With over 8.8 million subscribers, YouTuber Michelle Phan spontaneously stopped posting to her popular beauty channel last year with no explanation. Seven months later, she’s back with a different perspective on her relationship with social media.
In an interview with Refinery 29 this week, the 30-year-old vlogger opened up about her depression and how the accounts she’d initially had a blast building ultimately ended up giving her an unhealthy amount of anxiety. “You can see through my timeline, 10 years of filming and producing and replying to comments, it’s just a nonstop internet shop,” she said. “It never closes—it’s 24 hours, like a hospital.”
Phan initially thought all her social media activity counted as “hustling”—if she worked hard as a young person, the success of her accounts would pay off over the rest of her career. “So I just worked. I was developing ipsy and a palette with Lancôme and still uploading and editing two videos a week,” she said. “My whole life was just working. I didn’t go out, I didn’t have a social life. I knew that if I wanted this, I would have to sacrifice something.”
The sacrifice of those personal relationships, she says, is what fueled her decision to abandon her accounts for a little while. After taking several depression quizzes online and getting results suggesting she was severely depressed, Phan says she knew she needed to make a major change. So she bought a one-way ticket to Switzerland and decided to travel, abandoning her team and a couple of contracts she still hadn’t completed. But Phan says the timing was right for her. She ended up visiting Egypt, Amsterdam, and China as well, finally arriving back in the U.S. with a renewed perspective on her work—sort of like a YouTube study abroad.
“That… break gave me so much peace and clarity on where to refocus my attention,” Phan added. “I realized that my previous goals and aspirations were, in a way, determined by people in my life, like my mom, and my family, and my friends. And recognizing that gave me the power to take control back and decide, ‘What do I really want for myself?'”
Sounds like something her millions of teen fans would benefit from hearing about firsthand.
For the time being, Phan is focused on relaunching her beauty line em cosmetics with a new focus on products that she thinks are good. She says that everything from the shape of the tools to the colors they’re using are newly focused on quality instead of releasing as many products as possible, and she says she feels better than ever.
“I’m like Jon Snow: I’m not afraid of dying again.”
H/T Refinery 29