become famous. My sole purpose was to entertain and make people laugh,” he says. The Mumbaikar shares that he meets fans who appreciate him for videos which hardly have got a few thousand views, and that is a testament that people appreciate quality. “No metric or algorithm can get you followers unless you put in your hard work. You have to be real and honest about it.”
Psychiatrist Dr. Nahid Dave says that it is very important that content creators enjoy the process of creation. “The content creation process should be as rewarding as the outcome. The outcome is an external factor which is not in our hands.” She also says that it is important to have a set of friends who will give you honest feedback. Especially during tough times, they should be the go-to people instead of social media.
Prioritising mental health
Shroff says some of the common indications that one is getting overwhelmed due to social media content creation are constantly checking your profile, when the process starts interfering with your social life and if a person is unable to mentally ‘switch off’, when they are not working. She adds, “Measuring their self-worth based on followers and feedback, likes etc. and getting severely affected by negative feedback from followers, are also red flags. They should definitely seek professional help in such cases.” Chanchlani concurs that while talking to friends and family may help, if someone feels overwhelmed, they need to go to a mental health expert.
Arti Shroff (left) and Dr. Nahid Dave
It is true that social media platforms are a place of work for these influencers. But just like any other profession, one needs to be aware about the red flags when your job starts to affect your mental health. Dave says it is important that influencers don’t take criticism personally. “You need to understand that if someone leaves a nasty comment, it is their opinion. It is not a fact,” she says.
Cancel culture and trolling are universal challenges for every influencer. With people getting offended at the drop of a hat, social media celebrities are under pressure to not make mistakes. Minawala remembers that once she had featured a bag on her profile. The bag from an Indian brand was actually a copy of a very big international brand. She agrees that it was an error on her part as well for not being thorough with her research. However, she had to bear a lot of trolling for that.
“I do not understand why is it that people on social media are not allowed to make mistakes. I have been in this profession for 10 years and of course I have made mistakes,” she says. Her way of dealing with such incidents is to learn from them and work harder. “It isn’t the criticism that affects. It is the way it is said – sometimes it gets extremely personal and derogatory,” she says.
Chanchlani agrees and thinks that constructive criticism is always welcome. His way of dealing with abusers is ignoring them because they feed off attention and it makes them powerful. “I have understood that you cannot please everyone in this world. So, I have learnt to live with the fact,” he says. “Trolls will be there.”
Also Read: Of engines and ethics: Why online chess has a cheating problem