Three former influencers tell us why they chose to retire from their seemingly cushy Instagram careers.
(All names have been changed as the interviewees felt it would be hypocritical of them to be featured in an article that talks about why they left the spotlight.)
Tricia, 22, is a student.
She stopped inﬂuencing two years ago.
“I created my Instagram account when I was 15 because all my friends were on it. I never set out to be an influencer—brands just started reaching out to me when I hit about 5,000 followers. While I was offered an average of $300 per post, I didn’t accept paid ads and usually rejected requests to collaborate unless they were close friends. At my peak, I had 13,000 followers and got around 1,500 to 2,000 ‘likes’ per post.
In my opinion, the only perk of being an influencer is the free stuff you get. The worst part is people’s preconceived perceptions of you. It became hard for me to make friends and even hang out in crowded areas because people knew me as ‘the one from Instagram’. It doesn’t help that influencers don’t exactly have a great reputation here. They’re seen as pretentious and fame-hungry.
One day, I just woke up and decided I was over all of it—being a so-called influencer and all that it entails. I locked my account and turned down all requests. Brands gradually realised I wasn’t interested and stopped reaching out to me.
The influencer scene here is oversaturated. And with the new trend of micro-influencers, I feel that a majority of content on Instagram lacks authenticity. It’s so obvious when brands roll out influencer-led campaigns because you see all the influencers posting the same pictures and captions.
I know that Instagram is lucrative, but it can also be very toxic. I’d advise people to think about what they value in life and focus on living IRL rather than paint a picture of how they want people to see them.”
IT DOESN’T HELP THAT INFLUENCERS DON’T EXACTLY HAVE A GREAT REPUTATION IN SINGAPORE.
Cheryl, 27, is a social media marketing manager.
She stopped inﬂ uencing a year ago.
“I never set out to become an influencer—it just happened. I started my first blog in 2006. It was a diary of sorts, and I used it to pen down my teenage woes and paste song lyrics about unrequited love. Within one year, people started becoming interested in reading about my life, and I started making money off my blog in 2009.
I started off charging $150 for advertorials on my blog, but over time, I could earn up to $1,000 for three blog posts. Big companies and government agencies tend to be more generous with their payouts.
I became more selective with the brands I worked with after my best friend pointed out that by accepting every job that came my way, I was becoming a sell-out. It was a real wake up call.
The worst part about being in the public eye is the cyber-bullying. It’s so real. I left my comment box ‘open’ because I saw it as a platform to connect with other people. I happily replied those who came to me for advice or recommendations, but also, I would get comments calling me a slut and a liar. I’ve been told I’m ‘ugly’ and ‘poorly- raised’. Honestly, you can only do so much to defend yourself. It can be tempting to put these faceless cowards in their place, but you’ll soon realise that your efforts are futile.
Ultimately, I quit because I didn’t want to feel obligated to update my Instagram or create content. The influencing scene has changed so much since my blogging days. Reviews were much more sincere back then, but now, influencers usually just copy and paste the description sent by the client. They want to make a quick buck, so they’ll take any shortcut they can find. And even when they do create their own content, it usually just involves a couple of images supported by a caption that ends with “#ad #sponsored”. It’s nothing compared to the detailed blog posts some bloggers used to do.
I currently have 7,500 followers on Instagram though I’m no longer influencing. Now that I have a job in social media marketing, I’m on the other end of the spectrum! And since I’ve been on both sides of the coin, I understand the influencer landscape very well.
My advice to influencers who are looking to shrink their social media presence? Learn to say ‘no’. Even if the money is tempting, stand your ground and politely refuse. If you don’t learn to pay for your own things, you’ll never move out of the influencer circle. You’ll constantly feel entitled because you forget the value of money and you’ll remain in your cocoon.”
Sharon, 27, is a digital community manager.
She stopped inﬂuencing two years ago.
“I started Instagramming because I thought it was a cool platform for sharing pictures—this was before influencer marketing was a thing.
At my peak, I had around 20,000 followers and averaged 1,700 to 2,000 ‘likes’ per post. I was paid around $300 to $500 per post, and sometimes, I’d luck out and get $800 to $1,000.
I’m grateful for all the sponsored concert tickets, beauty treatments, clothes, makeup and electronic devices that I received because they saved me a lot of money. But honestly, would one actually be needing, much less buying, this much stuff if they weren’t for free? No—they’re luxuries, not necessities.
Also, many think influencers don’t have KPIs to hit, or that we just post whatever we think is aesthetically-pleasing on our feed. But that’s far from the truth. The discount codes I gave out allowed companies to track how many people were ‘influenced’ by my post, so I had to deal with the pressure of keeping up.
I also hated being in the spotlight. When you’re an influencer in a place as small as Singapore, you’re judged all the time. If you have just one drink at a bar, they’ll say you’re an alcoholic; if you talk to one person of the opposite sex, they’ll call you a slut. Everything you do is amplified and taken out of context.
EVERYTHING THAT GOES ON THE WEB STAYS ON THE WEB, AND YOU’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO ERASE YOUR PAST.
Plus, everything that goes on the web stays on the web, and you’ll never be able to erase your past. I’ve had partners ask why certain exes had more ‘air time’ on my feed, and I’ve had employers google me, only to find old, embarrassing photos of me that I had taken down but were still somehow available because, well, it’s the Internet. Don’t even get me started on the people who tried to pass off as me on Instagram, Facebook and Tinder.
Quitting Instagram was the most stressful yet liberating thing I’ve ever done. I felt free but also lonely in a way—like I’d just lost 20,000 friends. I definitely felt lost for a while. It’s also weird to see how quickly people forget about you. Life is way less stressful now as I don’t feel obligated to appear on-brand in my pictures or in public.
There’s nothing wrong with monetising your social media presence, but if your aim is to become the next Song of Style or Sincerely Jules, you need to know that a lot more happens behind the camera than you may realise.”
International influencers who also decided to give up on the ‘likes’
Essena O’ Neill (Australia)
In 2015, Essena declared that she had “quit all of social media.” She left behind 570,000+ followers on Instagram and 250,000+ subscribers on YouTube. She said it was the most “empowering and freeing thing [she had] ever done.”
Bailey Richardson (USA)
Bailey was one of Instagram’s original employees back in 2012. By the time she deleted the app in September, 2018, she had amassed 20,000 followers. In her statement to The Washington Post, she said: “In the early days, you felt your post was seen by people who cared about you and that you cared about... That feeling is completely gone for me now.”
Musa Nyangiwe (South Africa)
Musa was a fashion influencer who sat front row at every Fashion Week he was invited to. But he wasn’t paid for his efforts and also experienced a loss in creative freedom, so he eventually decided to quit the game. “Your job is to stand there and sip free cocktails until they’re done with you. Maybe that’s enough for some people—it was for me for a long time, too. But not anymore,” he wrote in an op-ed for HIGHSNOBIETY.