Hey there, I’m Stacy. I’m from Sidney, Australia and I used to be an influencer with more than 100,00 Instagram followers– and I hated it.Think I’m joking? Here’s my story. You know Instagram influencers, right? Those guys and girls with perfect bodies, perfect faces, perfect lives. They go on sponsored vacations. Get paid to wear expensive clothes. They’re invited to special events and even get free concert tickets. Everyone thinks it’d be great to be an influencer. Well, a couple of years ago, I was – and it almost ended up destroying my life. It all started on my 13th birthday when I was finally allowed to download Instagram. I created my username, added my profile picture, and then started scrolling through Instagram’s recommended feeds. I was blown away! There were so many beautiful girls, with hundreds of thousands of followers. Everything about them was perfect. Their life was everything I wished mine could be! I clicked “follow” again and again and again. For a while, I used Instagram just like all my other friends. I posted pictures of me and my dog, what I was eating and some pretty pictures of sunrises and the beach and stuff. I got a couple of likes from my friends. But – you know- that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to be popular. REALLY popular. One day, I Googled “How to gain Instagram followers.” I wanted to know how they did it. Turns out, while it might seem effortless, becoming Instagram famous is actually a lot of work. You have to post the right stuff at the right time, edit all your photos, use dozens of hashtags so more and more people keep discovering you, engage with your audience, reply to comments and DM’s – and the list goes on. But I thought, ”This doesn’t seem that hard. I can do this.” So, my journey began. First, I copied the kinds of pictures that were getting a lot of likes. I learned to edit my photos. And I used a bunch of hashtags with every post. I started to get new followers – not many, just a few dozen. They were mostly wannabe influencers like me who I had to follow back, but I didn’t mind. It meant more people were seeing my content! I was working hard on my profile, but after 2 months I started thinking about giving up. It wasn’t worth all the work it took. But then, the breakthrough came with a picture I took on a Sunday afternoon. I was wearing high-waisted jeans with a big yellow t-shirt tucked in, my long blonde hair curled, and my French bulldog puppy, Archie, in my arms. (He’s so cute! Totally Insta-worthy.) And my picture ended up on the Explore page! It got over a thousand likes, and I got a few hundred followers– and finally crossed the 1,000 followers line! I was dancing around the room like crazy – I was so happy! After that, it was game on! I had an app that let me plan how my Insta feed was going to look, and another app that told me what time of day to post. I spent a lot of time thinking about what images to take, and I was posting consistently. My number of followers just kept climbing and I became kind of obsessed with it. When I went to a new place with my friends or my parents, all I was thinking about was where could I take the best picture and which new hashtags should I use. My pictures looked spontaneous, but in reality, they were far from it. It took hours just to create one image. The angles, the lighting, the background, my clothes, hair, makeup, and every object in the frame had to be perfect. Around this same time, people at school were finding out that I had all these followers. It was so weird. People would call me by my Instagram name instead of my real name and and some people just called me “hashtag Stacy.” Other people tried to be my friend just because I was popular on Instagram! I didn’t think about all that too much though. The hard work was paying off. I was getting more and more followers, and it was getting easier and easier. The more followers I had, the more people saw my posts, which meant more likes, and more followers. But a strange thing happened after crossing 10,000 followers line. Before, I used to check all my followers’ profiles. Now, “followers” just became a number. And I only cared about the numbers: how many new today? How many lost? How many likes? If I gained fewer than 200 followers in a day, I got frustrated and depressed. I had to hit my numbers! It became a real obsession. Eventually, though, I hit 100,000 followers – that’s an incredible milestone. I was happy, but – not as happy as I was when I hit 1,000. Strange, right? I remember telling myself, “100,000 followers is nice – but I want a million!” By this point, Instagram took up all my spare time. I got a lot of DM’s and I tried to answer as many as I could – partly because I liked many of my followers. But partly becauseI knew the “friendlier” I was, the more followers I’d get. People would leave these comments telling me they wished they were me, and I just wanted to tell them that they didn’t understand how different I was in real life. I got offers from all these different brands – stuff I didn’t even use, like gummy vitamins for my hair, teeth whiteners, anti-acne cosmetics, and I had to work out how to put pictures of those products on Instagram without losing any followers. And you know how much money I was making? None. My parents didn’t let me accept any money because I was barely 14. But I got free samples and opportunities to do a lot of different things,and I was happy with that. I didn’t do it for the money anyway, so I didn’t care. But all the work started to take a toll on me. I was losing weight because I was so stressed, and I couldn’t get to sleep at night if I hadn’t managed to take any good photos that day. I was constantly checking my follower count and DM’s. A mean comment could ruin my day. I remember several times crying because of a stupid comment from somebody I didn’t even know. I know it shouldn’t have hurt – but it did! Every day I’d take selfies at the beach or a little café, or in the spot in my bedroom with the good lighting until I got one that was good enough. My friends were getting pretty tired of being my personal photographers, though. I started to notice that when I asked them to hang out, they’d be “busy.” I finally figured out they were just trying to avoid me. One day, I was trying to take a pic for my feed, and I just couldn’t get it right. The lighting was wrong. My skin was too pimply. My hair didn’t look the way I wanted it to. My eyes looked green instead of blue. Everything was WRONG! I wanted to text one of my friends and ask them if they could take the photos instead, but as I was scrolling through my phone, I realized – there was nobody I could ask! Then it hit me…did I even HAVE friends anymore?? When was the last time I’d spent time with my friends, except to get pictures for Instagram? Actually …when was the last time I had done anything that wasn’t for Instagram? I burst into tears. Something had to change. After a week of thinking, I changed my account to private. I knew I didn’t want to be an Influencer anymore, but still – it was so hard to click that button. Next, I sent a group message to all of my friends. And I told them I knew my obsession with Instagram was unhealthy and I promised I’d start to be a good friend again. I was so scared they wouldn’t forgive me! Luckily, even though some of them still seemed mad, they gave me a second chance. So I made a post, without any filters, explaining that I was just going to be myself, and if people wanted to unfollow me, that was fine. I actually got hundreds of supportive comments cheering me on. It made me feel a lot better! It’s been almost 2 years since I made my account private, and things are a lot better. I still have quite a few followers, but I don’t post every day, and I pretty much post whatever I want – my dog, my art, or just me being silly. My friends and I are closer than ever, and sometimes we’ll laugh about the time when I went crazy over Instagram. They call it my “hashtag period.” Anyway, next time you look at an Instagram account and wish your life was like theirs, remember my story. Don’t compare yourself to Instagram stars, because they’re putting in a lot of work behind the scenes, and their lives are never as perfect as they make it seem with all those filters and perfectly arranged photos. And trust me – enjoying real life is a hundred times better than posting pictures of a fake one! Well…that’s my story. Do you know anyone who became Instagram famous? Did it change them? Share your story in the comments below. And if you enjoyed my story, please like this video and subscribe to our channel for more!