Loneliness, Social Media and Going Out to Touch Some Grass
I felt less and less like a person and more like a thing for people to look at. But not like a painting in a museum, not through the lens of an artist, but through the lens of an algorithm.
Rubi Balasingam
Melbourne, Australia
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Social Media is supposed to be a part of my job.

I’m supposed to do that thing that actors do, where I have a solid following of dedicated people. Just so I can tell them all about my upcoming projects while seeming authentic and down to earth about it.  

But I don’t like social media. 

Once upon a time, before a worldwide pandemic, I used to like social media. I used to post whatever I wanted, but barely posted at all. It wasn’t insecurity, it was a matter of ‘nah, that doesn’t feel like me.’ I added big brands, models, actors, influencers, whoever the hell I wanted to. My captions were corny, only my friends ever commented, and I didn’t care about growth.

When Instagram had nothing to do with work, and was purely a procrastination tool, it wasn’t harmful to me. Then, somewhere in 2017, I met a fellow actor with about ten times the online following I had. While on set, the director praised her, thanking her for plugging the work we were doing, ‘free marketing’ they called it. 

Now, this isn’t the norm in the industry. If you’re an actor on a large budget show, you can’t put very much of it online, they want you to hold off on it until the show has released for security reasons. But if you’re working on smaller budget shorts or web series, you are free clicks. Well-known actors have followings guaranteed, and the biggest ones have whole PR teams behind them, but to me, coming off my first ever TV show, I was underperforming.

My agent at the time confirmed what I was thinking. Yes, actors did get jobs sometimes due to Instagram followings. It made me panic. So, I quickly joined Facebook TFP forums, places where you could collaborate with up-and-coming photographers and have them take your pictures for free, you just let them keep the final product. It’s a win-win, it helps the photographer make a folio, and it gives the model experience. I started posting more, copying influencers, I even learnt how to use Facetune to make sure I looked extra perfect and polished. No blemishes, no hair out of place. 

Despite all my effort, I didn’t understand the algorithm, and all my photos were completely unlike me. People would comment to be polite, but no one really cared. There was no growth. It made me feel inadequate. 

This feeling of failure alongside my own competitive nature meant that all these actors out there working, made me feel totally untalented. I couldn’t even book a gig, how was I supposed to get followers? Pair this with the creepy DM’s and the random fake looking brands reaching out to me with pre-written ‘hey babe!’ messages and I felt less and less like a person and more like a thing for people to look at. But not like a painting in a museum, not through the lens of an artist, but through the lens of an algorithm. 

It was nothing less than crippling loneliness, self-loathing, and dysfunction. 

But I’ve linked my Instagram to this article, so no, I didn’t just deactivate my Instagram, I couldn’t. I had friends and family living overseas and interstate who I cared about and wanted to connect to. I had brands and celebrities I genuinely enjoyed and wanted to see more of. The solution is not as straightforward or as easy as just deleting socials and going on your way. The solution is dependent on the individual. 


Young woman holds a flower to the camera on a walk

For me, it was literally going out and touching the grass. 

Sure, there was a whole pandemic going on, everyone was making those annoying ‘how to make the best of the pandemic’ posts, but during Melbourne’s Lockdown, I was allowed two hours of outdoor exercise time a day. So at least once a week, I took my dog out for a long walk. I sat on grass for the first time since about 2014. I lay back, triggered my own hayfever and watched clouds go by. I didn’t care where my phone was, it didn’t matter. I wasn’t missing out on anything, the world wasn’t moving, so why should I? 

When I finally went back to my social media pages, I did what can only be described as Marie Kondo-ing my socials. That’s right, I unfollowed anyone who didn’t spark joy. I let go of people on Facebook I had known since primary school. My general rule was ‘If they asked me to go out for a cup of coffee, would I?’ On Instagram I unfollowed brands and celebrities and only kept people I genuinely was interested in. I even logged back into Twitter to do a clean out.

But social media doesn’t like that. Especially Instagram, I found myself quickly re-following half the brands and celebrities I unfollowed. In hindsight it was Instagram trying to keep me around. I hate to admit it, but my self-discipline was low in lockdown, and I caved. I was back to square one again, and the self-loathing hit an all-time high when actors overseas and interstate carried on working, and I was still stuck at home. To counteract this feeling of not going anywhere I even made my own web series from home, aptly titled ‘Locked Down’. (Yes this is a shameless plug). But once that was finished, the emptiness crept back in. 

Then I found the solution. I discovered the setting on Instagram that allows you to make a second account. That’s right, I have a secret second account. What do I use it for? Who am I stalking? Well, I follow big brands, celebrities, attractive people, several dogs of Instagram, some small brands, someone’s cat and recently, an account that literally makes flower dressings against pretty backdrops. 

This worked for me almost instantaneously. My main account was largely to keep track of my family and friends, network and post only what I thought was accurate and me being myself. I still plugged my work shamelessly, but now it felt like these were people I knew. Still, there wasn’t much growth, but honestly, I didn’t care. I would take 50 kind people over 100 giving me the evil eye. 

My second account became the place where I shamelessly posted poetry and artwork I liked online. Yes, I became that girl. I allowed myself to be a complete nerd, breaking out of the ‘you’re an actor, look pretty’ thing and following fellow Star Wars nerds if I wanted to. I commented on people’s posts about K-Drama’s, called out some colourism casually, and none of it had anything to do with my career, and I could delete it whenever I wanted. 

Young South Asian woman being goofy and pulling faces in a restaurant

It’s now been a year since I made the change. 

Immediately, I stopped following trends. I stopped being so pressured to grow a following. I stopped feeling competitive. I stopped comparing myself to others. I started just being myself shamelessly. This somehow bled into my real life. I stopped pretending that I wasn’t a ‘stereotypical smart brown person’. I leant into it, I like literature, I read books, I’m into art galleries and the ballet, I even like Tamil literature, it doesn’t make me any less of an actor. You have to deal with it now. I started dressing the way I always wanted to. All the trendy items in my wardrobe were gone. I started buying from small boutiques, whether it was books, makeup, or a piece of artwork.  I bought Indian fusion wear and jhumkas and wore them with a summer dress. I wore gold for the first time in forever, as a 16-year-old I decided it made me look ‘too desi.’ Screw that, gold looks fantastic on me.

It didn’t have any ramifications on my career at all. I discovered TamilCulture thanks to Socials and discovered that plenty of successful actors didn’t even have social media. It didn’t end their careers; it won’t end mine. 

If I followed someone and they made me feel awful about myself, I simply unfollowed them. It meant that if someone followed me, but I wasn’t keen on their content, I just didn’t follow them.

Yes, this means that even if you follow me, I might not follow back. It might seem ungrateful or rude, but honestly, it’s nothing personal. It’s just me trying to keep sane and you deserve to do the same, so feel free to unfollow me back if I bother you as well. It’s okay. I’m planning on going for a walk later today, what are you planning to do? 

Cheers, Rubi.x

Rubi Balasingam
Melbourne,  Australia
Rubi Balasingam is an actor and screenwriter from Melbourne Australia. When she's not n...
Rubi Balasingam is an actor and screenwriter from Melbourne Australia. When she's not n...
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