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The Social Media Influencers of Today are the Child Star Trainwrecks of Tomorrow

When I was a wee lass in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I was dying to be famous.


I saw all these girls my age (like 7 and up) being given attention and accolades for (what I now realize is) a career. A career that even adults could be envious of.


But what were the repercussions of that bygone era with more than questionable child acting laws?



In the past couple of years I have seen an influx of “rag” style YouTube videos about the Rise and Fall or the Extreme Exploitation of all those girls that I wanted to be back then.



When I was a child, most of the girls on Barney and Friends ended up as Disney girls — Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, etc. — and we all know the trajectory of the Mickey Mouse Club girls Britney and Christina…



And the entertainment industry did a damn good job convincing society that what they were doing was “right,” “okay,” and “normal.”


(*Since social media employs EXTREME censorship when it comes to such topics, this next sentence is very gratifying.)


The thing is, making children do adult tasks IS GROOMING. Period.


Putting children into adult jobs messes with their brains and opens the door to inappropriate behavior whether we admit to it or not. Can you IMAGINE having your first full time job before you’ve even reached a double digit age?? Whether it’s sexual or not, building an entire section of the entertainment industry on child labor subliminally lays the groundwork for the belief that it’s okay to treat children as adults.



The worst/best example of this is the 1976 film Bugsy Malone, which was staffed with a full crew of adolescent actors who then had to play adult characters set in the 1920s. The movie full of mobsters, light hearted violence, and rife with sexual innuendo not only puts child actors into an adult setting, but also shows society that children are adults and age doesn’t matter.



Now, don’t get me wrong, Bugsy Malone is totally a work of art and used to be one of my favorite movies. However, as an adult, I cannot help but see how backwards and fucked up this concept really was, and feel like letting this particular movie become my favorite at a young age (6 or 7) instilled me with an impatience to grow up and a belief that by age 13 or 14 I should be able to handle my own.




But what does this have to do with 90's Child Stars and Social Media Influencers?



One word: boundaries.

Or rather, a severe lack thereof.



If you expect to build the next Lindsey Lohan or Raven Symone, you have to break down their boundaries first.



It also works to your advantage if you can teach that child star to compartmentalize their experiences.



In her 2021 interview on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, Demi Lovato explained that being raised in the work force caused her to have some really serious issues with compartmentalization. Which is heart breaking, but also makes a lot of sense.



For those in the room who don’t know, compartmentalization is when you consciously separate your thoughts and emotions from the task at hand. It is something that, in my lifetime, I have never known to affect “normies;” all of the people in my life who compartmentalize in their day to day lives have experienced some sort of trauma, myself included.


Not only that, but disassociation and memory repression also go hand in hand with compartmentalization like a high school clique of emo kids. 🖤



And as someone who personally lives with Complex PTSD, this “emo clique” has saved my life and my mind from quite a bit of darkness and garbage.


The aforementioned “emo clique” is a coping and SURVIVAL mechanism.


Your brain does “stupid” things to help protect you from the things in the world that do not serve us.


Read that again:


Your brain does “stupid” things like compartmentalize and disassociate to PROTECT you from the things in the world that do not serve us.



Now think of your favorite child actor — be it Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Lindsey Lohan, or someone I haven’t mentioned — and imagine being anywhere from 4 - 8 years old.



📖 💭

“But, Mommy, I want to go to the PARK… it’s Sally’s birthday today!”


“No, Demi, you have to work today.”


“But, Mommy! EVERYONE is going to Sally’s birthday party 🥺 why don’t I get to go?? 😭”


And then little Demi is told to suck it up, there will be more birthday parties, but only one chance to be “Angela.”

💭📕



Now, when I was in seventh grade health class, I learned that your brain forms it’s foundational building blocks of what you like and who you are between the ages of 3 and 7. This is why there is an old adage of women “marrying their father,” where a woman swears up and down they want a good man but accidentally pick out the reflection of their shithead father and end up repeating the cycle.


Keeping this in mind, let’s reevaluate the “Demi doesn’t go to Sally’s party” scenario.


In this imaginary scenario, imaginary Demi is being raised to believe some fairly fucked up things as her foundational moral code:

👉🏽 Your wants and needs do not matter

👉🏽 Friends and socialization are unimportant

👉🏽 Work comes first

👉🏽 You are worthless without attention



Now, take a look at that list…

Could you imagine teaching these things to any of the small humans in YOUR life?!?


(No, of course not because it is 2023 and you are a good enough human to be reading this blog article.)




But, what does all that have to do with social media influencers of today?


Well, it’s simple.

Before the advent of social media, you had to have your parents’ permission and a Hollywood agent in order to get this kind of attention and be taken advantage of in this way as a child.


Nowadays you need neither.

Any child age 14 and up can become an Internet sensation without their parents even knowing about it.


(Not to mention how platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Tiktok have allowed toxic, abusive parents to skirt around the child labor laws in order to monetize and objectify their own kids without having to share a cut of their profit with a middleman such as an agent.)


What is even more apparent and more heartbreaking, is the ever-growing sexual exploitation of minors. And at the end of the day exploitation breeds exploitation.



In writing this article, my beautiful mother pointed out that the few child labor laws we DID have in the 90s and early 2000s were because OG child actresses Judy Garland and Shirley Temple were sexualized, drugged, given alcohol, and overall treated in ways you wouldn’t wish upon the child of your worst enemy.


Congress did not pass any kind of labor laws until 1938, and even then those laws didn’t protect children from predators, they just began putting rules in place for people who were employed under the age of 16.



Judy Garland stared her career in 1924, at the age of 2 and worked up until her death in 1969 at age 47. That means that the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed the year the poor dear turned 16. For her entire career, she was just outside that umbrella of protection. Garland's story is definitely a horrific one that ends in the tragedy of over dose. Other than the pills and booze they were giving her, who knows what traumas she was hiding from herself.



Shirley Temple on the other hand was slightly more fortunate. The starlet was Hollywood’s number one box-office draw from 1932 -1938 according to her Wikipedia page. So Temple only had to suffer through 6 years without the Fair Labor Standards Act. Temple acted until 1965, turning her attention to work as a public servant and was later named United States Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. She also served as Chief of Protocol of the United States.


It’s wild to think that Temple lived for 23 years longer than Garland. But maybe that’s to do with the fact that Temple endured 10 years less of questionable work environments in the entertainment industry.


This industry has ALWAYS treated children like adults, and that’s why we’re in this mess now. Trying to undo DECADES of damage and DECADES of mental, emotional, and physical abuse that had been justified to the point of seeming normal.


“You’re 14 but you want the be the lead role? Take your top off sweetie, let’s see how the camera likes you 😈 C’mon sweetie, EVERYONE does it. You want to be a star, don’t you? 😈😈😈”


It is fairly horrific how double sided the entertainment industry has always been, showing us a shiny, glamorous version of our own realities, when the reality of the actors and actresses themselves is more nightmarish than any industry outsider could ever imagine.



Back in the day Britney Spears was given flack for wearing a belly shirt and shiny pants, with no cleavage showing...



The generation of kids who grew up on “…Baby One More Time,” were the same kids who (understandably) picked on me in late elementary school and into middle school because I was the “slut” who wore short little skirts, cleavage shirts, and occasionally even added go-go boots when my friend would let me borrow them.



When I was 11-14 years old, it was downright unacceptable to present yourself as a grown woman. Your peers would tear you down and make sure that you KNEW that you were being weird.


Nowadays, the Gen Z/TikTok Generation behaves the exact opposite way.


Not sexually active, wearing thongs, and twerking on a livestream by the age of 12? Well, you must be a fucking weirdo then!




It is genuinely strange to watch this phenomenon come full circle, yet again.


It’s like we’re living in a Twilight Zone episode…



Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, being a child-grownup was the “in” thing to do. There was an influx of, “look at this cute 7 year old with the doey eyes! Don’t you want to be her,” that had never been seen before in that capacity, and multiple generations were brainwashed into believing that they don’t need their parents because age doesn’t matter, and that attention is the only currency worth chasing.



Once my own mother reminded me of this incident, I could never forget being 5 or 6 years old going back to school shopping at K*Mart and BEGGING my mom for a set of panties with lipstick patterns and one of them said “kiss me” all over it.


Read that again:



My mom took her 5 or 6 year old shopping and had to explain why “kiss me” underpants were inappropriate for me… EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE IN THE CHILDRENS SECTION.


The brainwashing was very subtle at that time, but it was there.


The older children affected by this brainwashing, such as myself, happened to grow up in the perfect time, where the brainwashing could only affect our self-esteem and our ability to take initiative. The first cell phone I got was in 2006 when I was 12, and it was only for emergencies and letting my parents know that I made it onto the school bus safely.


But as time marched on, cell phones became fancier in the midst of all this brainwashing, and suddenly, the younger generations were raised with personal tablets in their faces from day one.


Over the last 7-10 years, social media influencing has actually become a job that children aspire to grow up to do (😵‍💫). This “advancement” in technology quickly morphed from a way to stay connected with family and friends to a way to create and share ORIGINAL content, to a way to chase clout, fame, and money simply by shaking your ass to sell out.


Because there were a handful of celebrities to rise out of the beginning days of social media, an entire generation of kids was raised on this belief that if you are cute enough and post enough pictures and videos, you will get that highly sought after attention that takes you from “normie” to “celebrity” status.



This has caused a slew of mental health issues and has brought to light current racial issues (like how black content on TikTok rarely takes off but a white creator can copy the video and become instantly famous) in addition to the perceived concept of “pretty privilege” where only people with a certain aesthetic are awarded the spotlight, and putting a magnifying glass on this “Sold Out” generation where the aspiration is no longer to create art, but to be seen and act as a billboard for famous brands.



And, don’t get me wrong, some of the people out there trying to take advantage of this entertainment industry loophole are wildly talented and deserve to be recognized for that.


But, at the same time, just because you see someone acting human on social media, it doesn’t mean that they got their start there or that they are being genuine.


The most relevant example that comes to mind are the Bailey sisters, Chloe and Halle. I had not heard of these women until a couple of years ago and it was easy to follow the narrative of “they got their big break on TikTok!!” But they had been working in the entertainment industry since they were three years old.



That is not the same thing as your kid sister posting a video of herself singing “Part of Your World” and being randomly DM’d by a Disney casting agent.


Period.



And the people who have made their marks as social media influencers are exactly that — influencers. People paid by certain companies to entice the masses into believing this is the product you NEED.


There is a pandemic of unoriginality and copy-cat syndrome where women, and girls, of all ages copy a trending dance to try and get more visibility. It is such a problem that it is even apparent in music videos these days because the system of copying someone else’s hard work has been a proven system to “become famous and be seen.”


But I digress.

What does this have to do with Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan?



Our society has been playing with fire for at LEAST the last three decades.


Raising children to think they’re adults; instilling the skills of compartmentalization and dissociation at a young age; objectifying people as soon as they hit puberty; and pretending there are no mental health repercussions to idolizing this mindset.



Back in the day, no one realized how much stress actresses and performers like Britney and Lindsey were going through. The general public was just told to idolize them for all of their cuteness, even though they were underage, and then tried to condemn these women when they grew up and had mental breakdowns instead of admitting the fact that “we” as a society did that to them.



Even Nickelodeon’s equivalent at the time, Amanda Bynes, ended up having a couple massive mental breakdowns and Nickelodeon seemed to do a much better job and not turning children into sex objects. The Amanda Show and All That were essentially the teen and tween version of SNL or MadTV, with age appropriate jokes and wardrobe choices. But it doesn’t change the mental toll that having a full time job at that age had on her.



So, keeping that in mind, let’s look at another imaginary scenario.


Let’s say you’re THE EuniceUnicorn13


🦄 💭

✨You have millions of followers

✨You have a handful of brand deals that keep a roof over your head and all you have to do is dance in front of the camera every other day

✨All of your posts constantly get engagement


But then, one day, you’re a little down and you don’t know why. Suddenly, you can’t even bare the thought of getting up in the morning, let alone sweeping on a tiny bit of makeup for that “natural look” and donning your tightest leggings to jiggle your ass in front of the camera while making it look like a choreographed dance.


But, out of obligation, you get up, do your dance, and post your post.


Then, your followers start leaving negative comments:


“Sis, you alright, you look sick?”

“Pffft, I could have done this in my sleep”

“💀💀💀”


And suddenly you’re not on cloud 9 anymore.


This trend rolls into the next week, even though you thought that you’d surely be out of your slump by then. And, rather than post something and get hateful comments, you decide not to post at all. But with the competitive algorithms, not posting at all snowballs into you losing reach, engagement, popularity, and the next thing you know, a rival influencer has more followers, attention, and brand deals than you do.


Enter the breakdown:

You get a boob job and a bbl, shave your head, and start talking in a British accent, so someone on your team takes over your account to hide the fact that you’re spiraling out of control

💭🦄




This pattern of behavior that we have grown so fond of over the last few decades is bound to repeat itself.


And, honestly, we’re already seeing it with more mature celebrities boycotting the apps and taking social media breaks.



Believe it or not, social media influencing turns 20 in 2026.


Back in 2006 a site called PayperPost was created to help bloggers monetize their posts and the opportunities for monetizing your content have only expanded from there.


Also, TikTok will turn 10 the year social media influencing turns 20.


I predict that between 2026 and 2036 (20 years into the development of this segment of the industry), we will start seeing the social media influencers start having massive breakdowns, similar to the trend we saw around the 2010 era when the child stars we grew up on started wiling out and losing their minds.




And the only way to stop this descent into inevitable madness is to stop putting so much value in attention as a society. You don’t NEED attention in the way that we have been brainwashed to believe.


Needs are food, water, shelter, and a community.


Being worshipped as an idol is not on that list of needs.



Attention is the only currency in our society that we can actually manufacture and distribute to ourselves without ever having to ask someone.


But without seeing your own value, you will crumble as soon as that outside attention is taken away.



So, go forth, create art, share your vision, and know your worth instead of seeking validation from others and you will be just fine.



I promise 💕



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