Chase fame good or bad

Hunt for likes : When fame gets too much for influencers

This practice can only be found if you know about it. There is no sign on the front of the house to indicate that a psychologist is working here in a block in Berlin-Mitte. The stairwell is only accessible via an inner courtyard. The narrow entrance door is hidden behind small trees, the window of the consulting room is hung with ivy. Franziska Koletzki-Lauter did not consciously isolate herself. But when she thinks about it like that, she says it's an advantage. Because anyone who lets her take care of them doesn't want to be seen.

Koletzki-Lauter helps prominent influencers with mental health problems. This is what the Berlin graduate psychologist has specialized in. Youtubers come to their practice with burnout, bloggers with depression, instagrammers with fear of failure. Hardly anyone speaks about it publicly, especially not in front of followers on social networks.

Negative thoughts? That doesn't fit into the perfectly staged world of Instagram and Snapchat. And yet there are these thoughts. Koletzki-Lauter's clients have included more than 40 influencers in recent years. "Appearance in social networks is always only a partial personality," she says. "It often looks very different behind the scenes."

In practice, the influencers sit in blue wing chairs, floor lamps flood the room with warm light. Koletzki-Lauter outlines her treatment approaches on a flipchart. And if she wants to clarify something, she pulls one of the many books from the large shelf on the wall. Influencers come here once a week to talk to the psychologist about their problems. Usually for half a year. This is the usual period of care. If her clients are away, she advises them via video chat.

Being an influencer scratches your self-esteem

There are very different reasons why the web actors seek their help, she explains. Some fear that they will no longer be able to meet the high expectations of the followers. Comedians, for example, who suddenly can't think of jokes anymore. With them, Koletzki-Lauter then develops a new network personality, as she says. If someone doesn't want to be the eternal clown, she works on his appearance, looks for alternative topics.

For others, being an influencer scratches their self-esteem. Finally, likes can be counted precisely and the number of fans can be compared. “Social media makes social acceptance measurable,” says the psychologist. This leads to the fact that some people are constantly looking for recognition. This is different than 20 years ago, when the influencers of that time were the short-term celebrities in gossip magazines. What readers thought of her was hard to find out.

Business on the net attracts with a lot of money

And then there are influencers who have completely overhauled themselves. Many would consider being present on social networks a full-time job, says Koletzki-Lauter. You post around the clock to satisfy followers and business partners, and you hardly take breaks. Some have founded a GmbH, employ graphic designers and assistants for whom they feel responsible. Then, says the psychologist, she gives her clients strict instructions: take vacation, take time off. “I'm the mom,” the 40-year-old explains her motherly advice to the mostly young influencers.

Some find it difficult. After all, business on the Internet attracts a lot of money. The users regard well-known network actors as stars, which is why corporations scramble for them as advertising partners. Every fifth German has already bought products because they were advertised by influencers. In the case of young adults, it is almost one in two, as a survey by the Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) shows.

Hardly any influencer makes problems public

This year the German influencer market could pass the billion mark. In 2017, the income of German Instagrammers and Youtubers still amounted to a good 500 million euros. Marketing agencies estimate that a quarter of them are now collecting more than $ 500 per campaign. The big stars, to whom many influencers would like to count themselves, even go as high as 25,000 dollars. But very few succeed in advancing into these regions of income.

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What Koletzki-Lauter discusses with influencers rarely leaves their practice. The psychologist advises her clients not to rush to report psychological problems to followers. Which details should you keep to yourself? How can you deal with the reactions of the users? "That should be considered and planned sensibly," says Koletzki-Lauter. Only two of their 40 clients have so far gone public with the diagnosis of burnout or depression. The fear of losing control of self-expression seems to be too great.

Sedatives and antidepressants

One of the few who speaks about depression in front of her followers is Victoria van Violence. The young blogger looks back on a difficult time. "Sometimes you get to a point where there is nothing left to lose," says Victoria, who follows almost 200,000 people on Instagram. The now 31-year-old experienced this moment about five years ago when she herself was admitted to a Berlin clinic. She took a taxi to the emergency room at night.

"I already had the diagnosis from my doctor," says Victoria. She just didn't want to admit it beforehand. She then spent four weeks in the hospital with her depression, took sedatives and antidepressants, and received psychotherapeutic help. The doctors put them on the scales almost every day because she had eaten almost nothing.

Social media has changed quickly

During her time in the clinic, Victoria wanted to keep up appearances and stocked her channels with pictures that she had taken at some point. “I didn't want to mention it yet,” she says, “just as I probably wouldn't have mentioned any other illness either.” Only once did it almost stand out when the hospital scenery could be seen in the background of a recent photo.

Today she is fine again, she has dealt with her illness in a book. “Being in the hospital was like a reset button,” says Victoria. However, the 31-year-old does not believe that she only made her Instagram channel sick. “Social media was different back then,” she says. There was no story function that influencers can now use to put every minute of their lives online.

Today influencers have to give more

Instead, she mostly uploaded photos - no snapshots, but professional pictures from the photographer. With Victoria it was the interplay of many things, she says. The problems with her boyfriend at the time, her studies, work as a blogger - and last but not least, her expectations of her own success.

But influencers today have to give significantly more for them. “Followers have a certain voyeurism,” says Victoria. “At some point they want to know everything.” And they would sometimes cross borders to do so - comment without taboo, ask intimate questions. Pulling yourself out is hardly possible anymore. The result: "Today influencers share everything," says Victoria. "Where you are, with whom, and what you do."

Mental health problems increased sharply among young people

The stars on the net share more and more, the users consume more and more. Obviously, this has consequences for everyone. The university professor Jean Marie Twenge from San Diego conducted a long-term study last spring to examine how psychological problems have developed among young people in the United States. And came to a drastic result: The number of adolescents with depression has increased by more than 50 percent since the mid-2000s. Young adults are also significantly more likely to suffer from serious psychological problems.

Some argue that there is more sensitivity to mental illness than before. But one thing leaves Twenge in doubt: the number of sick people has not changed for the elderly over the same period of time. "Cultural trends could have had a greater effect on the mental health of the younger generations," Twenge speculates. And by trends, the psychologist means one thing above all else: digital communication.

Workshops to deal with the notoriety

Many a management therefore worries preventively about their Internet actors. This is how ARD and ZDF do it with the moderators of their youth program “Funk”, who mostly produce for networks like Youtube or Snapchat. The public broadcasters work together with psychologists and offer workshops in which the actors learn how to deal with their notoriety.

“There you will find professional support for any challenges that creators face with regard to their public personalities,” says Lisa Grimm from “Funk”. An all-round carefree package, so to speak, for the soul of public Internet actors. Mostly it is about how the moderators should deal with hate messages on the net. But “Funk” doesn't want to reveal any details.

Clinics for reality TV stars in the USA

In the USA there are now entire clinics for short-term stars, for example in Beverly Hills, California. Reef Karim takes care of them there, mainly treating ex-participants of reality TV shows. The stars regularly reproach the bosses of the production companies and demand longer psychological follow-up care for the time when they are no longer needed.

Because after the broadcast of the last episode of a format, many fell into a deep hole and often tried in vain to start a career in social networks. Karim builds it up again. “To be recognized is one of the strongest drivers we have,” explains the psychologist in his videos. That is the reason why social media is so successful. "And be so addicting."

Like is like a cigarette

Karim compares a like-me-click to a cigarette that releases happiness hormones. “A like makes our brain light up.” Just knowing that a new image is rewarded in the networks makes us want more and more of it, claims Karim.

The Berlin psychologist Koletzki-Lauter does not believe that the classic influencer business will continue to work for a long time. “People will eventually be saturated.” Clever Internet stars would look for a second mainstay if they found a start-up. Because there is one thing, says Koletzki-Lauter, that most people are not yet aware of: "These careers are made to end."

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