Content creators balance fame and safety on social media

Alana Amaya | Staff Writer

While social media fame brings many followers, some of those followers can go too far.

With the rise of social media platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram, and the large following students can gather from them, there are many precautions minors may take in order to keep their mental health and safety secure. Senior Nathan Harp said that he has learned to provide politically correct answers in some cases and dismiss altogether in some other cases.

“In general there’s a lot of support, but I don’t go down all the way [in the comments] because there’s a lot of hate and criticism that I choose not to look at,” Harp said. “On Instagram, people really rag about how I look or what I wear, or my relationship, or just something on a live that I said that they didn’t agree on. I have had to delete some really bad [comments].”

Harp said he has learned to navigate difficult questions and situations on social media, having over 17,000 followers on Instagram and 400,000 followers on TikTok, and that he is frequently sought after for his opinions. He said he avoids giving his opinion on controversial issues at all.

“I always get really nervous about that, and although people ask for my opinion on it I don’t really talk about really touchy stuff such as gun control,” Harp said. “I usually have to say that’s none of your business to avoid issues, and people still get mad about that.”

Sophomore Rebeca Gomez de Leon, who has 11,400 followers on TikTok, said she believes some people on social media feel they have the right to judge and decide why someone famous. She said it is usually based on superfluous things such as looks.

“I think that it’s really easy to point fingers. For example, saying ‘oh this person got famous for being pretty’ or ‘this person got famous from just doing dances,’” Gomez de Leon said. “There’s this concept of who deserves fame, this attitude that people have of this person deserves to be more famous or this person doesn’t deserve their fame.”

Having such a large following comes with many risks that are usually associated with any public figure, but because of the massive growth on social media, those risks can become unpredictable. One of the most common risks has to do with people trying to get their personal data in order to approach them. Harp said he has experienced such privacy violations first-hand. 

“People use my photos now for social [apps], for relationship apps, and they use it here in Ohio so people use my photos and catfish me,” Harp said. “It comes into play with my safety and my location and stuff because people think that they know me. Even on social media they see me and think, ‘oh that’s Nate, I know him, I can go talk to him’, but I have no idea who they are and that’s the biggest problem.”

Even those with a relatively smaller following, such as senior Josephine Sim, with 7,000 followers on Instagram, encounter a variety of negative outcomes that they said minors have to be careful of online.

“Despite being a smaller influencer, I’ve had everything. From someone using a fake number around this area to contact me [to] people catfish[ing] as me for roleplay, or to get inappropriate photos of other girls,” Sim said. “I’ve also had really weird instances of people bombarding me online with really weird messages.”

When it comes to personal safety, Gomez de Leon said she follows similar common-sense guidelines. Things like not sharing her full name, her location, and personal information are only some ways she tries to remain safe.

“Staying safe on the internet is to me a matter of common sense,” Gomez de Leon said. “If you don’t put your location anywhere, unless it’s someone’s like a big professional hacker, putting your location in places where they can see it, that’s something that could potentially lead to problems with your information and other things.”

Some people just have trouble with being content with the success of others and are always looking for ways to bring them down. Sim has dealt with these situations and learned to not let it have a negative influence on them.

“Sometimes it’s really good to have a break and to know that social media isn’t your life,” Sim said. “For a while, I didn’t feel like I had a good friend group or friends that I could trust and talk to in person and I had to realize [that I’m] online [and] life isn’t going to take me anywhere unless I take the time and develop my relationships.”

Photos taken by Mia Sweitzer and contributed by Josephine Sim.