TikTok stars reconsider social media fame as they burn out
Mackenzie Newcomb, 29, is living the millennial and Gen Z dream. She works from her home on a beautiful Massachusetts pond, where her grueling schedule includes quiet time in her kayak and trips to the beach. There, she’s expected to do little more than work on her tan, show off her free J.Crew gear, and maybe enjoy a free lobster roll at a local restaurant.
Most of Newcomb’s peers would kill for her work as a TikTok influencer, but the New England native is burnt out. What the content creator is looking for right now more than all the flexibility and perks is a nice, long break from the daily grind of accepting free stuff and posting video selfies.
“There are great things about it,” Newcomb admitted to The Post, citing the sponsored trips he’s been offered and the clothes his favorite brands will send him. “But it’s also extremely emotionally draining and not always worth it.”
Newcomb earns around $50,000 a year for what many people might consider a pretty good way to earn a living. But she, like other influencers interviewed by The Post, says they are tired of the constant hustle and bustle. They are frustrated with ever-changing algorithms that heavily influence whether or not their content gets eyeballs. And they say they’re even afraid to take a short break for fear of losing subscribers, which equates to revenue. Newcomb, for her part, said she spends 50 hours a week trying to get attention for the app.
She started blogging in 2011 and quit her full-time marketing job a decade later to pursue her virtual Bad Bitch Book Club and social media lifestyle brand, but Newcomb questions her self-esteem. self after only a year in the gig.
Between the frustration of trying to predict what content will get her discovered, constantly thinking about how to portray her life, dealing with online trolls, worrying about how jobs like hers are “a reflection of capitalism” and feeling like he was negatively impacting the world during a recession and the climate crisis, Newcomb has outgrown the initial lure of being a full-time influencer.
“I definitely participated in a lot more self-hatred,” she said.
Since devoting her time entirely to social media, she has started taking anxiety medication and seeing a therapist, she added.
A recent study by Awin reported that 66% of content creators say burnout affects their mental health; a 2021 survey from Indeed found that Millennials (59%) and Gen Z (58%) workers, groups overrepresented in the influencer space, reported the highest rates of burnout.
Growing discontent is felt all the way to the top. TikTok queen Charli D’Amelio was the most popular person on the platform for two years until she was knocked down earlier this year; despite losing her coveted crown, the 18-year-old confessed to feeling almost relieved and said she was happy to take a back seat.
“I kind of lost the passion for it,” D’Amelio said on his “Charli and Dixie: 2 Chix” podcast.
Kara Smith, 28, an Afro-Indigenous influencer living in Brooklyn, rose to fame on TikTok in March 2020 after losing her job. She began to focus on sharing information about issues affecting her communities. Smith spent about 30 hours a week working, earning him between $10,000 and $12,000 a month.
But after a year, she noticed that she was no longer motivated to do so. And she found she was sharing things that didn’t always feel authentic in order to keep up.
“I felt like I was trying to throw anything that would stick,” Smith told the Post. In fact, 64% of content creators noted a lack of quality and creativity as the main cause of their burnout, according to the Awin survey.
Smith also said much of his stress comes from trying to close new deals while checking for late payments from others. She recently took a job with her Chappaquiddick Wampanoag tribe so she wouldn’t rely on social media as her main source of income.
The phenomenon is not limited to those aged 20 and over. TikTok star Christine Cochrum, 46, is also struggling.
The nosy vintage style and beauty blogger, who typically works 40-50 hours a week and didn’t want to disclose her earnings, told the Post she was taking a break while she considered her place in the social sphere. She said she was lucky to be able to do this on her husband’s salary.
cochrum decided to take a partial hiatus after realizing she had trouble concentrating, felt rushed and completely disorganized, and was unhappy with the content she was streaming.
“Honestly, I was terrified. I was afraid that if I took time off, I would lose momentum and the algorithm would just say, ‘Oh, you don’t exist anymore,'” she told The Post.
She said that whenever she felt like she understood exactly what the algorithm wanted, it changed two weeks later.
“Everything you learned is gone,” the Washington, DC resident said.
“If you don’t appease those algorithm gods, you’re not seen, you’re not heard, you’re nothing,” Cochrum said.
Constant platform changes are cited as the top cause of anxiety for 72% of content creators, according to Awin.
“were all [just] sitting there doing everything we can to stack the bridge to get there, but I feel like it’s luck,” she added.
The cycle of internet fame has accelerated since the beginnings of YouTube stars and the first Instagram influencers. Few, if any, were immune, with most social media stars eventually losing interest and favor with their followers and disappearing from platforms that caught their attention.
Jenna Marbles, a comedian who became one of the most followed YouTubers in the 2010s with nearly 20 million subscribers, quit the platform altogether in June 2020 after facing backlash for previous content deemed offensive. Caroline Calloway, an early Instagram influencer, deleted all content from her account after cracks began to appear in her perfectly crafted image. (His empty Instagram feed still has 651,000 followers.)
Newcomb, meanwhile, plans to swap her New England coastal life for New York in the fall, where she said she’ll get a “real” job. She knows people might find her choice hard to understand, but it’s a choice she takes very seriously.
“It certainly affects some people like champagne issues, because that’s exactly the life so many people want to live,” she said. “[But] it’s this really crazy feeling, like you’re contributing to the demise of the world.