The first time I heard someone gasp my name in public, I thought I was in trouble.
"S***", I thought, "Did I forget to flush the toilet (again)?!"
I wanted to run like the irresponsible adult that I was, but it was too late.
I whipped around to find a teenager looking at me. "Can I take a photo with you?", came the polite request.
I'm not going to lie, I turned to check if Nathan Hartono was standing behind me.
It hit me then -- this was something influencers faced on a daily basis.
For someone who has lived life as a nobody for most of my younger years, I was not ready to deal with the perks and pitfalls that came with being a "micro-influencer". And there's no guide book to follow.
My friends find it oh so amusing.
"Oh wow! Someone influencer sia," they would snigger each time I get stopped for a photo. Which was not very often but they treat it like a joke anyway.
My soul dies a little when I hear that each time. I can see why Voldemort abused Horcruxes.
Am I an influencer? No, I don't consider myself that.
But an accidental micro-influencer? Okay, I'll take it.
My road to "fame" all started due to it being a necessity, for work. I was told that it was essential to grow my social media following.
While I wasn't anywhere remotely good at it, I did my best to post pictures and show the public that I led an interesting life. Oh, what a glorious lie I started.
In three years, I hit about 10,000 followers without flashing any gratuitous cleavage.
Sure, it has been a great help to my career, but with great popularity (insert eye roll) comes great consequences.
Having my life being followed by a tonne of strangers online certainly had its highs and lows.
Here are some things I wish I knew before I became a "micro-influencer":
1. YOU WILL GET RECOGNISED NOW AND THEN
When you're outside and you catch a stranger's gaze for more than three-Mississippis, you have exactly a split second to leave the vicinity or deal with an awkward situation.
Trust me, I have honed the art of walking away with purpose, leaving the other party none the wiser.
But on days where I'm feeling confident enough to kick social anxiety in the face, I'll signal for them to come over and say hi.
Alternatively, you can just let them treat you like the zoo animal that you are.
2. ALWAYS HAVE YOUR GAME FACE ON
All it takes is one embarrassing, bare-faced encounter with a fan in the neighborhood to make you rethink your life choices.
"It'll be fast," I thought. "It'll only take a minute to buy that bag of chips at the mama shop (convenience store)," I rationalised, pulling on my five-year-old FBT shorts that's two sizes too big.
I have never left home without eyebrows and concealer since then. Even to just throw cardboard boxes at the void deck of my HDB.
Tip: Put on some sunnies and hope no one notices your presence.
3. TAKE PHOTOS OF EVERY LITTLE THING
How dare you not take 149,454 photos at your friend's baby shower?
You always need to be camera ready, because hey - pictures, or it didn't happen!
It's content that you need to show your followers, if not they will actually start to message you about your absence.
In concern, of course.
(Above: If you don't show off your holiday photos, did you REALLY go on a holiday? )
4. YOU'LL GET RANDOM MESSAGES
People you haven't talked to in 10 years will suddenly decide to slide into your DMs (direct messages).
It usually starts with, "Oh hi, I saw you in (insert name of show)! Wah, so famous now arh! How's life?"
I hold back on giving a sarcastic response such as, "Yeah, I don't think I'm capable of summarising 10 years of my life, but I may bite."
If you start asking for favours though, I promise to fade out faster than Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones at his own wedding.
Also, no, I do not want to buy insurance.
5. NETWORKING IS IMPORTANT AF
If life was a role-playing game (RPG), the ability to talk your way into (or out of) anything is the first skill you'll need to master.
From PR events to social dinners with other influencer friends, I faced no shortage of opportunities to talk, engage, make merry - because staying quiet will only mean a loss.
Ties and connections have more value that you'll ever know.
For an awkward loner like me, it was a harrowing process from day one.
6. HATERS WILL HATE
Influencers really have it rough in this area.
You can't say anything bad on social media without being scrutinised. Heck, you can't even complain about anyone or anything without receiving a clapback.
Glass heart? Make it rubber. Mine is still black though.
Let's just say that after a certain unfortunate scandal involving a local actor-singer, I had to go back to some of my old social accounts and delete the rubbish that a teenage me posted.
Someone dust off that Cersei Lannister "shame bell" (yes, another Game of Thrones reference), because it will be used like a maraca.
(Above: When in doubt, just post photos of yourself in nature so that you give off a "I'm peaceful please don't hurt me" vibe.)