The results are in from a life in the public eye, and the influencers are not okay.

What do we want from the people we follow on our phones?

Everything and blood and more, please. 

They've got everything we want, so we would, ideally, like them to be available to us, 24/7, in gratitude. To let us into all corners of their lives. Even the painful ones. Actually, especially the painful ones. And also, to tell us how they did it. And also, to be aware of their privilege. And also, to use their influence for good, not evil. And also, to be the voice for the voiceless. And also, to tell us where they got those shoes, how many mls of filler they have in their laugh lines, and what they had for breakfast.

That'll do for starters, thanks. 

Once upon a time, high-profile people lived far from us. Literally, and figuratively. They went about their business behind a high wall in Hollywood, or Manhattan, or Notting Hill, Toorak or Vaucluse. They touched base with us only when they needed something – us to watch their show or movie, listen to their song, buy their book – and we were generally fine with that. Sure, we spied on them in between assignments, flicking through paparazzi images of them in their Lululemons at the supermarket, or being ushered into the dark entranceway of an NYC restaurant with a new lover, but generally, we neither knew or cared what they thought about things – like the gender pay gap, or the Twitter takeover, or Ozempic. 

Why Sophie Cachia decided to turn her perfect life 'upside down'. Post continues after video. 


Video via Mamamia.

Those days are so long gone they might as well be in black and white.

For the past decade, the people who entertain us and sell us things have lived in our phones and we can check in on them any time we want. And they'd better have a life update for us, or we'll be a bit mad about it. 

We want to be them. Our children want to be them (if you throw the job description 'influencer' into a pot with 'YouTuber'/'Vlogger/'Blogger'/'Content Creator,' they make up the majority of stated ambitions among school kids). And our hunger for them is insatiable, because our addictions to our phones, our gateway to them, are insatiable. 

But, a decade or so into the Influencer Era, the results are trickling in from the long-term effects of living publicly and... they're not great. 

Last week Abbie Chatfield, one of Australia's most prolific and famous content creators, a very smart woman who has built an extraordinary business from the s*tty end of a reality TV villain edit, told her 451,000 followers that she was really, really, not okay


Way too busy. Way too stretched. Burned out and tired and over-analysed. 

"I'm on the verge of tears at all times. If one thing goes wrong the floodgates open. I have so much pressure on me all the time to be fun or entertaining or at the very least have something of value to say. It's draining. Physically and mentally."

"I guess I'm just trying to say that this is maybe not what you think. This industry. I love it... It's addictive and intoxicating and f**king fun. Until it isn't. And you are commodifying parts of you, and there isn't much left just for yourself."

Abbie is in the middle of a live tour that is getting stellar reviews. She has a podcast and a radio show. She has a clothing line, a sex toy deal, she's written a book, and she's hosting TV shows and... any human would be exhausted by this workload. It's a lot (as her podcast is aptly named). 

But as well as all that, Abbie knows she has to keep feeding another litter of tiny, snappy beasts – the constantly shifting algorithms of the platforms that helped create her success. And the people who are on there, wanting their slice of Abbie every day. 

There is only one Abbie Chatfield. So those slices are going to get thinner and thinner, until the human in the middle of it all is almost transparent.

Image: Mamamia + @abbiechatfield Instagram.


Last week, a very Internet famous woman died. Heather Armstrong was one of the original "mummy bloggers" - as Mia Freedman so beautifully wrote in tribute, Heather, through her blog Dooce, was one of the pioneers of Person As Brand, and all because she wrote like a dream about her own real life, which once included a great job, a husband and a baby. 

As her blog grew, she was fired from that job. Her marriage disintegrated, her child grew into their own, private person. 

None of these experiences are exclusive to bloggers, but what was impossible for Heather was to maintain an authentic version of herself while serving conservative brands who would pay her bills, or while respecting the privacy of her ex-husband and her child. Her audience was angry that she wouldn't spill the tea on these most personal things. Who did she think she was to keep all that to herself? Didn't they make her? 


Armstrong's mental health never recovered. 

Ask Constance Hall how she feels about that. Once Australia's most infamous "mummy blogger", she became the target of extraordinary abuse, with dark corners of the Internet still dedicated to relentlessly ripping apart her appearance, her family, her lifestyle, even her kids. In 2019 - a lifetime ago! - she gave TED talk about online bullying, saying that the relentless criticism had left her broken, suffering panic attacks, thinking of ways to end her life.

And then she made a smart choice - she pivoted to business. The women who always loved Constance love Queen the Label, her accessible clothing and beauty brand. She still shares, but on her terms, and the trolls who abuse her don't buy her products. That's that. 

Sophie Cachia followed a similar playbook. It's almost impossible to remember now, that Sophie, a champion for queer women whose Cachia pyjama business just surpassed its 500,000th order, was once an Instagrammer called The Young Mummy, married to a footballer, posting about family life. Sophie's been open about the toll it took on her to live what the Internet wanted for her when she knew the life she wanted to live was entirely different. 


And only weeks ago, she posted a video asking that sites dedicated to influencer gossip (the gossip mags of the 2020s) to stop speculating about her relationship status, because she no longer wants to talk about that. 

It's an area that's hard to restrict, when everyone thinks they are owed the password. 

Image: Mamamia + @sophiecachia Instagram.


That sound I can hear? A thousand renditions of Cry Me A River. 

It's always been like this for the famous, you're saying, and their paychecks compensate for the inconvenience of gossip and speculation. 

There's a reason that jobs under the "influencer" umbrella are the most sought-after by schoolkids and adults alike.  

Freedom and freebies. Money. Adoration. Community. Flexibility. Travel.

No boss. No desk. No nine-to-five. 

It sounds like heaven. But there are also no guard-rails. And making hay while the sun shines in an era when we can only focus on a war until the news cycle turns to the next atrocity takes on an urgent tone. 

It's also table-stakes for any creative who wants to make a living. And the fine lines of promoting your work without giving yourself entirely to others are sometimes hard to see. 

A decade in, we are seeing the effects of lives lived under constant scrutiny. Not only by the amply well-rewarded, but at some scale, by all of us. 

Instant feedback - fire emojis for that dress you wore to a friend's wedding, a chorus of LOLs for that witty meme - feels wonderful. Validating. Who doesn't want to feel seen? Who doesn't want to be popular, in a tangible way, easily measured by follower numbers and engagement levels?   


We're being rewarded for our hunger for attention, for connection. 

But what happens when the vibe shifts? When the audience - whether your extended friend circle or an army of devoted strangers - decides, as they invariably do, that you have had enough validation, thanks, and begin to turn?

Well, we know. Anxiety. Depression. Isolation. 

Can one person ever fulfill the role of everything? Remaining aspirational, while solidly relatable? Enjoying their success, while always remembering where they came from? Being funny, but not smug? Helpful, but not patronising? 

Is that cause you're promoting beyond reproach? 

Are you grateful enough? 

Are you still with that guy?

Did you do your research? 

Did you reply to my DM? 

Where did you get your shoes? 

Answer me, Bitch.

If you, or someone you know needs support, connect with Lifeline by phone 13 11 14 (24/7), text 0477 13 11 14 (24/7) or chat at www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat (24/7).

Image: Mamamia.

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