While the temptation of being our own boss is irresistible, which partly explains the ever-growing tribe of online content creators, the challenges of being in an ‘always on’ mode often get swept under the rug. From burnout to creeping mental health issues, content creation has rocked lives, especially of those who reach the coveted influencer status.
Creator Day India, a virtual event recently organised by social media platforms Instagram and Facebook, and hosted by creators Ruhee Dosani and Niharika NM, provided a much-needed reminder that life as a content creator isn’t all fun and games.
From lifestyle bloggers to techies, digital creators have made a mark on what it means to be a celebrity in the 21st century. Once thought of as a trend that concerned only millennials and Gen Z, content creation is here to stay as one of the most sought-after careers among gig workers of all ages. As a recent report suggests, there are some 15 million freelance workers across various segments in the country, and the workforce is expected to grow at the rate of 4 million annually.
Makeup masters, lifestyle coaches, gamers, financial aficionados—online influencers come in many shapes. But what unites them, regardless of their sphere of influence, is that most of them bear the entire weight of their careers as independent creators—seeking out loyal followers, sponsorships, and collaborations to make ends meet.
Being self-employed is a tall task, and when the service you offer is influence, the level of complexity is multiplied manifold. Whether you’re just starting out or already have a wash of followers, full-time content creation sees creators follow the principle of ‘the more engagement, the better’ to cultivate their following. Many global creators have identified this attachment to engagement, growth, and 24/7 activity as unsustainable. Creator Day India’s event You Went Viral, Now What? also focused on the issues that affect the lives of content creators on Instagram and Facebook.
One session, hosted by Tara Bedi, policy programmes manager, APAC at Instagram, featured actor and creator Dolly Singh and Nikhil Taneja, co-founder and CEO of Yuvaa, a purpose-driven youth media, research, and impact organisation. The trio dove straight into the theme of their session at the outset: “What did you do after you went viral?”
“Often our audience feels that once someone goes viral, they become a star overnight. But that’s not the case at all. It’s not a party, because after everything, the pressure is on. You find yourself wondering, ‘Can I do it again?’, you feel this on your shoulders,” said Singh, whose video South Delhi Girls went viral overnight in the early days of her career.
In contrast, when one of Taneja’s posts went viral, he decided to stop posting for some time. “This is my timeline. I want people to understand that I like to use my platform to express: I identify as a content expressor, not a creator and so, not posting after a post has gone viral ensures people following me understand that this is not a place where one would always find viral content,” he said.
In 2018 when comic artist Lilly Singh, who gained popularity under the pseudonym Superwoman, told her audience that she was taking a break after eight years of posting on her YouTube channel, most of her fans understood and left sympathetic comments. As other creators with followers ranging in the millions began shutting down accounts or taking breaks, some did not receive a warm good-bye. Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, eventually deleted his Twitter account after the media began criticizing his decision to take a break from YouTube uploads in 2019.
But content creation doesn’t have to end in burnout.
“You have to learn to keep a balance, especially when it comes to writing and creating for social media, anything can happen on the internet,” said Singh, when asked about how not be overwhelmed by the rush to create. “While you may have started your journey online because you love to create, once you start making money out of it, you start treating it as a business, it becomes a job, and when that happens, you really have to maintain a distance.”
Cultivating this attitude may not always lead to the creation of viral content, but it allows influencers and creators space to truly be themselves and have their loyal fans support them for doing exactly that. What’s more, such moves can open the door to positivity and increased awareness of one’s mental health.
An example of such development is in almost every post on Taneja’s Instagram page, where he prompts conversations around kindness, often shares leads and resources on mental health support, talks about Yuvaa, while occasionally squeezing in a few jokes or anecdotes from his day or life. “Ultimately,” he says, “my philosophy, especially with Yuvaa, is to ensure that our content can make people feel seen, feel heard. How do we make them feel less alone?”
It’s fair to say that content creators can exert a huge positive influence on the contemporary world, giving us plenty of reasons to celebrate them as individuals. And this, indeed, was the agenda of Creator Day India, which celebrated India’s diverse influencers with a fantastic line-up of talent and sessions designed to encourage conversations to help creators build careers, personal brands and, of course, support their well-being, both online and offline.